FCC Chairman Urges Bold and Aggressive Action on Media ‘Diversity’
May 12, 2009 - 8:12 AM"Be bold," but don't even think about resurrecting the Fairness Doctrine, Acting FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps told the FCC's re-chartered Diversity Advisory Committee at its first meeting last week.
Copps urged the 31-member diversity panel – which does not include any conservatives -- to “make a real and lasting difference” in boosting minority and female ownership of the media. He also urged the panel to move quickly:
“The window of reform has been pried open, but history teaches us that it is impossible to know how long we will have before it closes again.” He asked the committee to send him its recommendations in four months.
Citing the “neglect” of the past eight years, Copps deplored the “shameful state of affairs in which we find ourselves.”
“In a country that is now more than one-third minority, people of color own just over 3 percent of full power commercial TV stations,” he told the diversity panel. “Is it any wonder that issues of interest to the minority community so often don’t get the attention they deserve? Is it any wonder that minorities are so often stereotyped and caricatured and that the positive contributions of the minority community are so often overlooked?” he asked.
Copps said female ownership of TV and radio stations also is “dismal.” Although women are 51 percent of the U.S. population, he noted, they own 5.8 percent of TV stations and 6 percent of radio stations. It’s not acceptable, he said.
“It’s time to turn the page,” Copps insisted. “I hope that you will set an aggressive agenda for yourselves and that you will not hesitate to propose aggressive solutions.”
Copps urged the panel to consider “full-file review” as an interim solution to the supposed lack of media “diversity.”
Full-file review does not directly consider a license applicant’s race. Instead, it closely examines the entire application to see what kind of social or financial “disadvantages” the applicant has successfully overcome.
For example, as noted in an October 2008 FCC staff report, “An individual that has overcome discrimination, or who has overcome disadvantages such as the need to learn a second language, age, physical disabilities, poverty, geographic isolation or perhaps veterans status is likely to have the tenacity to succeed in a media or telecommunications business.”
“The Commission will need to be on solid footing if we are going to think about implementing something like this,” Copps told the panel. In other words, the full-file review strategy must be able to withstand legal challenges.
“Before I close, there is one topic that I do not expect this Committee to address—that would be the Fairness Doctrine,” Copps told the panel on May 7.
“Resurrecting the straw man of a bye-gone Fairness Doctrine to deflect this country’s passage to equal opportunity is a kind of issue-mongering that has no place in 21st Century America,” he said.
But critics of the Fairness Doctrine are not impressed. They believe the FCC is simply taking another path toward the same goal – that of squelching conservative and Christian talk-radio.
As conservative Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) told CNSNews.com in March, Democrats are simply aiming for a different version of the old Fairness Doctrine, which forced broadcasters to grant equal airtime to opposing political viewpoints.
“It's clear to me that Democrats, having failed in their frontal assault on talk radio in America through the Fairness Doctrine, are now shifting strategy to a form of regulation that is essentially the Fairness Doctrine by stealth,” Pence said.
Last week, Copps expressed hope that the nation is moving toward a media that reflects the nation’s “wonderful diversity.”
“I look eagerly forward to the critical advice that I am confident you will provide—the sooner the better—and I will guarantee you this: your recommendations will receive immediate attention by me and my colleagues. We won’t let your recommendations gather dust this time around."