One of America’s top media regulators is calling for closer scrutiny of broadcasters’ performance before their licences are renewed.

Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps blasted the watchdog’s current system of renewing broadcast licences as a “farce”, claiming it is almost as easy as simply sending in a postcard.

Copps – one of two Democrats on the five-member FCC – was speaking before a Senate Commerce Committee hearing to assess whether TV and radio firms act in the public interest.

The commissioner fears media consolidation is jeopardising traditions of local service. He plans to attend several town meetings to gauge the views of communities as local licences come up for renewal.

“How can we know if licensees are serving their local communities without hearing from the local community?” he demanded. “I intend to go to local communities to listen and learn.”

The Committee’s chairman, John McCain (Republican, Arizona), is considering introducing legislation to cut the period of a broadcast licence from the current eight years to three and to oblige broadcasters to submit more information on how they serve the public.

McCain is also planning a bill forcing TV and radio firms to devote a certain amount of time to content focused on issues and political candidates. The scheme would also supply candidates with vouchers that could be exchanged for ad slots in order to “increase the flow of political information in the broadcast media.”

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff