FCC Representatives Speak Out in Memphis

This morning, I picked up the news releases on the presentations last night by FCC Commissioners Michael J. Copps and Jonathan Adelstein.

Since these releases have the full body of the speeches that the two made at the National Conference on Media Reform event, I thought I’d share it with those of you who are interested, but were unable to attend the conference.

FCC Commissioner rallies thousands to stop Big Media and fight for Net Neutrality

MEMPHIS (January 12, 2007) — FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein tonight told the thousands of people gathered at the National Conference for Media Reform to bury any attempts by the FCC to roll back media ownership rules “six feet deep.”

Commissioner Adelstein will talk about media consolidation and Net Neutrality and answer questions at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning at a panel in the ballroom of the Memphis Cook Convention Center.

The text of Commissioner Adelstein’s remarks follows:

Thank you all so much. I really don’t deserve an ovation like that for just doing my job. But it sure feels good. All I have to remember is that I work for you — the American people — NOT the giant media companies I regulate. That seems like a simple concept — public officials represent the public’s interest — but that’s “fuzzy math” in Washington.

It’s convenient for public officials to forget when they’re constantly pressured by these massive, powerful conglomerates. These giants have the resources to buy their own think tanks. They amass an army of hired guns to fire out an endless litany of woe to make us think they are the ones who need help. But we have the secret weapons that took them by surprise. My friends, we have the American people on our side — and we have the truth on our side.

And the truth must win because our children’s future and our democracy depend on it. I know that we can prevail because we’ve already won so much. Even when far fewer of us were focused on this fight, we won one of the few victories of the people over the powerful in recent memory.

We won that historic victory in federal court. We stopped the most politically fearsome industry in America, dead in its tracks. Along the way, we won an incredible bipartisan vote in the Senate, 55-40, to veto everything Michael Powell tried to do to roll back the rules. And we had the votes in the House to kill the rules, but Tom Delay and the old House leadership prevented it from ever coming to a vote.

That congressional veto procedure, known as a “resolution of disapproval,” was a vestige of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America. It was designed to allow the Republican Congress to quickly repeal Clinton regulations. But the winds of change have now swept through Washington. A great hero to this movement, Congressman Ed Markey, who joins us tomorrow, will chair the House Telecommunications Subcommittee. Bernie Sanders, such an outspoken advocate for the public interest who is also joining us, got a promotion to the Senate. And there is no more Tom Delay to delay a vote.

This time, in 2007, if the FCC passes an Order to increase media consolidation, there’s nothing to stop Congress from vetoing it. If it comes to a vote on the Hill, we’ll see bipartisan support that’s been bottled up come pouring out. Little did Newt know that he would be handing the people in this room a club to beat back media concentration!

If a bad Order comes out of the FCC, let’s not just bury it. Let’s bury it six feet deep! When the FCC goes too far in rolling back media ownership limits, if you demand it, Congress can send it right to the dumpster of history where it belongs!

Even better, let’s keep bad rules from coming out in the first place. We have a new Commission, one that has seen the damage you can do to policies that neglect the people we’re supposed to serve. You need to send the message loud and clear: if the FCC dramatically rolls back the media ownership protections, it will get vetoed by Congress. So don’t even bother trying.

Even as we fight media consolidation, we need to battle the ever-increasing commercialization of our media. We need to fight thinly disguised payola fueling homogenized corporate music that leaves no room for local and independent artists; we need to fight video news releases masquerading as news, with PR agents pushing agendas that squeeze out real news coverage and local community concerns; we need to fight product placements turning news and entertainment shows alike into undisclosed commercials; and we need to fight rapacious advertisers preying on the unsuspecting minds of our young children.

Let’s reclaim the media. We need to say no to Payola, no to VNRs, no to product placements, and no to interactive advertising targeting our kids. And we need to go on the offense. Let’s promote the true American spirit of democracy in the media and on the Web.

We’ve got to open our airwaves to low-power FM stations and minority voices — we’ve got to restore public interest obligations on broadcasters as they enter the digital age — we’ve got to maintain community access to viable PEG channels — we’ve got to make broadband affordable and accessible to everyone — even if that means building municipal broadband systems — and we’ve got to keep the Internet open.

We’re already on the march to save the Internet. With your help on the AT&T merger, we scored a big victory for net neutrality — or, should I say, equal access. We shattered the falsehood that it couldn’t be done, that it couldn’t be defined. Well, Mike Copps and I, with input from Free Press and the entire media reform movement, found the right words. And so it is written.

We can’t let what happened to our media happen to the Internet. We can’t afford to let it become controlled by a few gatekeepers seeking to maximize their profits in the service of advertisers. We need to keep the Internet of the people, by the people and for the people.

But much more work remains ahead. We tried for more, but could only get you just two years to try to make equal access permanent. We think you know what to do with that time. While the Internet is still free, nobody knows how to use it better than us to strategize, organize and mobilize. Let’s use the power of the Internet to keep the promise of the Internet alive!

We hear a lot of talk out of Washington about spreading freedom and democracy around the world. How about uplifting the quality of our own freedom and democracy right here at home?

