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August 24, 2007

Media consolidation isn't widely covered by the mainstream press, but potential changes being considered to the rules governing the nation's big media companies could have far reaching effects on democracy. In 1984 the number of companies owning controlling interest in America's media was 50 today that number is six. The Federal Communications Commission is once again considering whether to revise media ownership rules and let these media conglomerates get even bigger. This week Bill Moyers talks with FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps about media ownership rules, the debate over net neutrality.

Want more information on media issues, net neutrality and related legislation?

Michael J. Copps

Michael J. Copps was nominated for a second term as a member of the Federal Communications Commission on November 9, 2005, and sworn in January 3, 2006. His term runs until June 30, 2010. He was sworn in for his first term on May 31, 2001.

Michael J. Copps, photo by Robin Holland Mr. Copps served from 1998 until January 2001 as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Trade Development at the U.S. Department of Commerce. In that role, Mr. Copps worked to improve market access and market share for nearly every sector of American industry, including information technologies and telecommunications. From 1993 to 1998, Mr. Copps served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Basic Industries, a component of the Trade Development Unit.

Mr. Copps moved to Washington in 1970, joined the staff of Senator Fritz Hollings (D-SC) and served for over a dozen years as his Administrative Assistant and Chief of Staff. From 1985 to 1989, he served as Director of Government Affairs for a Fortune 500 Company. From 1989 to 1993, he was Senior Vice President for Legislative Affairs at a major national trade association.

Related Media:
MOYERS ON AMERICA: "The Net at Risk"
Are mega-media corporations trying to restrict the democratic possibilities of the Web's new future? October, 2006.

"Moyers on Murdoch"
A Bill Moyers essay on what the potential buyout of Dow Jones and THE WALL STREET JOURNAL means for business coverage. June 29, 2007

Bill Moyers interviewed Michael Copps on NOW in May 2003 on media ownership and consolidation.

References and Reading:
Michael J. Copps

"FCC Commissioner Connects Pearl Jam Censorship To Net Neutrality"
K.C. Jones, INFORMATION WEEK, August 20, 2007
Michael Copps responds to the alleged AT&T-Pearl Jam incident, explaining how it illustrates the need for net neutrality. "Our challenge is to keep [the Internet] open and accessible to folks and running in a neutral fashion, and to avoid those who may be in control of the distribution of that technology from also controlling the content on it. So when something like the episode occurs with Pearl Jam that you're referencing, that ought to concern all of us."

Broadband and Media Threats 'Joined at the Hip'
Read Michael Copps' speech at FreePress' citizen action forum in Chicago, where he discussed the relationship between media consolidation and broadband access. "The broadband and media threats are joined at the hip. If you care about a free and open Internet, you should also care about free and open discussion in the traditional media, particularly over the public airwaves."

"America's Internet Disconnect"
Michael Copps, THE WASHINGTON POST, November 8, 2006
"How have we fallen so far behind? Through lack of competition. As the Congressional Research Service puts it, U.S. consumers face a "cable and telephone broadband duopoly." And that's more like a best-case scenario: Many households are hostage to a single broadband provider, and nearly one-tenth have no broadband provider at all."

Media Consolidation

Common Cause: Media Consolidation
Common Cause is a nonpartisan nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest. Common Cause's Media and Democracy Projects focuses on consolidation and net neutrality issues.

The Center for Public Integrity
The non-partisan watchdog group recently released a new study on the workings of the FCC called "Well Connected." The study contains several items of note:

  • A Travel report documenting FCC trips and expenses paid for by industry groups.
  • Databases enabling you to find out who owns what media outlets in your own neighborhood.
  • A survey of the media ownership in the hometowns of the five FCC commissioners.
  • Documentation on how the FCC gathers and disseminates its data on media ownership.

Colombia Journalism Review: Who Owns What?
"Who Owns What?" by the Colombia Journalism Review (CJR) features a list of media conglomerates and what they own. The page also provides a selected list of articles from the CJR archive on media concentration.

Consumers Union: Nonprofit Publisher of Consumer Reports
The Consumers Union Web page, devoted to telephone-telecommunications regulation, provides a long list of articles, studies, and research describing how the deregulation of the telecommunications industry in 1996 has hurt consumers.

Economic and Political Consequences of the 1996 Telecommunications Act
Thomas Hazlett of the American Enterprise Institute argues that the 1996 Telecommunications Act resulted both in benefits to consumers and in "megamergers" that have benefited stockholders and market function. He contends that increased competition in the market had an effect on the political process, where the Telecommunications industry outspent all other industries in political contributions.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
The Federal Communication Commission is an independent government organization accountable to Congress. The FCC regulates "interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable" within U.S. jurisdiction. The FCC Web site features a special section on media ownership which includes information on the Broadcast-Newspaper Cross-Ownership Rule and the Local Radio Ownership Rule in the form of announcements, press releases, and policy studies.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996
This Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Web page is devoted to the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996, which promoted deregulation of the telecommunication industry (cable, long distance telephone service, local telephone service, and broadband) to create a competitive communications market and deliver better services and prices to consumers. The Web site features the complete text of the legislation and provides relevant FCC materials related to the implementation and guidelines of the Act.
Free Press is a national nonpartisan organization working on media policy. Free Press favors "a more competitive and public interest-oriented media system with a strong nonprofit and noncommercial sector." The Web site contains information on its net neutrality and anti-media consolidation efforts.

Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality Debate Resources
Find out more about the ins and outs of the legal debates over net neutrality.

Guest photo by Robin Holland.

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Bill Moyers talks with FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps about the state of media consolidation and net neutrality.
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