CEI Comments to the FCC on the “Future of Media” Inquiry

FCC’s “Future of Media” Campaign vs. Separation of Speech and State

The Duty to Expand Communications Liberty

The First Amendment doesn’t need a bailout. That one sentence sums up what most urgently needs saying in the Federal Communications Commission’s Future of Media campaign.

The Future of Media project seeks ―to help ensure that all Americans have access to vibrant, diverse sources of news and information that will enable them to enrich their families, communities and democracy.

Occasionally the opportunity presents itself to make a case for a major advance in liberty, something particularly momentous when the issue is as fundamental as communications; by this we mean speech genuinely apart from the myriad compulsory aspirations of elected government and its unelected agencies.

This proceeding represents an opportunity to reiterate the proper stance of government with respect to society, the creation and provision of information content, and infrastructure, unobstructed by the coercive goals of the political sector.

The premise of the Commission’s Future of Media campaign is that media face various threats requiring government action. In reality, however, there exist today an abundance of opportunities for the creation of information, access to it, and avenues for personal expression that pave the way for government to leave the realm of communications alone.

One could talk endlessly about those well-known competitive options and the bounties available to communities, minorities, the general public, targeted audiences, mass audiences, and many commentators will.2 Indeed, trying to assess all the options in media today is like flailing one’s arms at a swarm of hornets. But while hornets stay basically the same year after year, tomorrow’s media marketplace will be one we would be incapable of comprehending today—we could, however, undermine its potential. But the compulsion to regulate doesn’t respond to such demonstrations of the existence of competition in media, since competition isn’t the goal, control is. And in the case of the FCC, the objective is seemingly to retain powers that otherwise wither and dissipate. So it’s important not to argue on that turf if one’s goal is advancing communications freedom as a policy imperative.

We’re not taking that bait. (FCC asks for it in its in many areas, but particularly the section in the Public Notice on ―Information Needs of Communities‖ and ―Business Models and Financial Trends‖). We will focus instead on pre-requisites for the creation of media and information wealth as generations pass. What media was yesterday (the Big Three, for example) is different from what it is now; what it will be in the future likely will not resemble what it is today.

The claims of crisis in journalism threaten to freeze aspects in place rather than foster communications liberty and healthy upheaval.