Rep. Barton criticizes FCC Commissioner Copps over speech on media

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Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), an influential member of the House Commerce Committee, is upset with Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps over a speech the regulator gave last week at Columbia University’s School of Journalism and an interview he did with the BBC America.

In the speech, Copps was heavily critical of both the media industry’s coverage of news and public affairs and of his own agency’s role in media regulation.


The media giants are not ‘producing the body of news and information that democracy needs to conduct its civic dialogue,’ Copps told the BBC’s Katty Kay. If that trend continues, he added, ‘we are going to be pretty close to denying our citizens the essential news and information that they need to have in order to make intelligent decisions about the future direction of their country.” As for the Internet being a savior, Copps warned that ‘increasingly, the private interests who design and control our 21st century information infrastructure resemble those who seized the master switch of the last century’s communications networks.’

Possible solutions, Copps said, could be new public interest regulations and toughening up the process by which broadcasters renew their licenses to operate TV and radio stations.

In a letter sent to Copps on Monday, Barton said he was ‘troubled’ by the remarks and said he does not believe that the ‘subjective opinions of five unelected officials should hold sway over the content broadcasters air or the licenses they hold to air it.’

While Barton said he has no issue with Copps’ views, he said he hopes that the commissioner does not ‘mean to suggest that it is the job of the federal government, through the Federal Communications Commission, to determine the content that is available for Americans to consume.’

-- Joe Flint

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