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FCC Ch-Ch-Changes

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

The bureaucrats at the FCC just loosened the regulations that stop a company from owning both a newspaper and broadcast outlet in the same market. They also allowed head media honchos to increase the number of local TV stations in their stash.

Those in favor of the changes have talked a lot about deregulation and free enterprise. Those opposed have brought up the dreaded media monopoly concept.

But the real remedy against monopoly is simply competition. And the best hope for competition in the arena of broadcasting lies in something called the "New Media."

New Media refers to the innovative ways of communicating with technology that are presently either in an un- or under-developed phase.

Deregulation in today's overly government-restricted atmosphere is generally a good thing. But why do we have to limit the deregulation to ownership regs only? How about making it easier for a host of healthy competitors to emerge?

When you think about it, keeping the regulatory shackles on the New Media ends up being another form of protectionism. Here are a few areas where it would help for government to just get out of the way:

Multiply the number of broadcast stations. We need to streamline the cumbersome process that's involved in getting a new broadcast license.

Open the broadcast spectrum up to other uses. Local markets have a portion of the broadcast spectrum that is, by and large, not being utilized and is therefore a wasted resource. This presently forsaken area of the spectrum could be used for high-speed wireless Internet connection.

Encourage Internet broadcasting. Internet broadcasting could potentially add to the diversity of views that nourishes the free marketplace of ideas. Regulatory policy should have as its goal greater ease of access to high-speed Internet. Copyright rules should be modified to nurture this vital source of competition.

Remove obstacles to wireless Internet. Promising new technology that could fully implement wireless Internet has up to now been mired in governmental red tape.

Get rid of protectionist laws and regulations. We basically need to dump the exclusive cable franchises and generally remove the obstacles to expansion of Internet, cable and low-power broadcasting.

At this point, the bottom-line question for American citizens to ask themselves is this: Who exactly should be making the decisions as to content and distribution of the broadcast and New Media ­ un-elected government bureaucrats or the free market?

Reproduced with the permission of . All rights reserved

Copyright © 2003
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

All Rights Reserved