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Federal Communications Commission Rightly Relaxes Media Ownership Rules

The FCC’s announcement that it will relax media ownership rules is good news for consumers. It’s heartening to see the agency act to eliminate detrimental and outdated regulations. The FCC should extend this regulatory restraint to their role in broadband, wireless, and the yet-to-be invented communications technology of tomorrow.

As my colleague Wayne Crews has observed, “media ownership rules harm consumers and speech. It will take vast resources to build both the broadband networks of tomorrow and to create the increasingly narrow-casted, interactive content that consumers are demanding. Mergers and cross-ownership freedom, perhaps on a vastly unprecedented scale unthinkable today, will likely be part of the market processes necessary to take communications services to new heights.”

Future generations of consumers will be grateful for the FCC not interfering with those new heights becoming technological reality. In contrast, it’s hard to imagine tomorrow’s consumers thanking the FCC for locking the telecommunications landscape of 2017 in place with heavy-handed regulation.

As for free speech concerns with large media mergers, Crews has written correctly that “ideas can never truly be bottled up by big media in a free society, but people have plenty to fear from an overweening government that believes it acceptable for politicians and bureaucrats to block or control media voices – even if they happen to be the big ones.”

Government, not communications firms, has been the real threat to free speech. Examples include the Communications Decency Act effort, library filtering, social networking regulation, privacy regulation, and the FCC’s own history of suing broadcasters over indecency allegations.

Any decrease in the amount of private activity being regulated in the communications industry will mean more innovation and less government distortion in the marketplace. That’s good for today and tomorrow’s communications consumer.