Kevin Martin and Michael Copps: The FCC’s Super-Censors

A report from Technology Daily indicates that Chairman Martin and Commissioner Copps are pushing to adopt a report that would allow the agency to “crackdown on graphic scenes…The report concludes that Congress can regulate violent TV images without compromising the First Amendment.” It appears that Commissioner Tate will join them, giving them at least a 3-2 majority. The Daily also reports that “[S]hortly after the FCC report’s release, Sen. John (Jay) Rockefeller, D-W.Va., plans to reintroduce legislation that would expand the FCC’s “indecency” regulations to pay TV and allow the agency to restrict violent fare on broadcast, cable and satellite.”

This is shameful pandering to the right-wing that will have a major censorious effect. The key to ensuring quality content to the public is not to censor, but to open up the digital airwaves, cable, phone and satellite systems to all content. That way, more quality material will be available, providing greater choice. The answer is not to do something which permits political appointees–or even the Congress–to block out programs or content they personally dislike. Besides, the issue of indecent content is really tied to the overall policies of media ownership and broadband nondiscrimination access. That’s where the work needs to be done, but where Martin has failed totally.

It’s time that FCC Commissioner Copps be roundly criticized for his willingness to support such policies. Copps has achieved a well-deserved reputation for his leadership promoting a diverse “old” and “new” media system. I understand his anger and concern about some of the content. But having the FCC act as “Big Brother/Sister” is not the way. Copps is helping the right-wing achieve a considerable political victory. He should be called upon to reverse course and seek a national dialogue on the quality and diversity of programming in the U.S.–from broadcast to broadband. Otherwise his legacy will be tarnished, which would be tragic.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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