Tuesday, June 03, 2003

More on FCC's decision

The LA Times has two OK pieces on the FCC's decision to relax media ownership rules (which I commented on yesterday). You can read them here and here but need to register. The two best lines are:
Monday's vote by the Federal Communications Commission to loosen the rules governing media ownership were, at root, about one thing: "trying to strengthen the foundations of free, over-the-air television," in the words of FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell.
"Take away the government protections, and the free TV system would die a natural death," said Thomas guarantees, a former chief economist for the FCC and now a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. "We should do something productive with the spectrum."
When you read "the market for free, over-the-air television" you should think "a national market for eyeballs that can be sold to advertisers" because that's how the free broadcast business works. The restrictions on cross-media ownership and consolidation were explicitly crafted to maintain a collusive oligopoly in national broadcasters. I find that it's often the same people who loudly complain about the poor quality of TV that fight hardest to protect the advertiser model which guarantees that quantity of eyeballs trumps quality of programming and produces the "vast wasteland" that they now decry. If you want quality TV you're going to have to be a customer to be served, not an eyeball to be sold.

And lastly, may I observe that TV is a lousy medium for debate because you can't rebut anything or ask questions. I belive that people who want to maintain "diversity" on the airwaves are really more interested in getting a subsidized soapbox to preach to the masses and thereby 1) get converts and 2) indulge their taste for performance art. Anything that unites so many antagonistic special interest groups has to be good for special interest groups, and by extension, bad for the public interest.


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