We have to secure our legacy as Americans – the free flow of ideas and information that was at the very foundation of our country. We need to carry that fight from our media to the Internet. You’ve already won some key early skirmishes. Now you’re the battle-hardened veterans about to achieve even bigger victories. Generations to come will celebrate what you achieved.

From the heart of one patriot to a room full of patriots, I salute you all!


FCC Commissioner Announces Plan to Replace ‘Bad Old Media Bargain’ with Agenda for a More Democratic Media

MEMPHIS (January 12, 2007) — FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps tonight challenged thousands gathered at the National Conference for Media Reform to enact a new “American Media Contract,” calling for citizens to stand up and “get rid of the bad old rules that got us into this mess in the first place.”

Commissioner Copps will discuss the “American Media Contract” and answer questions at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning at a panel in the ballroom of the Memphis Cook Convention Center.

The text of Commissioner Copps’ remarks follows:

Half a trillion dollars. That’s a conservative valuation of the airwaves that our country lets TV and radio broadcasters use – for free. Any way you slice it, that’s an awful lot of money. In fact, it’s just about the biggest chunk of change that our government gives to any private industry.

And what do the American people – who own the public airwaves, by the way – get in return? Too little news, too much baloney passed off as news. Too little quality entertainment, too many people eating bugs on reality TV. Too little local and regional music, too much brain-numbing national play-lists. Too little of America, too much of Wall Street and Madison Avenue. That’s what we get for half a trillion dollars. It’s one hell of a bad bargain, don’t you think?

I don’t know about you. But I’m sick of this bargain and I’m sick of playing defense. So I’m not here tonight to talk about defeating bad new media ownership rules – although we still need to do that. I’m here to say it’s time that we all get off our duffs with a real agenda. Let’s get rid of the bad old rules that got us into this mess in the first place. And let’s go on from there to bring tough – I’m talking really tough here – public interest obligations back to those who use the spectrum you own.

Here’s one way we can shift from defense to offense – one way to demand that the nation’s media moguls hold up their end of the bargain with the American people.

I’m here to propose that we replace the bad old bargain that past FCCs struck with the media moguls with a new American Media Contract. It goes like this. We, the American people have given broadcasters free use of the nation’s most valuable spectrum, and we expect something in return. We expect this:

1. A right to media that strengthens our democracy
2. A right to local stations that are actually local
3. A right to media that looks and sounds like America
4. A right to news that isn’t canned and radio playlists that aren’t for sale
5. A right to programming that isn’t so damned bad so damned often

And, by the way, you have already paid for this with the half trillion dollars you gave the media giants – so you deserve all this on free-over-the-air TV and radio.

Are any of you in this room getting all five of these today? I didn’t think so. If you aren’t getting them today, are you ready to go out and fight for them, starting now?

Here’s how: First, let’s make sure the FCC backs off any further loosening of the few media ownership protections we still have. This is not the time for more duopolies, triopolies and sweetheart newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership deals that strangle localism, diversity and competition.

Second, let’s make FCC license approval and renewal into more than a paper tiger. That means enforcing the American Media Contract every time a media company comes in to renew a license or get a new one. No more postcard license renewals – but instead a requirement for license-holders to prove they are fulfilling the Contract.

Third, give minorities a seat at the media table. Wait a minute-seat at the table? Why can’t they own the table? Thirty per cent of our population cannot be consigned to owning three per cent of our broadcast outlets – not unless we want another century of equal opportunity sham and shame.

Fourth, expand the number of media outlets in each community. That means more support for Low Power, PEG programmers and community wireless – movements that defend the last bastions of localism as Big Media marches toward one-size-fits-all national programming and distribution.

Fifth, protect new forms of media from the awful consolidation that ensnared traditional media. The Internet can be truly transformative — or it can become another network monopoly. Does everyone here tonight support Network Neutrality?

It’s up to you and me, brothers and sisters. Things aren’t going to change without you. They can change with you. You beat Michael Powell’s Rules for Media Catastrophe three years ago. Who thought that would happen? Who says citizen action can’t succeed in America? I see so much enthusiasm here in Memphis this week. I’ve seen it all across the country, in blue states and red, among liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans.

At hearings wherever we go, my colleague Jonathan Adelstein and I talk with people who are just plain out of patience with a status quo that serves them so poorly; angry about what they get for half a trillion dollars; and telling us with a new urgency to do something about it. We accept that charge. We welcome it. And now, with you, we want to take it a step further. Together, we’re going to guarantee that our airwaves serve their masters — we, the people. It’s all there in the American Media Contract. Take that Contract down to your broadcasters and let them know you expect them to follow it. Go out and talk about it, write about it, sing about it, blog about it. Sign up everyone you can and let your representatives know how much this means to you. Act like your future depends on it — because it does!

This may actually be one of those wonderful moments in our nation’s passage when great things can actually be accomplished. And you in this audience — advocates, students, academics, public officials, journalists, entrepreneurs, creative content producers, and many more — citizens all — are the agents of that change. You are the instruments to make it happen. And when Free Press and all of us come together again in a forum like this, we can have something really sweet. It’s called media democracy. All in favor, say “Aye.”