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Let Broadcasters Be Free - Broadcasting & Cable

Let Broadcasters Be Free

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Broadcasters need help. The government must assure the future maintenance of television and radio's expensive but vital emergency, local-news and community services.

Some may consider my endorsement of the open marketplace and universal deregulatory approach as heresy coming from a former four-time confirmed Democratic FCC commissioner who enforced regulations and staunchly advocated affirmative action.

However, telecommunications in America have drastically changed in the past five years. I wonder if the general public and government officials appreciate how much they have advanced, necessitating a more practicable marketplace approach to regulation and legislation.

Foremost, the amazing influence of the Internet and its universal omnipresence must be fully considered. Second, the multichannel effect of the digital transition, especially for broadcasting, requires a revised regulatory outlook.

The convergence of the Internet has already preempted the controversial media-crossownership issues. Today, all media are universally available on the Net.

We are in an era of programming super-abundance. The “scarcity” that used to justify government regulation of broadcasting no longer exists. It is difficult to justify why TV and radio programming should be singled out for detailed regulation.

There is no longer a practical FCC public-interest need for restricting the reach of TV and radio. Like newspapers. they are universally available to everyone on the Internet and even on third-generation cellphones.

I believe an open competitive marketplace would best serve the consumer and further energize industries for investments and for more communications advances at reduced cost to the public.

In fact, big is beneficial to consumers, not bad, offering wider selection at competitive lower prices.

It may be nearing the time that Congress set a date certain to establish a telecommunications open marketplace and eliminate the barriers between TV, radio, newspaper, cable, satellite, DSL and phone services. Companies should be allowed to enter any field in open competition. Remember, it is entrepreneurial industry, not government reg- ulation, that provides investments, jobs and innovative consumer-serving technical advances.

Admittedly, this proposal may be a few years ahead of itself, but the progressive benefits to consumers and industries, plus the need to effectively compete in the challenging, burgeoning, international marketplace, makes it a future imperative.

Quello was an FCC commissioner for 23½ years and is a now a government-relations consultant. A full version of this essay appears on broadcastingcable.com.

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