WASHINGTON (AP) – When Michael Copps learned of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s plan for its 62 TV stations to air a documentary slamming John Kerry little more than a week from the presidential election, he wasn’t too surprised. For this FCC commissioner, it’s just another abuse by Big Media.

Copps called the plan by Sinclair – known for pushing a conservative agenda while its top executives gave thousands to President Bush and other Republicans – “proof positive of media consolidation run amok, when one owner can use the public airwaves to blanket the country with its political ideology, whether liberal or conservative.”

It’s a familiar plea from Copps, the populist maverick of the Federal Communications Commission. There, in defiance of Chairman Michael Powell, he has mounted a crusade to warn of Powell’s efforts to let media owners grow even bigger and more powerful.

Under Powell, a Republican, deregulation is gospel at this agency entrusted with regulating over-the-airwaves media. In a key ruling last year, the FCC voted 3-2 along party lines to loosen existing limits on how much of the U.S. audience a single company can reach with its TV stations, and how many broadcast outlets one company may own in any market.

But since then, Copps’ dissent, along with objections submitted to the FCC by more than 2 million Americans, have been vindicated. Parts of the new ownership rules were overturned by Congress. Then a U.S. court of appeals tossed out most of the rest.

Unless it takes the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, the FCC must start from scratch.

Copps isn’t celebrating yet. “The rules were sent back to the same commission that dreamed them up in the first place,” he notes. “So it’s still conceivable that we could come out with rules every bit as bad, or worse, than the ones that were sent back.”


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