PFF Scholar Makes Case for Reforming Dated Ownership Rules
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Federal Communications Commission should reform its decades-old media ownership rules to reflect the changing nature of the marketplace, Progress & Freedom Foundation Senior Fellow and Director of Communications Policy Studies Randolph J. May told National Public Radio on Tuesday. He said an easing of restrictions would promote their original public policy goals: diversity of viewpoints, greater availability of local information and greater competition.
During an interview, portions of which aired Tuesday on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” May said FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell’s efforts to relax ownership restrictions are going “in the right direction.”
“These rules were put into place before we had 230 cable program networks, before there were satellite operators serving 20 million Americans and certainly before the Internet,” May said. “Looking at the changes that have taken place in the media marketplace over the last few decades, it would be difficult to find many people who seriously argue there is not a lot more diversity available to the American public since the [media ownership] rules were put into place.”
May said Congress and the courts have directed the FCC’s reconsideration now underway. The 1996 Telecommunications Act requires a review every two years, and on at least four occasions, courts have “struck down the Commission’s existing rules as being too restrictive and not taking into account the changes that have occurred in terms of all the new media we have now.” He noted that 85 percent of American households subscribe to either cable or satellite television.
Technology and consumer choice have created additional news and information sources, and some additional consolidation and the resulting economies of scale will enable local and national entities to afford more and better programming, he explained. “The public is served best when the government doesn’t intervene in this type of situation,” May said. “The marketplace will sort out these things in a way that will actually produce programming that the public demands.”
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the impact of the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1993.