FCC Commissioner Wants to Control the Content of Broadcast Media

The First Amendment forbids Congress from infringing on Americans' right to free speech. But the Federal Communications Commission is not Congress. And Michael Copps, one of four FCC commissioners reporting to Chairman Julius Genachowski, seems intent on ignoring that pesky part of the First Amendment about "abridging the freedom of speech" when that speech is sent out over the airwaves.

In two American Thinker articles earlier this year, I discussed possible FCC attempts to force progressive programming into broadcast media. Now, in addition to a nasty Christmas present that Genachowski wants to give Americans on December 21 (Net Neutrality), Copps wants government to control private-sector broadcast content.

In a December 2 speech, Copps proposed that the FCC conduct a "public value test" of commercial broadcast stations.
If a station passes the Public Value Test, it of course keeps the license it has earned to use the people's airwaves. If not, it goes on probation for a year, renewable for an additional year if it demonstrates measurable progress. If the station fails again, give the license to someone who will use it to serve the public interest.

Stations that don't comply with FCC demands would lose their licenses to organizations willing to do the agency's bidding.

The "Public Value Test" didn't fly extemporaneously from Copps's lips. Since Barack Obama became president, there have been growing noises about reinstituting the effects of the repealed Fairness Doctrine without calling any new regulation by that name. Progressives long to stop the resurgence of traditional American values that has taken place after two years of economy-killing, freedom-robbing Obama rule. Republicans blew out Democrats in the midterm election. Lefties are in quite a state, desperate to shut down opposition speech.

Silencing opponents is precisely what one 2007 Center for American Progress study was about. The study, conducted by a group of progressive ideologues including FCC Diversity Czar Mark Lloyd, complained of 91 percent of talk radio being conservative. Lloyd and company praised the "more balanced" programming "in markets such as New York and Chicago." The authors' choice to call two of America's bluest cities demographically "balanced" is an indicator of the study's dishonesty.

Copps seems to have read Lloyd's study. In his December 2 speech, the commissioner focused on seven areas in which the Public Value Test could be applied. Many of the proposed tactics would force the progressive voice over the airwaves and reduce the presence of conservative and libertarian voices.

Copps offers programs which allegedly wouldn't intervene in "issues of content," but then he calls for federal "human and financial resources going into news." No clear thinker believes that once federal money and employees start prowling the innards of broadcast stations, federal dictates on media content would not follow.

FCC efforts aimed at "Reflecting Diversity," according to Copps, would not be used to explore "how poorly America's minorities, women and other diversity groups are faring on our broadcast media." But then the commissioner instantly complains that "people of color own only about 3.6% of full-power commercial television stations." Americans are supposed to trust that the man doesn't want the FCC to enforce "diverse" station ownership?

Yet more revealing of intent, Copps maintains that diversity encompasses "how groups are depicted in the media -- too often stereotyped and caricatured -- and to what roles minorities and women have in owning and managing media companies." So will the FCC try to force broadcast media to depict minorities differently? Copps says:

The FCC's Diversity Advisory Committee has spent years providing us with specific, targeted recommendations to correct this injustice. How sad it is that most of these recommendations have not been put to a Commission vote. It is time to right this awful wrong.

There is little doubt as to the objectives. Copps's remarks scream "social justice." The commissioner essentially prescribes that the FCC supervise the remolding of the image of minorities and people of color. It would be naïve to think that if the tactic were implemented, affirmative action on station ownership would not come to pass.

Copps complains that "minorities are ignored, and local self-expression becomes the exception" when stations are run by "mega companies" with "absentee owners" who devalue programming diversity. Stations up for relicensing should have to "take the public pulse."

Progressives like Copps cannot help themselves. Contempt for the free market runs strong in the social engineer's psyche. No one with business sense runs an enterprise that has no hope of making money. Enacted, Copps's plan to force "minority" programming into communities is a guaranteed broadcast station and job killer. FCC regulations would join EPA regulations as tools for pushing prosperity-murdering progressivism.

Mr. Copps isn't done yet. The FCC should force more "local programming" into broadcast markets, says the commissioner. Why? "Homogenized music and entertainment from huge conglomerates constrains [sic] creativity, suppresses [sic] local talent, and detracts [sic] from the great tapestry of our nation's cultural diversity." If Houstonians won't listen to a radio station that plays the music of the Taigana tribe from Mongolia's Hovsgol region in consideration of transplanted tribe members living in the area, then the FCC would presumably insist that one or more stations broadcast sheep bladder wind instrument melodies anyway. Advertisers won't buy ad time. But progressives have no use for sound economics.

What will "local programming" guidelines look like? Copps's words:

We should be working toward a solution wherein a certain percentage of prime-time programming -- I have suggested 25 percent -- is locally or independently-produced. Public Service Announcements should also be more localized and more of them aired in prime-time, too.

"Independently-produced" is code for ideologically tuned messages aimed at voters. "Public service announcements" will conform to FCC specifications -- indoctrination kicked up a notch.

One of the lowest points in the Copps speech came when the commissioner called today's left-wing public broadcasting "the jewel of our media landscape." But two still lower points occurred before Copps even opened his mouth. The venue for the speech was the Columbia University School of Journalism. And Copps was introduced by left-wing PBS icon Bill Moyers.

A writer, physicist, and former high tech executive, Chuck Rogér invites you to visit his website, www.chuckroger.com. E-mail Chuck at swampcactus@chuckroger.com.
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