Tuesday, November 27, 2007

FCC Attempts to Assert Control Over Cable

Relying on a minor clause in a 1984 law, the FCC is attempting to assert regulatory control over the cable industry. The FCC contends that cable companies now reach a wide enough audience and intends to assert control to "ensure diverse programming." (FCC Vote Affecting Cable TV in Jeopardy.)

There is already a regulatory agency overseeing the cable industry and ensuring programming choices appropriate for the local market. That agency is known as the local consumer. All legislation and regulation has done to the cable industry is eliminated programming that was available to the consumer prior to the enactment of such legislation. In the Rhode Island area, for example, several popular Boston area channels were removed from the line-up as a result of legislation intended to protect the local channels if two or more belonged to the same network. That the Boston area channels had always been available over-the-air didn't seem to factor into the equation. That is what legislation and regulation can do to the cable industry.

The FCC has forever been an agency devoted to controlling not only the diversity of programming, but also the content of that programming. The programming freedom enjoyed on the subscription channels has never been available to channels that fell under FCC regulation. Rather than permit the market - that is, we the viewers - to determine what type programming is appropriate and what is offensive, the FCC believes itself to be far better suited to make that determination for us. What has never quite been explained is how the FCC fails to violate the freedom of speech portion of the First Amendment by asserting such control over the type of programming permissible.

Rather than expand the authority of the FCC, what is sorely needed is a retraction of the oversight granted to that agency. The cable industry, and more importantly the American consumer, does not need an extension of the FCC's policies into a programming model that currently best serves the demands of the consumer. More programming restrictions as imposed by the FCC will only result in higher costs and less programming choices. Neither the industry nor the consumer would benefit from either. The FCC is intrusive enough already. We certainly don't need it meddling in the cable industry as well.


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