Media

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