The First Amendment Doesn’t Need a Bailout

Washington, D.C., May 10, 2010—In recently-submitted regulatory comments, the Competitive Enterprise Institute urged the Federal Communications Commission to take a stand against government interference in the media marketplace as part of its “Future of Media” campaign.

The FCC’s proceeding is premised on the assumption that the news media in the United States faces a bleak future unless government acts to save it from disruptive market forces. In reality, however, the marketplace of ideas and information has never been more vibrant, diverse or accessible. The only fundamental threat to the future of media is an overreaching federal government that attempts to dictate winners and losers in the journalistic enterprise.

“All FCC’s proposals should be emphasize deregulation, not continued micromanagement or quests for new campaigns,” wrote Competitive Enterprise Institute Vice President for Policy Wayne Crews. “The agency has long been a magnet for destructive political rent-seeking, and a hindrance to communications investment. If there is policy making to be done with regard to media, it should not target the private sector but instead government’s own regulatory policies that create artificial scarcity of bandwidth and spectrum. These are the true barriers to new voices.”

Officials at the FCC now have the responsibility to review the comments and judge the value of their advice. Unfortunately, given the Commission’s longstanding inclination to enhance its regulatory powers, the field of comments is likely to be dominated by parties seeking to benefit from greater interference in the marketplace. The only fair response to such competing interests is to not intervene in the first place.

“A ‘bailout for the First Amendment’ is inappropriate policy, even if its advocates’ purported goals are merely to make us all enlightened citizens,” wrote Crews. “FCC calls this project It would more appropriately be when it comes to an obsolete FCC grasping for a role to play. Appropriations for these counter-democratic campaigns should be revoked.”

CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest group that studies the intersection of regulation, risk, and markets.