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CoppsSees 'Common Ground' WithCongressionalOversight Committees

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps held out an olive branch
of sorts to the Republican-headed oversight committees preparing to launch
their aggressive inquiries into FCC processes and decisions.

On the eve of his testimony--along with the other
commissioners--at a House Communications Subcommittee hearing, Copps said
that, as a former congressional staffer, he "recognize[d] the value of
guidance and input from our oversight committees," and added that "I
believe I will find there some common ground-perhaps more than many of you

That observation came in a speech to the Federal
Communications Bar Association in Washington, according to a copy of his
prepared remarks.

Many might be expecting more rhetorical fisticuffs
than handclasps at upcoming oversight hearings given the strong
Republican criticisms of the FCC's recent network neutrality regs,
which Copps voted for and wished were even stronger. But Copps was
more sanguine about the prospects. "There have been lots of shifting majorities
and minorities in this town since I came here in 1970," he said.
"Fritz Hollings [the former South Carolina Senator and Copps' former boss]
told me, and then he showed me, how good things can get done no matter which
one of those categories you're in."

Copps saw a chance for agreement on the importance of
broadband, though recognized the disagreement over broadband policies. "I
am hopeful we can build on our areas of agreement," he said.

Copps took the opportunity to call for increasing
funding to public broadcasting, which will not be one of those areas of
agreement with Republicans heading up communications oversight. He
characterized himself as "totally incredulous" at the talk of zeroing
out funding for CPB--as a Republican version of a continuing resolution bill
would do, at least for the balance of this year. He said he hoped the country
could have a "calm, serious and non-knee-jerk discussion about increasing
support for public broadcasting."

He called it the "jewel of American media," and
pointed out that Americans spend per capita only $1.35 on public media, while
in some other countries the citizens pay hundreds of dollars. "Public
media enjoys high levels of public trust in our country, investing in its
future is investing in our future."

Copps talked about promoting more and better local
news--the FCC is expected in the next few months to issue a report on the
future of media--and used the platform to assure his critics his interest was
in promoting community media, not trying to muzzle conservative talk radio or
reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.

"Just to be clear: this is not about right wing talk
radio or left wing cable TV hosts," he said. "This is about making
sure there is media about, and originating from, the local communities a
station serves. Many broadcasters are still working hard and doing their
job-don't get me wrong-but the frenzy of the marketplace and the lack of
responsible public interest oversight has made life tougher for them and much
less rich for consumers."