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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Regulation Without Frontiers
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My colleague Adam Thierer has written extensively in this space about the danger of U.S. policymakers extending broadcast regulation to other visual media, such as cable, satellite and even the Internet. That could become a reality in Europe by the end of the year, as I pointed out this week in a Progress Snapshot titled "Regulation Without Frontiers: Europe Shows U.S. Policymakers How Not to Embrace Convergence."

The threat is coming from a proposed directive titled Television Without Frontiers. EU Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding is right when she says that the world of media is converging. She even cites Schumpeter (I'm sure Ray is happy) in explaining the "creative destruction" occurring in modern media. She is also right when she says that we need to move beyond the regulatory framework of the past, a framework that focused exclusively on terrestrial broadcast signals.

Where I fear the European Commission, and Reding, will err is in the construction of their new framework. As I write in the Snapshot -- and as 193 commenters expressed to the Commission -- it seems that the solution to this convergence will be to extend at least some broadcast regulations to new media, including the Internet.

Here in summary is why this is frightfully wrong: 1) TVWF is supposed to promote economic growth in Europe, but saddling new video entrants with additional regulations will instead stifle investment, and thus growth. 2) It is impractical in the extreme to apply any kind of content regulation on the inherently international Internet. 3) The "light touch" regulation the EC and Reding are referring to for new media puts them at a regulatory advantage over broadcasters, which makes no sense.

The logical response to a burgeoning market with ever-increasing options is to regulate down, not up. The EC is being told this loud and clear by European companies. European media consumers should hope the EC listens.

posted by Patrick Ross @ 2:20 PM | Communications , Digital Europe , Free Speech , Internet , Mass Media

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