Policy Documents

Consumer Welfare and TV Program Regulation

Bruce M. Owen –
May 24, 2012

Getting rid of obsolete regulation of the broadcast and distribution of video programming is essential to the efficient operation of a market that has the potential to greatly increase the benefits to consumers. Services that increase video program distribution capacity have been delayed and suppressed for many years, and consumer benefits were lost as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) pursued ill-defined and ephemeral “public interest” and “localism” objectives.

It is past time to stop extending interventions originally intended for old technology to a range of new competitive media. No longer is there any rational public policy basis for a government agency to dictate how much or what content the viewing public can see, any more than there ever has been for printed media. There is no market failure to which the current regulatory framework is responding and no longer any reason for FCC bureaucrats to decide how much of the spectrum should be used for each of many existing and future commercial services. Spectrum reform, along with the repeal of other broadcast programming restrictions contained in the proposed Scalise-DeMint Next Generation Television Marketplace Act, provide a roadmap for the necessary reform. With an adequate supply of tradable rights in spectrum, we will find out how much additional competition is possible among traditional wired and wireless, analog and digital, and fixed and mobile delivery services.