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Copps Joins Public-Interest Gate-Crashers

Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps will join media activists as they crash the National Association of Broadcasters' convention in Las Vegas next week.

The Public Interest, Public Airwaves Coalition is a broad-based campaign effort urging the FCC to set specific public interest programming obligations for digital broadcasting. Copps, a vocal consolidation critic, and the group will conduct a 1 p.m. press conference at a location outside the convention.

The event is timed to precede a 4 p.m. appearance by Copps and other FCC Commissioners at an NAB panel discussion on what's hot in media regulation.

Democrat Copps has been pushing for new obligations for some time, but the three-Republican majority is generally opposed. The specific spot for the press conference has not been chosen, representatives for the group say, but their presence will be impossible to miss. The groups plan to rent a hot air balloon to advertise their cause.

The groups include the Alliance for Better Campaigns, Benton Foundation, Common Cause, Center for Digital Democracy, Center for Creative Voices in Media, Institute for Public Representation of Georgetown University Law Center, Media Access Project, New America Foundation and the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ.

They want the FCC to require a minimum three hours per week of civic or electoral affairs programming on a digital station's "most-watched" or primary channel, and at least 25% of the channel’s prime time schedule devoted to independently produced programming.

"One core component of these public interest requirements is that broadcasters provide opportunities for citizens to become informed, about and involved in, local civic affairs and elections," the groups say in their proposal.