Fear and Loathing in D.C.

Regulators and reg watchers offer up their scariest policy scenarios 10/31/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

In the spirit of Halloween and things that go bump inside the
Beltway, we invited Washington policymakers and shapers to weigh
in with their picks for the scariest media policy initiatives or outcomes
that they could summon up. The request appeared to scare off a number of
lobbyists, who declined to drive a stake into the heart of their most-feared
policy. But those who stepped up came with some bone-chilling offerings.

“My scariest scenario is we continue to be haunted by bad private
and public decisions on media policy that have already caused so
much damage to our news journalism. It’s time to quit with the tricks
and start harvesting the treats of our great media
potential.” —Michael Copps, FCC commissioner

“My Halloween nightmare would be watching a
black-hooded, unelected Washington bureaucrat lead
our First Amendment rights into the dark, cold abyss
of content regulation under the banner of ‘the government
saving journalism.’” —Robert McDowell,
FCC commissioner

“That in their rush for revenue from spectrum auctions, policymakers
could do serious damage to a great American institution—free and local
television—and potentially disenfranchise many of those 46 million Americans
exclusively reliant on broadcast TV.” —Gordon Smith, NAB president

“The Supreme Court overrules the Red Lion precedent, which holds
that spectrum scarcity justifies the current licensing process. One result
would be that pirate radio stations would have the same First Amendment
rights to broadcast as every licensed station. Must-carry rules for
cable and DBS would be invalidated. And broadcasters would have to
bid at auction to keep their spectrum, since they would lose the ‘renewal
expectancy’ built into the current law.” —Andrew Schwartzman,
senior VP and policy director, Media Access Project

“The scariest media policy scenario is when communications policymakers
wax nostalgically about the good old days of primordial commoncarrier
communications policy as they search for ‘innovative’ tricks to
impose common carrier regulations on the 21st century competitive
communications marketplace of the Internet and cloud computing.
Nothing is scarier than driving down the communications road to the
future with policymaker drivers more focused on looking backwards
over their shoulders at where they’ve been, rather than looking ahead
to where they are going.” —Scott Cleland, chairman, NetCompetition

“That the Ghost of Prometheus Past, clad in a black robe and wielding
a deadly gavel, continues to haunt us, pleading with us to improve
and repent under threat of future misfortune and
woe.” —Mignon Clyburn, FCC commissioner

“My ghoulish nightmare goes like this: When the
FCC recently finally removed the Fairness Doctrine
from its rules, all along it had in mind a trick to go
with the long-overdue treat. The agency intends to
use its newly adopted net neutrality regulations to
enforce, in the name of preventing discrimination,
its own view of Fairness on the Net. A new Fairness
Doctrine for the Internet! Applying discredited legacy regulations to
new media. That is truly a scary thought.” —Randolph J. May, president
of the Free State Foundation, Rockville, Md.

“The president promises to take ‘a back seat to no one’ on net neutrality.
But chased by zombies, I mean lobbyists, the FCC chairman retreats and
retreats until there’s almost nothing left to the rules. But the zombies, I
mean lobbyists, aren’t sated, so they take him to court, and they introduce
legislation that would strip him of all his powers. But they’re still hungry, so
they come for bill shock, and USF, and media ownership, too. And as the
lobbyist-zombies close in around him on the eighth floor, he huddles in
the corner, and you hear a faint whisper…‘authority…I should have dealt
with authority.’ But it’s too late.” —Craig Aaron, president, Free Press

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