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Interim FCC Chief Takes Over 'Demoralized' Agency

Michael J. Copps has taken over the Federal Communications Commission, and according to many sources within the agency, he's got his work cut out for him as acting chairman as he tries to repair the spirit of the agency.

Copps was appointed acting chairman of the agency last week by President Obama until the administration formally announces their appointee. Julius Genachowski, Obama's tech advisor, friend, and Harvard Law School classmate, is expected to be named FCC head, according to sources close to the transition team and on Capitol Hill. Though Copps hasn't laid out specific goals as interim chairman, comments he made to staff has set the tone for cultural and procedural changes at the agency that will likely be resumed by Genachowski.

Genachowski will "inherit an agency largely demoralized that has lost a great deal of career experts," said Christopher Yoo, a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania.

Coops made his remarks to all FCC staff today saying he would focus on the digital television transition and inside-agency efforts to try to improve communication and transparency at the agency.

"I'm troubled that our lines of communication, both internal and external, seem to be frayed," Copps said in remarks to staff, according to a statement released by the agency. "Our credibility suffers when that happens."

To achieve that, he encouraged more interaction between bureaus and offices. He said the chairman's office will hold weekly briefings with bureau and office chiefs with a representative from each commissioner's office in attendance. He called for more white papers on policy issues for the public to view.

Officials at the agency have complained privately that former chairman Kevin J. Martin didn't include them in his policy decisions or meetings with high-level economists, technologists and legal minds at the FCC. They said Martin was secretive and didn't tell them of his schedule and his plans, only to reveal sometimes policy notices at the last minute for vote at the FCC's open monthly meetings.

"The Commission has to be repaired in the eyes of the public," said Gigi Sohn, executive director of public interest group Public Knowledge. She has helped launch a site called www.fcc-reform.org, which solicits comments on how to reform the FCC by making it more transparent and more relevant to today's convergence of media, wireless technology, social networking, Internet search and other technologies.

But the biggest policy issue the agency will focus on in coming weeks will be the national conversion to all-ditigal broadcast television.

Copps said the agency will work to make the transition to all-digital broadcast over television on Feb. 17 as smooth as possible, however he reiterated that Congress should extend the date for the transition as millions of analog television viewers wait for coupons for digital converter boxes. The National Telecommunications & Information Administration said earlier this month that it had run out of money to fund the coupon program.

"It's no secret that I have always favored a more proactive and coordinated public-private partnership to fashion a seamless DTV transition," according to a release on Copps' remarks. "It's too late for that seamlesness now, but we have an obligation to do what we can in the three weeks remaining to minimize the dislocation and then, in the weeks following to repair the things that didn't work."

By Cecilia Kang  |  January 26, 2009; 5:20 PM ET  | Category:  Cecilia Kang
Previous: Obama Reiterates Call to Delay DTV Transition | Next: Obama Assures Tech Titans on Stimulus Plan Approval


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Yeah! I am happy Mr Copp is the interim head. He was my pick.

I have no idea how Mr. Copp was able to stick it out under repub appointees.

Posted by: JohnAdams1 | January 26, 2009 7:28 PM

Here's how to fix the FCC:

1) Get out of the censorship business. Yes, we realize there are people in the world who are outraged when they hear F--- or see a T-TTY on the TV or Radio, but most people couldn't care less about it, and it has put the FCC at odds with the majority of people on this issue.

2) Stop doing your best to make sure telcoms, record companies, etc etc are profitable.

3) Stick with writing technical regulations for different frequencies. Get rid of all political appointees. Work on a reputation as the purveyor of technical excellence, not the arbitrator of taste and morality.

4) Announce to people who call and complain that they are now insisting on an off-switch on every TV and radio and that they highly recommend people become familiar with it and use it.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | January 26, 2009 9:44 PM

We haven’t lost any experts in the career-level area of the Media Bureau. They still stonewall acting on petitions that effect the way cable and leased access users are to insure the wishes of Congress for commercial leased airtime to be a ‘genuine outlet’ for programmers unaffiliated with the cable operator.

In November, 2007 the full Commission adopted new rules for leased access; one was basically an internal rule re how long the bureau was to take before releasing decisions on petitions. However, the staff determined the court stay of new rules made this internal rule also invalid. Hopefully Chairman Copps will now instruct the bureau to release any long overdue orders.

Posted by: Stog | January 27, 2009 7:27 AM

Child Porn disguised as story of newborn Octuplets on NBC.
The NBC affiliate in Eugene, Oregon KMTR channel 16 broadcast a story on the Octuplets,it included a nude baby boy with his penis exposed, the baby boy had nothing to do with the story about the recent birth of 8 babies. I can not send you a copy of the story because then I would be transmitting child pornography
I still feel that the FCC should do something about “news” stations that use child nudity in their broadcasts. If the FCC were to “Get out of the censorship business” as suggested by the previous poster then there would be no control whatsoever to what stations could put over the public airwaves. I think that NBC affiliate KMTR in Eugene, Oregon should have their license revoked. Your coments “Ombudsman1”?

E-mail I sent to KMTR.
I am shocked and dismayed that Channel 16 would use a semi nude newborn baby boy with his penis showing in plain sight in a television news story. That is a form of child pornography, as the Supreme Court says, it’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it. It is not artistic in any form, it’s just wrong. That semi nude child had nothing to do with OCTUPLETS, guess you couldn’t get a picture of the 8 babies, so you created a multiple image page of one nude newborn example.
Childrens private parts do not have to be shown or used as examples for your news stories.
Shame on you, KMTR Channel 16 in Eugene Oregon.
Where are your morals and decency?
This is the second time that child nudity has made you all grin. Remember the 8 year old autistic child on potty chair.
You all disgust me and the FCC will receive a copy of this E-mail. Be sure and put this in your public file. Lee Ann Greg, the reporter should be fired as should the station manager for allowing this to be broadcast on the evening news Jan. 27, 2009.

Posted by: iris6 | January 28, 2009 1:37 AM

Sorry Ombudsman1, but the public airwaves are indeed the "public airwaves" and belong to all people, not just those wanting to watch the networks put out porn for ratings. This means that you ought to be safe letting your 8 year old daughter flip through the channels of stations using those public airwaves. If you want T&A, pay for it by subscribing to cable or satellite. The idiots taking over the FCC ought to get a life and let the DTV transition happen as scheduled. There is NO reason to delay (yet again). Get on with it. This is an embarassment to the US to be screwing around delaying this. 94% of the US is ready NOW.

Posted by: moonwatcher2001 | February 3, 2009 10:28 AM

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