Protecting the “Public Interest”

November 2, 2009

This latest article concerning the FCC’s media-ownership rules further highlights the problems with government appointees deciding what is in the public’s interest.

Early in the 1900’s, the federal government decided it was wise to regulate the broadcast spectrum in the name of “the public interest, cfcc_logoonvenience, or necessity.” It did so by heaping several regulations on broadcasters — ranging from the misnamed “fairness doctrine” to children’s programming requirements to guidelines concerning “diversity” and “localism.”

The questionable justification for this regulation has been the scarcity of broadcast frequencies. Because the number of broadcast frequencies is scarce, it was argued that they must be allocated and regulated with the “public interest” in mind — preventing the medium from being dominated by the personal interests of the private broadcast station owners (and many argue that this¬†“chills” the free speech rights of broadcasters).

The aforementioned article¬†includes the views of Michael Copps, one FCC commissioner, on the state of broadcasting and its public interest role. His views are exemplified in the following passage: Read the rest of this entry »