Censorship-Advocating FCC Commissioner Michael Copps Announces His Resignation

Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps has announced his resignation, reports The Hill. “Yesterday, I submitted to the President notice of my intention to resign my post as Commissioner effective January 1, 2012," reads a statement from Copps' office. "Should the Senate confirm my successor prior to that date, or should the Senate adjourn sine die before January 1st, I would of course be leaving sooner."

Copps, who began disserving his country at the turn of the millennium, has fans across the political spectrum. Calling for content crackdowns made him a close friend of rightwing nanny state stalwart Brent Bozell; supporting net neutrality and opposing media consolidation made him an ally of the leftwing media "reformers" at Free Press. Concerned Women for America and Nation publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel could never get enough of the guy. After Janet Jackson's Super Bowl nipple slip,

Copps threatened to go after daytime soap operas, as well as network dramas like “ER” and “The Bedford Diaries.” The ripple spread even to public media, for which the commissioner has an unabashed fetish. PBS pulled certain episodes of the British detective series “Prime Suspect,” and a PBS programmer in Boston felt compelled to ask his superiors if he should cut an episode of “Antiques Roadshow” that featured a nude photograph of Marilyn Monroe. According to a report from the First Amendment Center, Copps’ stomping around got so bad that “television producers complained about network intimidation.”

Reason has kept an eye on Copps for the last decade or so, making special note of his more megalomaniacal positions. Here's Peter Suderman on Copps' behind-closed-door dealings with Free Press during the net neutrality debate: 

In December of 2010, Copps provided one of the three votes that made the proposed rules official. How close were Copps's ties to Free Press before the vote? Close enough that one month before the vote, Free Press staffers Jenn Ettinger and Misty Perez explicitly coordinated with Copps's communication staffers Margaret McCarthy, John Giusti, and Joshua Cinelli to draft and place an op-ed supporting net neutrality, according to emails between the FCC and Free Press made public byJudicialWatch.org

On November 1, Ettinger, who acts as the "media coordinator" for Free Press's "Save the Internet" project, wrote an email to McCarthy in Copps's office: "I wanted to gauge your interest in doing an oped by Commissioner Copps for the Albuquerque Journal," Ettinger wrote. She even offered to write the piece herself. "I'm happy to help draft, or place if need be." By November 9, the op-ed was in process. Copps's chief of staff John Giusti wrote back to Ettinger, "we're working on the op-ed." He added his fellow FCC staffers McCarthy and Cinelli to the email chain. 

The arrangement, it seems, was that Copps's team would handle the initial drafting and Free Press would manage the process of getting it placed in a newspaper. Copps's staffers proceeded to treat the op-ed as if it was a product they were producing for Free Press: On November 9, McCarthy wrote back to Ettinger: "I think John said we owe you the oped by Friday."

Suderman also noted when a Copps staffer said the commissioner would "love to have jurisdiction over everything."

In a 2008 piece anticipating what the FCC might do under Obama, Jesse Walker wrote about Copps' hardon for bigger indecency fines: 

The drive for higher indecency penalties isn't coming only from the Republican chairman. On the Democratic side, Adelstein and Copps are enthusiastic censors as well, with Copps in particular urging the commission to come down harder on vulgar expression. In 2004, when the agency fined Clear Channel $755,000 for a series of crass radio skits and some related incidents of improper recordkeeping, Copps objected that the company's stations should have paid even more—or, better still, lost their licenses to broadcast altogether: "I am discouraged," he wrote, "that my colleagues would not join me in taking a firm stand against indecency on the airwaves."

Matt Welch noted a 2011 speech in which Copps pushed for direct government control over broadcasting content: 

Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps made a case for a government hand in media policy in a speech to the FCBA on Tuesday.

"The commission can act now. It should have acted on the media before now. I am disappointed that it has not," he said.

The decline of "real journalism" justifies federal involvement, according to Copps. "The news is suffering from a bad case of substance abuse," he said.

The Democratic commissioner pointed to Fox News' Bernie Goldberg and Bill O'Reilly as examples of the problem with today's media landscape, saying the pair has taken his own words out of context.

"What you and I are getting these days is too much opinion based on opinion and too little news based on fact," Copps said.

More Reason on Copps here

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  • ||

    Let's take bets on whether his successor will be even worse.

  • ||

    It seems difficult, but one should never underestimate (or is that overestimate) the government.

  • ||

    The arrow seems to point in one direction, most of the time.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    One should never misestimate Obama appointees.

  • Raston Bot||


    The decline of "real journalism" justifies federal involvement, according to Copps. "The news is suffering from a bad case of substance abuse," he said.

    Pack shit, get out.

  • Gojira||

    Why does he have to have gay butsecks before leaving office?

  • ||

    At my workplace, it's just a regular part of the last-day checkout procedure.

  • Gojira||

    Gives a whole new meaning to "exit interview".

  • EDG reppin' LBC||


  • Cliché Bandit||

    I have now stolen larf.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Yeah, saying good riddance doesn't feel as good with the looming certainty that the next guy will be pretty much indistinguishable.

  • Paul||

    Who appoints his successor?

    $5 says Obama didn't think Copps went far enough.

  • ||

    I think I mentally danced a jig on reading this.

    Door, ass, etc.

  • wareagle||

    and why exactly is the FCC necessary?

  • ||

    Its not.

    It should be abolished, immediately, if not sooner.

