By: Todd Shields
(Mediaweek.com) Federal Communications Commission member Michael J. Copps on Wednesday announced hearings on media concentration in Seattle and North Carolina, and he called on the FCC to take confidential testimony from producers, artists, and others who fear retribution from media companies.
Copps, who has been pressing FCC Chairman Michael Powell for more public meetings on media ownership, issued a statement saying hearings would take place at the University of Washington in early March and at Duke University in Durham, N.C., later in the month. Precise dates were still to be worked out, his aides said.
Copps, one of two Democrats on the five-member panel, said he had invited the four other FCC commissioners to attend. There was no immediate word from them.
Copps, who is leery of loosening media-ownership rules, has been pressing for public hearings. Powell, a Republican who is skeptical of the rules, withheld his assent for hearings before relenting and setting an FCC hearing for Feb. 27 in Richmond, Va.
Copps characterized the hearings he is organizing as “official FCC media concentration hearings.”
Several universities have organized hearings on the rules, which include limitations on the size of TV networks, restrictions on dominance in local broadcast markets, and a prohibition on common ownership of a daily newspaper and a nearby broadcast station.
Copps, citing “a climate of fear that chokes off needed input,” said he wants to take confidential testimony from those who wish to testify against media consolidation but fear harm to their careers.