By Forrest Pfeiffer Woolman
On July 27, Common Cause announced that former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps joined the organization and will play a leading role in media advocacy. Heading up the group’s national Media and Democracy Reform Initiative, which is aimed at spotlighting and countering the growing political and economic power of the communications industry, Copps will also work directly with the LA Media Reform group.
The Media and Democracy Reform Initiative will address issues created by industry mergers and consolidation of control within regions and across media platforms; the stripping of local control over cable and municipal broadband; carte blanche broadcast licensing without regard to statutory obligations to serve the public interest; challenges to the principles of ubiquitous broadband deployment and an open Internet; and attacks on funding for public broadcasting.
Copps joined Common Cause’s National Governing Board earlier this year and will temporarily relinquish that position to oversee the Media Democracy and Reform Initiative.
“A number of other groups already are doing great work in this area,” Copps said. “We are determined to bolster their efforts, using our national membership, organizing, and campaign experience, and our 35 state chapters to focus attention on, and build public support for, media reform. Without media that dig for facts, report real news, and reflect the diversity of our nation, self-government cannot endure.”
“Working in Washington and through our network of state chapters, Common Cause’s initiative aims to restore and expand diversity, open access, transparency and public control in both traditional and new media,” Edgar added. “And in Michael Copps, we’ve found the perfect person to guide it.”
Edgar said generous gifts from several foundations will provide initial financial support for the initiative. It also will draw heavily on the expertise and advocacy of Copps, who during a decade (2001-11) as a Member of the FCC emerged as an outspoken champion for the role of government in ensuring that traditional media, the internet and other digital systems serve the broad public interest.
“Today’s information technologies have tremendous potential to give Americans access to information, connect us to the rest of the world, and strengthen our democracy,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “We can’t afford to let increasingly powerful and concentrated telecom and media interests use their muscle to control that future.”
With its longtime focus on the role of money in politics, Edgar said Common Cause is particularly concerned with the drowning out of voters’ diverse political voices by massive political spending by the few. “We see this initiative as a natural complement to our other efforts to counter the impact of big money on our politics and our elections and to ensure that ours is a government ‘of, by and for the people,’” Edgar said.