  • ||

    Well, some communications cross state lines, implicating welfare, generally. It's all in the Preamble, which clearly implies that the First Amendment doesn't apply when stuff is broadcasted over the airwaves.

  • Restoras||

    Plus its all commerce and doesn't the Kommerce Klaus give the government jurisdiction over everything related to commerce?

  • ||

    Commerce and all things even remotely relating to commerce. Also sexual commerce.

  • Gojira||

    Kommerce Klaus brings commerce to good little boys and girls on the night of New Fiscal Year Eve.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Why do I suddrnly find myself singing Rudolph the Red Nose Radio Frequency?

  • wareagle||

    careful or you will offend the FCC gods by making even a secular reference to Christmas through Rudolph.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Airwaves are a public good.

    Or some shit like that.

  • ||

    Yeah. It's, like, air and stuff.

  • yogi||

    They serve a useful purpose in stopping radio operators from stomping over each other's frequencies. Well they actually contract that out to frequency coordinators. So they need 3 or 4 people to administer these contracts.

  • The Government||

    Plus its all commerce and doesn't the Kommerce Klaus give the government jurisdiction over everything related to commerce?

    Fixed that for you...

  • ||

    Handle trolling has moved to the business world


    A website called VibrantNation.com describes itself as “the leading online community for Baby Boomer women – the place where they connect and support each other on issues unique to life after 50.”

    I don’t know about that.

    But I do think they’ve done the oddest thing I’ve ever seen on their Staff listing page.The following is the entry that caught my eye.


    So the editorial director doesn’t exist?

    Yet she gets the byline on some articles, like this one on plantar fasciitis.

    That’s one way to solve a staffing and budget issue. Create a virtual editorial director. It could be the start of a whole new trend: take a staff of 3 and promote it as a staff of 300 by creating virtual identities. It could be fun and engaging for the 3 staff members who could rotate among the 300 roles to make their virtual jobs more exciting. “Hey, can I be Human Resources director today? I feel like hiring another avatar.”

    Since not everyone reads Staff listing pages, this doesn’t do much for transparency.

  • ||

    A quote from his wiki entry on the decision to allow Comcast to buy NBC.

    I searched in vain for the benefits (...) Pardon me, but a deal of this size should be expected to yield more than the limited benefits cited. (...) In sum, this is simply too much, too big, too powerful, too lacking in benefits for American consumers and citizens.... I would be true to neither the statute nor to everything I have fought for here at the Commission over the past decade if I did not dissent from what I consider to be a damaging and potentially dangerous deal (..) At the end of the day, the public interest requires more-much more-than it is receiving. The Comcast-NBCU joint venture opens the door to the cable-ization of the open Internet. The potential for walled gardens, toll booths, content prioritization, access fees to reach end users, and a stake in the heart of independent content production is now very real.

    Because the companies involved are not to be the judge what is best. No, only concerned top men like Copps can be the judge of that. That statement really sums up about everything that is wrong with this country. I hate to be unChristian. But I can't help but hope this ignorant fucker dies a painful death for the damage he has done to this country.

  • ||

    Or maybe just placing him in a walled garden with no way out?

  • Raston Bot||

    How very Edgar Alpo of you.

  • ||

    I usually like the stuff Reason does, but this article is poorly written. It's more like a cut-and-paste quickie than it is like real journalism. This sentence is particularly troubling: Calling for content crackdowns made him a close friend of rightwing nanny state stalwart Brent Bozell; supporting net neutrality and opposing media consolidation made him an ally of the leftwing media "reformers" at Free Press. "Nanny state"? "Reformers"? I'm not defending these groups, but simple name-calling is ineffective, at best, and seriously undermines your credibility, at worst.

  • Paul||

    It's a blog post. There are critical differences between a journalistic piece and a blogpost.

  • Michael Copps||

    I usually like the stuff Reason does, but this article is poorly written. It's more like a cut-and-paste quickie than it is like real journalism.

    We're working on it.

  • cynical||

    The names are accurate, so what's the problem? Free Press is an Orwellian group dedicated to state control of media, and Bozell wants government to act in loco parentis in your TV set.

  • Paul||

    effective January 1, 2012

    Why do we have to wait until January? Why not effective immediately? Any idea how much damage he could do in the next 25 days?

  • Raston Bot||

    the following conditions prevent govt from working much in December:

    1. dangerous roads (rain!)
    2. use or lose leave policy
    3. xmas
    4. continuing resolution

  • Paul||

    Copps isn't like regular government workers. He's of the ambitious set. The type that love coming into work and fixing things that aren't broken. The type that burns the midnight oil figuring out ways to regulate your existence.

    If the top levels of government worked as efficiently as the bottom, libertarianism would actually be making progress.

  • ||

    I thought the top levels of government did work as efficiently as a bottom.

  • Anomalous||

    The real question is why he wasn't out sooner. FCC commissioners serve five year terms. Copps's tenure as a commissioner started May 31, 2001 according to Wikipedia. So assuming he was reappointed, that means he still should have been out by May 31 of this year. Good riddance.

  • .||

    They serve until a replacement is appointed.

  • ||

    I think Reason may be a little shortsighted here. Mr Copps went ten years maintaining a pretty good focus on protecting valuable journalism. Yes, I would rather he didn't care so much about a word here or there, but he really did work to protect viable, local journalism in the face of constant, de rigeur, corporate consolidation of (the) media. Government officials who value that, or even understand that are disappearing fast nowadays.


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