The migration of consumers from over-the-air television to other video platforms has prompted a debate about the role that television (TV) stations should play in the future communications marketplace. This debate has focused on only two options, each of which is supported by a competing segment of the video marketplace:
• Broadcasters support maintaining the regulatory status quo; and
• Multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) support maintaining only the unique “public interest” obligations imposed on TV stations by the regulatory status quo while repealing the regulatory provisions that enable TV stations to meet those obligations.
Neither option would harness the power of the free market to determine the future of broadcast television. Though the first option would continue to rely on government intervention to preserve free over-the-air television, the second option would bear even less resemblance to a functioning free market. Repealing only the regulations that enable TV stations to meet their unique public interest obligations would effectively result in the forced abandonment or sale of TV stations at fire-sale prices, thus destroying the legitimate, investment-backed expectations of TV stations through government action. It would be the antithesis of a free market approach.
This paper proposes a free market alternative that could unleash the broadcast industry’s full competitive potential and usher in a new wave of innovation and investment in communications: Enabling TV stations to innovate and compete in the MVPD and wireless broadband market segments through comprehensive, market-based regulatory reform. This alternative would allow TV stations to transition their businesses to a free market approach by eliminating the following anticompetitive regulations:
• The free television mandate,
• The broadcast MVPD prohibition,
• The Federal broadcast tax,
• Broadcast ownership limits,
• Broadcast programming restrictions, and
• Broadcast spectrum limitations.
This pro-competitive approach would enable the elimination of regulations that are necessitated by the government-mandated broadcast business model while respecting the investment-backed expectations of TV station owners. The result would be a truly comprehensive approach to reforming broadcast regulation that would promote competition, investment, and innovation by allowing market forces to determine the future of broadcast television stations.
To read the full paper, go here.
A guest blog from Fred Campbell, executive director, Center for Boundless Innovation in Technology, and adjunct professor of law, University of Nebraska Space, Cyber, and Telecom Program.