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McDowell Praises Copps As Acting FCC Chairman

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell gave Acting Chairman Michael Copps high marks for his first few days at the helm.

At a Federal Communications Bar Association luncheon in Washington Monday--according to prepared remarks supplied by the commissioner's office--he gave Copps "an 11" on a scale of 1-10 for improved communications and an "immediate boost in morale."

Paraphrasing Ronald Reagan, McDowell said it was, "amazing what you can accmplish if you don't care who gets the credit." Copps was scheduled to be in the audience, as was Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein. The FCC is currently down to three members after the departure of two Republicans, including Chairman Kevin Martin, whose management style was criticized inside and outside the commission as opaque and, at times, punitive.

While McDowell spent most of his speech outlining FCC reforms he proposed last week, he also took a moment to talk about the DTV transition.

He said that "if and when" a bill is signed to change the DTV cut-off deadline to June 12, he will work "dilligently" to implement it, but until then, he said, it was important to focus on the current date of Feb. 17.

McDowell said most broadcasters are ready to turh off their analog on that date, and pointed out that 392 hvae already done so or will have done so by Feb. 17.

He talked about the additional costs of broadcasting in analog and digital, and said he hoped that if "government is going to change the rules of the game with precious few minutes left on the clock," as he put it, "the FCC should be given "some flexibility" in allowing stations to switch on Feb. 17 or sometime before June 12."

McDowell's speech came the same day that a pair of House Republicans told Copps they feared that because of potential interference and power level concerns, most stations would not be able to make the move early.
McDowell took the opportunity to clarify his call for an "audit" of the FCC and related entities, like the Universal Service Administrative Company, which administers industry subsidies for telecommunications services to rural and other areas.

He said some people had expressed concern over the term "audit," so he wanted to insure them he was not suggesting a "witch hunt against anyone or anything," but more like a due diligence review of a company when it proposes a merger, or a review after a change in top management.

Copps and McDowell have both outlined proposals for greater transparency, efficiency and collegiality. However, Copps has also said he can't do too much reforming as the acting chairman, but instead wanted to start the process, including getting eveyone thinking about possible changes in processes and procedures.