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Commissioner Copps Introduces Plan for New Era of 'Media Democracy'

With the National Conference of Media Reform happening in Minneapolis this weekend, we’ve invited Timothy Karr, campaign director for media reform organization Free Press, to blog from the event.

Commissioner Copps Introduces Plan for New Era of ‘Media Democracy’

As hard as it may be for some to believe, last night an FCC commissioner was transformed into an Internet superstar.

Twitter traffic of Commissioner Michael Copps’ speech in Minneapolis on Saturday rocketed to the top of the popular network — garnering more mentions than "Obama," "Clinton," "Big Brown" and all other newsworthy terms posted by the millions of users of the viral Internet service.

And for good reason. On Saturday night Copps told an enthusiastic crowd of thousands at the National Conference for Media Reform that "reform is coming to Washington, DC, and my goal is to make media reform one of the first out of the gate."

Copps’ introduced a reform initiative, which he called the "Down Payment on Media Democracy."

According to Copps, the Down Payment has two parts: "better TV and radio," and  "Internet freedom."

On the first, Copps decried the FCC’s failure to enforce public-interest components of broadcast licensing.  

"It’s time to put a cop back on the beat," Copps said.  "Broadcasters need to think twice before running one more infomercial on Sunday morning and bumping local public affairs. Don’t get me wrong — a lot of broadcasters want to do the right thing.  But we make their jobs harder, not easier, when we let the bad apples off the hook.  I am here to say, with you: No more free rides!"

Copps proposal is to provide a meaningful review of broadcast licenses every three years, (the present license renewal term is eight years) with clear guidelines for how broadcasters must serve their local communities.

"The Down Payment will put stations that ignore the public interest on probation," Copps said. "I’ll tell you this: a station on probation will get serious about serving the public interest real fast!  But if it doesn’t, then it’ll be ‘good-bye license.’"

The second piece of the Down Payment is a clear, enforceable principle of Internet non-discrimination.

"If you want to blog about local politics, should you really have to pay some huge gate-keeper for every reader you get?  Should anyone be telling you what you can read and see and hear on the Internet?  Which applications you can run?  Which devices you can use?" Copps asked, citing the Net Neutrality terms signed on to by AT&T as a condition of their merger with BellSouth.

"AT&T doesn’t seem any worse for wear," he said.  "But that commitment expires at the end of the year.  It’s time that we had a Net Neutrality principle that applies to all gatekeepers. Real Network Neutrality."

"I know we can get this done," Copps concluded.  "So tonight, moving forward in hope, let us move forward in a mutual pledge to get that Down Payment and then push on to the final installment.  Commissioner Adelstein and I will be doing everything we can, but what really makes it happen is you."

-Timothy Karr