Michael Copps

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Michael Copps

"Progressive" Cabinet "nominee"

In September 2008, Chicago based socialist journal In These Times asked its editors and writers to suggest their top progressive choices for a potential Obama Cabinet.[1]

We asked that contributors weigh ideological and political considerations, with an eye toward recommending people who have both progressive credentials and at least an arguable chance at being appointed in an Obama White House.

This group of people would represent at once the most progressive, aggressive and practical Cabinet in contemporary history. Of course, it is by no means a definitive list. It is merely one proposal aimed at starting a longer discussion about the very concept of a progressive Cabinet—and why it will be important to a new administration, especially if that administration is serious about change.

Jessica Clark suggested Michael Copps for FCC Chairman:

In his two terms on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Michael Copps has done yeoman’s duty, consistently protecting the public’s stake in the communications spectrum under a string of hostile chairmen.

In his first term, Copps helped launch a series of public hearings about media consolidation. In 2007, he announced his American Media Contract, which asserts citizens’ rights to “programming that isn’t so damned bad so damned often.” And at the 2008 National Conference for Media Reform, Copps called for tougher, more frequent FCC monitoring of local broadcast licenses, and the enforcement of net neutrality principles.

Trained as a historian at the University of North Carolina, Copps would bring nearly four decades of public and private sector experience to the position. He’ll need all of it to deal with the coming disruptions in the media environment.

On Feb. 17, 2009, the analog broadcast signal will be shut off, turning many Americans’ TVs into doorstops unless they subscribe to commercial cable or satellite services, or obtain a converter box. Coupons for those boxes are limited, and advocates for elderly, minority and low-income Americans warn that they may be cut off from crucial emergency and public information services.
A battle is also raging over new spectrum allocations: Consumer advocates argue that “white spaces” should be left open to provide options for affordable public wireless networks, while broadcasters counter that this would interfere with broadcast quality.

Meanwhile, media consolidation continues. Current FCC Chairman Kevin Martin approved the recent merger of XM and Sirius, even though the move created a monopoly in satellite radio. Copps dissented, citing, as usual, the public interest.

It’s long past time such dissent became mainstream.