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Cato FCC Position

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Nothing in this libertarian old-time religion sermon from the Cato Institute about the effects of media consolidation as let loose by the last media buying frenzy, nothing about the finite resources PUBLICLY owned and the responsibility for serving the public good, nothing about the disappearance of localism other than to note the availability of “500 channels,” very few of which are local. Other than that, they cover it all!

    Despite the First Amendment prohibition on restricting private speech, arbitrary caps and quotas have long governed how many newspapers and radio and TV stations a given company can own. On June 2, the Federal Communications Commission slightly loosened those restrictions, unleashing hysteria from opponents who believe our thoughts are being programmed by a handful of media barons. But such conspiratorial “puppet-master” theories of media manipulation are misplaced. The real media masters in America are the viewers and listeners who demand and receive an ever-broadening array of information and entertainment choices.

    ….Media monopoly is not a legitimate threat in a free society because citizens are always free to establish new media outlets, and investors are free to fund them. The scale and scope of private media organizations is not an appropriate target of coercive public policy, because such policy violates free speech. Government restrictions on ownership are themselves censorship and represent the real threat to democracy. Diversity, independence of voice and democracy do not spring from government control of the means of speech, but from a separation between government and media. Information – which at bottom, is what the debate is all about – is fundamentally not capable of being monopolized by private actors. Information is abundant and constantly being created. Only government can censor or prohibit free speech, or the emergence and funding of alternative views. Citizens need not fear media monopoly, rather, in our modern marketplace, it is the media itself that must live in fear of the power of consumer choice and the tyranny of the remote control.

Though I am sympathetic to many libertarian arguments, this is just plain loony.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    Though it seems loony to you, the principles which inform their position are very common, especially in history. America was founded on the same principles – that government could not be trusted with power. The idea that a company could acquire government-level power is a relatively recent “innovation” in the world, and it seems that the Libertarians are generally still either ignoring the issue, disagreeing with the assessment, or don’t care.

    Me, I haven’t decided what to think. I’ve been pondering it quite a bit, though, and I’ll let you know.