Copps unveils New America Media Contract

by Tim Karr, Free Press

On Friday Night at the Memphis National Conference on Media Reform, FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps challenged thousands of media reformers to set a 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.

Speaking at the National Conference for Media Reform in Memphis, Commissioner Copps released the New America Media Contract to, as he put it, guarantee that our airwaves serve their masters we, the people.

Copps then urged Free Press and the other activists and organizers present at the event to shift from the defense to the offense and mobilize millions of Americans to make corporate media sign on to the Contract:

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; and

Fifth, a right to programming that isn t so damned bad so damned often

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.

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.

Copps called this a bad bargain that gets too little news and useful information and too much baloney for the American people in return.

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.

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.

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.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey