FCC getting national spotlight


Nobody said being in the spotlight is necessarily a good thing, and that may be the case for the FCC this time. A media/communications law professor is getting ink in Newsweek which he uses to recommend nuking the agency. The professor is Lawrence Lessig, and he says the FCC’s “DNA” is corrupted, making the agency a tool for serving corporate interests on the one hand and the status quo on the other, with serving the public interest lost in the shuffle. He cites Michael Powell’s deregulatory efforts on as one egregious example, according to Ars Technica, which has seen an advance version of the article.

In fact, he calls the agency a sort of “junior varsity Congress,” making policy for which neither Congress on the White House can be held accountable.

He thinks it better to encourage innovation and protecting the public interest should trump all other FCC activities, suggesting it should be considered and ” Innovation Environment Protection Agency (iEPA).” Under Lessig’s system, the FCC’s leadership would be free of any ties to the industries being overseen.

RBR/TVBR observation: Lessig wants to blow up the FCC as it currently exists on public interest grounds. We’ve heard similar calls in the past from the other side of the ideological spectrum, from those who want it blown up so it will get out of the way of communications businesses. We just don’t see how it would be possible.

If there’s one thing you learn quickly covering Washington for a broadcast trade, it’s that the average legislator doesn’t know the first thing about the business, and that the legislators who do know something usually know only enough to be dangerous. During a typical hearing, after a series of dumb and/or off-point questions, those gathered in the press area are itching to simply leap up and inject a fact or two into the discussion, which of course is not allowed.

The inescapable fact about electronic communications is that the issues are intensely complicated, and some kind of expert agency is absolutely required to both inform Congress and ride herd over the industry. Maybe the FCC can be reformed, and have its mandate tuned up and given a lube job. But we need a knowledgeable umpire, and that means an FCC or something very much like it.