New public hearings on proposed revisions to media ownership law are to be arranged by a Federal Communications Commission member who claims “most Americans are not even aware that this is teed up for debate.”

Michael J Copps is organising unofficial hearings in Durham (North Carolina) and Seattle in early March in a bid to tap expertise in local markets. The FCC has already scheduled a hearing in Richmond for February 27.

Copps is also calling on the FCC to make provisions for testimony to be given anonymously by media and entertainment staff who are afraid of reprisals if they speak publicly against relaxing ownership rules.

“It has been a revelation to me that there are media professionals with strong feelings about the downsides of consolidation for the American people who are afraid to speak for fear of retribution,” Copps commented.

However, the commissioner’s attempts to draw comment from across America look likely to run into opposition from FCC chairman Michael Powell, who is eager to vote on the proposals before the summer.

Powell revealed that 13,000 comments on media consolidation have already been filed with the FCC. “This record clearly demonstrates that in the digital age, you don't need a 19th-century whistle-stop tour to hear from America,” he said.

Data sourced from: Washington Post Online; additional content by WARC staff