On Friday Night FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps challenged thousands of media reformers to set a bold new agenda for America's media system and "get rid of the bad old rules that got us into this mess in the first place."
Copps told the audience that it was only right for Americans to strike this bargain with media companies that use publicly-owned airwaves valued conservatively at half a trillion dollars.
"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.First, a right to media that strengthens our democracy;
Second, a right to local stations that are actually local;Third, a right to media that looks and sounds like America;
Fourth, a right to news that isn’t canned and radio playlists that aren’t for sale; andFifth, a right to programming that isn’t so damned bad so damned often"
"Any way you slice it, that’s an awful lot of money," he said. "In fact, it’s just about the biggest chunk of change that our government gives to any private industry."
Ending the Bad Bargain
Copps called this a bad bargain that returns too little news and useful information and too much "baloney" to the American people.
"Let’s get rid of the bad old rules that got us into this mess in the first place," he said. "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."
Prescription for Real Reform
To get there, Copps offered Americans a prescription for media reform. It began with forcing the FCC to stop chipping away at the last standing limits to runaway media consolidation.
Copps' formula also included ending rubberstamp broadcast license renewals, increasing minority ownership of the media, expanding alternative media outlets in each community and protecting Net Neutrality.
'You Are the Instruments'
"Take that Contract down to your broadcasters and let them know you expect them to follow it," He said. " 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."
"You are the instruments to make it happen," Copps concluded. "And when Free Press and all of us come together again in a forum like this, we can have something really sweet."
Commissioner Copps will elaborate further on the Contract during a Conference panel, Saturday, at 9 a.m. in Memphis.