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Copps: Tying Diversity To Fairness Doctrine Is Issue Mongering

Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps tried to allay the fears of conservatives that the FCC's new Diversity Advisory Committee is a back-door effort to revive the Fairness Doctrine, saying suggestions otherwise were "issue-mongering."

In remarks to the committee at its first meeting Thursday, Copps said that there was one topic that he did not expect the committee to address: the fairness doctrine.

"I almost hesitate to mention it because it seems so obvious," he said. However, he mentioned it anyway, saying that was because, "apparently there are some who remain confused—I hope not willfully so."

That appeared to be a reference to criticisms leveled at the committee by conservatives that it was packed with liberals and could become a tool of the Obama administration to reinstate the doctrine in some other form, which the President has said on more than one occasion he has no plans to do.

"Those who claim that promoting diversity and addressing the woeful effects of past discrimination are the equivalent of bringing back the Fairness Doctrine understand neither the Fairness Doctrine nor, more importantly, the lack of opportunity minorities and women have when it comes to owning and operating the enterprises that allow us to communicate with one another."

Copps used words like "shameful" and "dismal" to describe the state of minority and women ownership of the media, according to a copy of his remarks.

"What you are about is righting the wrong of generations of denied opportunity," he told the committee. "When all the statistics show us still heading in the wrong direction, most people without an axe to grind appreciate the wisdom of that old adage, 'justice delayed is justice denied.' Resurrecting the straw man of a bye-gone Fairness Doctrine to deflect this country’s passage to equal opportunity is a kind of issue-mongering that has no place in twenty-first century America."

The committee is charged with coming up with ways to promote diversity in the digital age. Copps has already launched an effort to collect better data on minority ownership, and asked the committee to focus initially on minority and female ownership issues.