IPcentral Weblog
  The DACA Blog

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Red Lion R.I.P.: FCC Declares the Scarcity Doctrine Dead
(previous | next)

"[T]he Scarcity Rationale for regulating traditional broadcasting is no longer valid." So begins a stunning new white paper from the Federal Communications Commission. In the paper, "The Scarcity Rationale for Regulating Traditional Broadcasting: An Idea Whose Time Has Passed," author John Beresford, an attorney with the FCC's Media Bureau, lays out a devistating case against the Scarcity Rationale, which has governed spectrum & broadcast regulation in the United States for over seven decades.

Calling the Scarcity Rationale "outmoded" and "based on fundamental misunderstandings of physics and economics," Beresford goes on to show why just about everything the FCC every justified on this basis was misguided and unjust. He points out what countless economists have concluded through the years, namely that:

(1) the scarcity the government complained of was "largely the result of decisions by government, not an unvoidable fact of nature." In other words, the government's licensing process created artificial scarcity.

(2) a system of exclusive rights would have ensured more efficient allocation of wireless resources.

(3) even if there ever was anything to the Scarcity Doctrine, there certainly isn't today in our world of information abundance.

Beresford doesn't shy away from pointing out that this also means that the Supreme Court's key broadcast regulation decisions--NBC v. United States (1943) and, more importantly, Red Lion Broadcasting v. FCC (1969)--got it completely wrong too. By extension, most of the regulations promulgated under the NBC / Red Lion framework are also unjustifiable.

Beresford points out that this may affect the basis for regulating "indecency" on broadcast television and radio. But the government has know that for years, of course, and largely switched to the court's Pacifica "pervasiveness" framework.

Beresford also points out that those who have long relied on the Scarcity Rationale have now given up on it and concocted other excuses for treating broadcasters like second class citizens in the eyes of the First Amendment. But he each of these rationales also fail, including the old "it's the people's airwaves" argument.

Anyway, read this paper. It is very important and provides another signal that Red Lion's days are numbered.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 6:05 PM | Free Speech , Mass Media , Wireless

Share |

Link to this Entry | Printer-Friendly

Post a Comment:

Blog Main
RSS Feed  
Recent Posts
  EFF-PFF Amicus Brief in Schwarzenegger v. EMA Supreme Court Videogame Violence Case
New OECD Study Finds That Improved IPR Protections Benefit Developing Countries
Hubris, Cowardice, File-sharing, and TechDirt
iPhones, DRM, and Doom-Mongers
"Rogue Archivist" Carl Malamud On How to Fix Gov2.0
Coping with Information Overload: Thoughts on Hamlet's BlackBerry by William Powers
How Many Times Has Michael "Dr. Doom" Copps Forecast an Internet Apocalypse?
Google / Verizon Proposal May Be Important Compromise, But Regulatory Trajectory Concerns Many
Two Schools of Internet Pessimism
GAO: Wireless Prices Plummeting; Public Knowledge: We Must Regulate!
Archives by Month
  September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
  - (see all)
Archives by Topic
  - A La Carte
- Add category
- Advertising & Marketing
- Antitrust & Competition Policy
- Appleplectics
- Books & Book Reviews
- Broadband
- Cable
- Campaign Finance Law
- Capitalism
- Capitol Hill
- China
- Commons
- Communications
- Copyright
- Cutting the Video Cord
- Cyber-Security
- Digital Americas
- Digital Europe
- Digital Europe 2006
- Digital TV
- E-commerce
- e-Government & Transparency
- Economics
- Education
- Electricity
- Energy
- Events
- Exaflood
- Free Speech
- Gambling
- General
- Generic Rant
- Global Innovation
- Googlephobia
- Googlephobia
- Human Capital
- Innovation
- Intermediary Deputization & Section 230
- Internet
- Internet Governance
- Internet TV
- Interoperability
- IP
- Local Franchising
- Mass Media
- Media Regulation
- Monetary Policy
- Municipal Ownership
- Net Neutrality
- Neutrality
- Non-PFF Podcasts
- Ongoing Series
- Online Safety & Parental Controls
- Open Source
- PFF Podcasts
- Philosophy / Cyber-Libertarianism
- Privacy
- Privacy Solutions
- Regulation
- Search
- Security
- Software
- Space
- Spectrum
- Sports
- State Policy
- Supreme Court
- Taxes
- The FCC
- The FTC
- The News Frontier
- Think Tanks
- Trade
- Trademark
- Universal Service
- Video Games & Virtual Worlds
- VoIP
- What We're Reading
- Wireless
- Wireline
Archives by Author
PFF Blogosphere Archives
We welcome comments by email - look for a link to the author's email address in the byline of each post. Please let us know if we may publish your remarks.

The Progress & Freedom Foundation