Originally published: September 22, 2009
Last updated: September 22, 2009 - 8:58pm
Speaking to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps spoke about the Commission's task of crafting a National Broadband Plan and media policy.
About the broadband plan he said, "If we succeed at our task of deploying this infrastructure across America, we will create millions of new jobs and businesses. We will bring more and better education to our children. We will advance medical care through the development and delivery of new health services. We will be able to tackle our debilitating energy dependence through smart grids and other smart energy initiatives. We will be able to slow the degradation of our environment. And enhance the delivery of government services. The list goes on, but my point is this: there are few if any challenges confronting our country today whose solution does not have a broadband component involved in it. Broadband to me is the Great Enabler, empowering us to tackle our problems and to overcome."
On media policy, he said, "The success of our media is so integral to the success of our country. If we have a media that reflects the genius and the diversity of America, that provides real news and information to citizens voting on the country's direction, that covers the communities where we actually live in all their splendid diversity, we will have a media that does justice to America. Lots of broadcasters do good things-no question about that-but at the end of the day our media environment is not measuring up to the challenges we face. Take the state of our news and, since I'm from the FCC, let's begin with broadcast news. We rely so heavily on our broadcast media for so much of the news we must have; for emergency and public safety information; for public affairs programming essential to our civic dialogue; and for programming reflecting the great cultural and ethnic diversity that comprises the great tapestry that is America. But news-gathering has been cut to the bone and in-depth investigative journalism will be an endangered species if we continue much longer down the road we're traveling. Broadband and the Internet open new opportunities, to be sure, but what we've gained there hasn't yet begun to match what we have already lost because of bad choices that have been made regarding traditional media. I'm talking about bad choices by the private sector through the heedless consolidation bazaar of the past decade that saddled companies with debt that became unmanageable when the economy went south and that sacrificed localism and diversity to uniformity and program homogenization. And I'm talking about bad choices by government, particularly the Commission of which I am a member, through mindless deregulation of public interest protections that undergirded the country's media landscape for decades. Together, I believe, these private and public choices exacted a heavy toll on consumers, on all our citizens and, in the end, even on the companies themselves. We've been asleep at the public interest switch. We'd better wake up before it's too late. We should be developing policies, for example, to use some of that new digital television multi-cast capacity for programs that focus on local culture and diversity groups, on local civic affairs and elections, on local music and arts and sports. Wouldn't that be a wonderful counterweight to all the nationalized, homogenized, stereotyped mono-programming that seems to be evermore the norm? With a few media dance-masters calling the tune, too few of the kind of stories I am advocating make it to our screens. Too little real hard-hitting journalism. Too little news about what's really going on in America. I think we're playing with fire letting this happen. I think we're taking huge risks with our democracy. And I think we need to change it now. For openers, maybe, just maybe, when your FCC looks at a station's license renewal, instead of stamping the post card that comes in, we should be asking how that station is serving the interests of its locality? And the answer should determine our action."
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