Why the government shouldn't own the broadcasting airwaves

Remember Lyndon Johnson:

That federal agency soon limited licenses to restrict competition and guarantee profits for selected license holders in key markets. It made complicated regulations that required expensive lawyers and consultants. It also seemed to grant and revoke (or threaten to revoke) broadcast licenses in ways that advanced the careers of certain politicians with ties to the FCC.
One of them was Lyndon Johnson. He was broke when he was first elected to Congress in 1937. But within 12 years, he was one of the richest and most powerful members of the U.S. Senate. He got his wealth when his wife bought a cheap radio station – that quickly became the most powerful and profitable station in Texas – after getting FCC permits nobody else could get. . . .
Now under the Obama administration we have this:
 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski testified Wednesday that his agency takes calls to cancel Fox's broadcast licenses "very seriously."  Groups, including Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), have urged the FCC to pull Fox's licenses because of evidence that its parent company News Corp. hacked people's phones in the United Kingdom to get stories.  During a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) pressed Genachowski on whether he plans to do anything about the allegations. Genachowski said it wouldn't be appropriate to comment on a specific case, but that the commission is "certainly aware of the serious issues that have been raised in the U.K."  He noted that the law requires that the FCC only grant broadcast licenses to people of "good character." . . .
Does anyone think that the Obama administration can keep politics out of this?  Even if the licenses aren't revoked, does the threat produce a chilling effect? If people don't trust Fox, they can obviously stop watching the network.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

While one might make an argument that "the airwaves" represent a limited resource over which government might legitimately play a regulatory role, I can see absolutely no plausible reason for government to license or regulate media today, the vast majority of which utilizes privately built, maintained and operated connections with essentially unlimited ability to accommodate additional media sources. The FCC's regulatory power over cable or satellite media is no more constitutional than it would be if exercised over newspapers or public speaking.

5/10/2012 12:21 PM  

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