No stranger to controversy, FCC member Michael Copps wants the Democratic-led agency to require full disclosure of the companies and political parties behind all those shadowy ads during election season. The regulator, one of three Democrats on the five-member commission and a long-time consumer advocate, revealed during a Tuesday speech that he's been promoting the idea internally.
"We the people have a right to know who is bank-rolling these ads beyond some wholly unidentifiable group set up to mask the special interest it really represents," Copps said, according to the text of his remarks. "If 'Citizens for Spacious Skies and Amber Waves of Grain' is really underwritten by a chemical company that doesn't want to clean up a toxic dump, I think viewers and voters would probably want to know that."
The regulator's call for a greater FCC role in overseeing political ads comes as the agency conducts its congressionally mandated quadrennial review of its media ownership rules, and as the nation begins to focus on the 2012 presidential race. In December, Copps created a stir with a proposal that TV stations be subject to a "public values test" that would gauge their commitments to news and other civic-minded programming to determine if their licenses should be renewed. That idea could make it more difficult for some stations to secure license renewals.
Underscoring his penchant for controversy, Copps was the only commissioner to oppose the Comcast-NBCU deal and one of three Democrats to back tougher net neutrality rules that have riled Republicans.