Thursday, November 15, 2007

FCC wants to micromanage your cable

Here's a link to the Register's editorial on the Federal Communications Commission's attempt to get more control over cable TV systems through an obscure provision of a 1984 law that deregulated cable to encourage it to grow. But the law said when market penetration reached a certain point (70/70 is the term), the FCC could regulate it.

We point out that the classic argument for the difference between regulating cable and broadcast was that the airwaves "belonged to the public" while copper and fiberoptic cable was private property; that's why you can show a breast on HBO. But that difference wouldn't change because of an arbitrary level of market penetration, so there's no justification to regulate cable.

I'm glad we went on to point out that the original argument, that the airwaves belong to "the public" and therefore the government has to regulate use of them is thoroughly bogus. The airwaves are part of nature and "belong" to whoever can figure out how to make use of them. Saying "the public" owns them is just a way for a certain group of power-hungry people to justify lording it over the rest of us, deciding what we can and can't see and hear. Further, when the writers of the First Amendment mentioned "the press," they surely didn't mean to confine it to the technology of the day, ink and paper, but to include whatever technological means were discovered or developed to convey news, information and oipinion to others. I think the FCC is unconstitutional on its face -- but it's hard to imagine a court in the country agreeing. Still, it would be fun if some adventurous lawyer brought a case that forced a court to face that argument.


Brian said...

Tell me Alan, if I go a town in OC, say Huntington Beach, and I offer to run cable to people's houses, what would happen?

Do you think the city/state/federal government would have something to say about that?

If I own a cable company and I want to go into certain cities, are there laws preventing me from doing that?

It is not a free market.

Alan Bock said...

Of course it's not a free market, as I've been complaining about ever since cities started awarding exclusive franchises to cable companies. But many of those excvlusive franchises have been opened up at least a little. ANd the fact that cable is reguylated at the municipal level doesn't make cables "everyone's" property, as the lame claim about the "public" airwaves goes.

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