Photo by Sergio Calleja

Former FCC Commissioner, Michael Copps, talked recently to Democracy Now! news program journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez.

According to Juan Gonzalez, those in support of reforming the Telecommunication Act of 1996 ( http://transition.fcc.gov/telecom.html ) consider Copps to have been the most progressive Commissioner in the history of the agency.

Michael Copps advocates public interest guidelines for regulating old and new media as one telecommunications group and forging the path of new media, including internet and wireless, to comply with an open policy of accessible media to everyone.

Copps shares his concern with the media world today:

“I’m extremely worried about the future of our media, because I think it impinges so directly on the future of our democracy and the future of self-government. And I think, between the private sector and the public sector, we have wreaked untold havoc on the media environment, and I hope we can have an opportunity to talk about that this morning.”

He believes the challenge of the 21st Century is to make broadband available to everyone:

“But if we’re going to have this broadband technology and have the internet available to everybody, it has to be open to everybody. It has to be accessible to everybody. It can’t be run by gatekeepers and toll booth operators. It has to serve the purposes of us all. I would like to have gone farther than the Commission has gone so far, but at least it made a start.”

He notes that in the past, public and private sectors worked together to build infrastructure, with a national goal in mind.

“And then we got off on this tangent, beginning in the ’80s, that the market would solve all of these problems. You didn’t need government, you didn’t need a vision. So, we went from being first or second in broadband in 2001, when I joined the Federal Communications Commission, to now 15th, 20th, 24th.”

“People need to understand how important this is. I am a strong proponent that one of our national priorities needs to be digital or media or news literacy, call it whatever you want, educating all of us, particularly the young children. I’d like to see a K-through-12 digital literacy, media literacy program, where you teach folks not only how to use this stuff for their own advancement, but also what to look out for and what to trust and what’s a trustworthy news site, what’s a reliable one, what’s news, what’s opinion, what’s fact, what’s rumor. So, media literacy is high on the list of our national needs, so people can really understand how important this is.”

Read the full, in-depth interview here (there is a video option as well):

http://www.democracynow.org/2012/1/12/ex_fcc_commissioner_michael_copps_on

In the article, you will read the context of these Michael Copps excerpts:

“But we’re still diddling around with those rules here, almost 10 years later. We haven’t tightened the rules. We haven’t done anything about media consolidation. And the situation gets worse and worse, and the consolidation goes on and on. And so people say, “Oh, well, it’s all over with.” Not so. We had NBCU-Comcast earlier this year, Sinclair buying up a bunch of stations, Cumulus and Citadel. And I think when the economy turns a little bit, you’re going to see a lot more of this consolidation. And every time you consolidate, you lose a local voice, you lose an element of localism, you lose coverage of the—of a community’s ethnic diversity and its cultural diversity. And it’s bad for America.”

“And goodness knows, we face some of the most awesome challenges right now in terms of our economy coming back, our global competitiveness being able to return, creating opportunity, health—you know, the whole list. But all of those issues are going to depend upon decisions made by the people, and those have to be fact-based. And you can’t have a situation where we’re saying, “Well, yeah, it’s too bad what happened to newspapers and broadcast, but the new media is going to fix that,” because we don’t have a model there for that.”

“I guess maybe the first thing we need to do is just stop thinking about old media and new media and just think about: we have a media environment right now in front of us. Part of it’s traditional, but it’s all one thing. This is how we inform ourselves. This is our information infrastructure. What are we going to do about it now? We can’t sit around and wait. We can’t watch journalism hemorrhage. We can’t watch investigative journalism go down the tubes. So this has to become really a national priority.”

“There are things we can do right now, that the FCC could do tomorrow morning. For instance, in the world of broadcasting, you know, we used to have some guidelines, public interest guidelines, that we would look at when a broadcaster came in to renew his or her license every three years. Well, all of that’s gone now, beginning in 1980. …They got rid of all the public interest guidelines. The license period went from three to eight years. Now you send in a postcard, and basically, no questions asked, you get it back. I’m not saying that having some public interest guidelines is going to solve our media problem, but it would be a down payment. And it would have immediate effects in broadcast. It would have some spillover effects in newspapers, because so many newspapers and broadcast stations are owned together. And it would get—it would get a dialogue going and confront this problem of what is the public interest on the internet.”

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What can I say?  To put this all in perspective – take a look at this:

You’ve all heard the expression, hindsight is always 20/20, well, let’s take a peek at old news, the philosophy of our now, newly-embraced, new Talk Radio home, Clear Channel.  It makes one pause to consider our options in radio today.

http://www.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/stories/2003/01/27/daily29.html?page=all

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