Former FCC commish waves hands, screams 'danger danger'

Michael J. Copps.

The Columbia Journalism Review has published an extensive op-ed from former Federal Communications Commissioner Michael J. Copps arguing that "Journalists need to generate a national discussion on the future of the internet." The essay comes one day after news broke that America's #1 and #2 cable companies, Comcast and Time Warner Cable, will become one.

I was sworn in as a commissioner in 2001. "What an awesome job this is going to be," I thought, "dealing with edge-of-the-envelope issues, meeting the visionaries and innovators transforming the ways we communicate, and then making it all happen by helping to craft policies to bring the power of communications to every American." It was a heady time when even normally sensible people believed that technology would bring the revolutionary wonders of the open internet to all of us. New media would complement the traditional media of newspapers, radio, TV, and cable, ushering in a golden age of communications. I was on fire to make good things happen.

The FCC that I joined had a different agenda. It had fallen as madly in love with industry consolidation, as had the swashbuckling captains of big media. The agency seldom met an industry transaction it didn't approve. The Commission's blessing not only conferred legitimacy on a particular transaction; it encouraged the next deal, and the hundreds after that. So Clear Channel grew from a 1970s startup to a 1,200-station behemoth. Sinclair, Tribune, and News Corp. went on buying sprees, too, and the major networks extended their influence by buying some stations and affiliating with others. Gone are hundreds of once-independent broadcast outlets. In their stead is a truncated list of nationwide, homogenized, and de-journalized empires that respond more to quarterly reports than to the information needs of citizens.

I notice now in the news the stunning announcement that Comcast hopes to buy Time-Warner, the second largest cable company, for more than $45 billion. That would make this one of the biggest mergers in media history, and I fear it will run roughshod over consumers in the end.

Link. [Columbia Journalism Review, HT: @kiragoldenberg]

Some good background on Copps' work at the FCC related to Net Neutrality in this Bill Moyers PBS piece.