Policymakers Should Consider Consumers, Innovation when Regulating
WASHINGTON D.C. - Policymakers should consider regulation's effect on consumers, innovation and free expression when proposing restrictions and regulations on media platforms, states Patrick Ross in "Do's and Don'ts for Global Media Regulation: Empowering Expression, Consumers and Inovation," a Progress on Point released today by The Progress & Freedom Foundation. With debate over the "Television without Frontiers Directive" continuing this fall in the European Union, the author hopes to guide regulators in their policymaking for new media platforms by offering simple principles. "Under these rules," writes Ross, "all new technologies and services could enter the market and compete for customers, and freedom of expression would be ensured." This paper is being published as part of PFF's Center for Digital Media Freedom, directed by Senior Fellow Adam Thierer.
Ross, PFF Senior Fellow and Vice President of Communications, identifies two justifications frequently cited by policymakers for new regulation imposed on content and delivery systems: the desire to protect certain groups from offensive content and the need for harmonization of content control. The author cites incidences in Europe and Australia where new regulation has been proposed to expand content regulation to wireless and Internet platforms. Ross praises the exemptions of "new media" platforms from regulation in Canada but questions that nation's adherence to a two-tiered regulatory system.
Ross suggests five principles to guide policymakers:
- Do enforce existing child-protection law.
Enforcement of child protection laws, such as those in place to address child pornography, does not mean new laws should be created to regulate specific content delivery platforms.
- Don't distinguish between types of content delivery.
Content regulations that distinguish between platforms no longer make sense in an age where the same content can be viewed on multiple platforms. Such disparity in regulation can skew investment towards less regulated mediums, which is not always in the best interest of the consumer.
- Do harmonize by regulating down.
Applying "old media" regulations to new platforms in an effort to equalize regulation could impede economic and technological growth, stifling the development of new content delivery services.
- Don't discourage migration of content.
All content should be able to be offered on a wide variety of platforms. Professionally produced content historically offered on "old media" platforms, such as broadcast television, should be allowed to migrate freely to other platforms without being impeded by regulation.
- Do support intellectual property rights.
Strong protection of intellectual property rights allows content providers to experiment with new distribution channels.
"These five Do's and Don'ts seem relatively straightforward and obvious, but there is not a nation on this Earth that is practicing all five of them," Ross writes. He urges regulators follow these five simple principles, which would ensure freedom of expression and unimpeded innovation, delivering direct benefits to the consumer. The entire paper can be found on the PFF website.
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.