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Copps Pushes for Better Communication Within FCC

Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps told staffers Monday that things were going to have to change so that the commission, whose business is overseeing communications, can be better at communicating itself.

That will include weekly Chairman's Office briefings with bureau and office chiefs as well as representatives of all the commissioners.

For openers, he said, FCC offices and bureaus need to change how they work with each other, FCC commissioners need to change how they communicate with each other, and the FCC needs to change how it interacts with the public. "If we can't communicate with ourselves, we shouldn't have the word ‘Communications' in our title," Copps told staffers.

Copps was named by the Obama administration to be acting chairman until a replacement for Republican Chairman Kevin Martin can be nominated and confirmed.

One suggestion Copps made was involving the General Counsel's office or the Office of Workplace Diversity earlier on in the regulatory process "to help solve problems upfront rather than having to try and fix them on the back end after things have gone wrong?"

Martin was criticized for lack of transparency and lines of communication that sometimes bypassed fellow commissioners and staffers.

Copps also said that his fellow commissioners will have "unfettered access" to the bureaus, with the presumption that requests for information will be honored, and beyond that that there will be positive outreach.

Chairman Martin had responded to some criticisms of other commissioners' lack of access to information by saying they had not requested it. "Beginning now, requests from commissioners' offices-not just the chairman's Office-should be answered directly and as quickly as possibly, just as if the Chairman's Office is asking for it and without the need for running those requests through the Chairman's office first."

Copps said that the commission must welcome input from all [he underlined the word in the released text of his talk] stakeholders, saying that definitely includes the public. "Regardless of whether a person is rich or poor, lives in a rural or urban area or on tribal lands, in affluence or is struggling just to get by, whether they have a disability or are senior citizens or college students, they are-each and every one of them-a stakeholder," he said.

Copps recommended regular FCC reports to Congress, plus "white papers" for public consumption.

Copps also said the FCC's Web site would be revised, starting with the DTV section.

Copps said he recognized he would only be chairman long enough to begin making those changes. "[C]ertainly my role as Chairman for an interim period allows me only to begin this process," he said. He also said some of the suggestions for change had come from fellow commissioners Robert McDowell and Jonathan Adelstein, currently the only other commissioners on the panel.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.