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October 2007 (previous | next)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Copps on News Corp-WSJ deal

Just when you think the debate over media ownership regulation in this country can't get any more absurd, along comes this letter from FCC Commissioner Michael Copps arguing that Rupert Murdoch's deal for the Wall Street Journal should be blocked to somehow save the nation (especially those poor New Yorkers) from an evil media monopoly. "It will create a single company with enormous influence over politics, art and culture across the nation and especially in the New York metropolitan area."

PUH-LEASE! How can someone make such an argument with a straight face? Rupert Murdoch is going to control "the politics, art and culture" of the nation with the WSJ?? Come on, get serious. The Journal isn't exactly the standard-bearer when it comes to setting artistic or cultural trends for the nation. And the argument that Murdoch is somehow going to control "the politics, art and culture" of the New York area with the Journal is even more absurd. Is there really any shortage of inputs in the New York area when it comes to those things? Are the artsy-fartsy liberals of NYC suddenly going to wake up one day, start reading the Journal, and completely change their lifestyles? Please.

Anyway, I wrote a much longer essay for the City Journal back in August predicting all this "Chicken Little" nonsense would be coming. As I said then:

Continue reading Copps on News Corp-WSJ deal . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 4:54 PM | Mass Media

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Troubling poll regarding attitudes toward Net regulation

A new Zogby/463 Internet Attitudes poll finds that:

“More than half of Americans believe that Internet content such as video should be controlled in some way by the government. Twenty-nine percent said it should be regulated just like television content while 24% said government should institute an online rating system similar to the one used by the movie industry. In contrast, only 36% said the blocking of Internet video would be unconstitutional. The older you get, the more likely you are to support government restrictions. Only 33% of 18 to 24 year-olds supported government stepping in on content, while 72% of those over 70 years of age support government regulation and ratings.”

This is really troubling to me because almost all my public policy work is devoted to the proposition that the Internet should not be regulated like broadcasting and communications. As the Net continues to rapidly erode the legitimacy or practicality of traditional regulatory systems and institutions, it will increasingly prompt an obvious response from policymakers: We must grow regulation! We must expand the tentacles of the regulatory state to include all those new technologies of freedom! We cannot let people think and act for themselves!

But while we know that's how policymakers will respond as they see their traditional power over media and communications slipping away, it's always been less clear to me how average Americans will respond. Will they begin calling for the renewal and extension of the old regulatory standards to new technologies? This new poll suggests that many of them will. That's troubling because it reinforces what many policymakers want to do. And that's how we'll end up with a heavily regulated Internet (taxes, speech controls, Net neutrality regulations, etc, etc.).

As Tom Galvin, a partner with 463, notes: “Some view the Internet as their new best friend, others as an increasingly powerful tool that can infect our youth with harmful images and thoughts and therefore must be controlled. Our challenge as a society is to let the Internet flourish as a dynamic force in our economy and communities while not chipping away at the fundamental freedoms that created the Internet in the first place.”

Amen, brother.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 5:04 PM | Free Speech, Mass Media

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Pearlstein on Google & Antitrust

Steven Pearlstein, a business columnist for The Washington Post, has an interesting editorial up today wondering whether Google is the next AT&T, IBM, Intel or Microsoft in the sense that, like those companies, Google might be headed for increased antitrust or regulatory scrutiny based on its marketplace success:

With its proposed purchase of DoubleClick, Google has followed suit in drawing the scrutiny of the competition police, both at home and in Europe. The reason is simple: Like its predecessors, Google shows every sign of pulling away from the pack in a market that naturally tends toward a single, dominant firm.

Pearlstein goes on to explain how Google's business model works in layman's terms and then points out why there is little to fear from Google's proposed acquisition of DoubleClick:

Continue reading Pearlstein on Google & Antitrust . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 9:18 AM | Antitrust & Competition Policy, Internet

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Unplugging Plug-and-Play Regulation

I have a new paper out this week entitled "Unplugging Plug-and-Play Regulation" in which I discuss the ongoing dispute between cable operators and the consumer electronics industry over “digital cable ready” equipment and “plug-and-play” interactive applications. Basically, it’s a fight about how various features or services available on cable systems should work, including electronic programming guides (EPGs), video-on-demand (VOD), pay-per-view (PPV) services, and other interactive television (ITV) capabilities.

This fight is now before the Federal Communications Commission where the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has asked the agency to mandate certain standards for those next-generation interactive video services. In my paper, I argue that regulation is unwise:

Ongoing marketplace experimentation and private negotiations represent the better way to establish technical standards. There is no need for the government to involve itself in a private standard-setting dispute between sophisticated, capable industries like consumer electronics and cable. And increased platform competition, not more government regulation of cable platforms, is the better way to ensure that innovation flourishes and consumers gain access to exciting new services.

To read the entire 7-page paper, click here.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 3:05 PM | Cable, Innovation, Interoperability

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

FT on age verification for social networking

The Financial Times posted an article this week about the ongoing push by state attorneys general to impose age verification regulation on social networking sites and followed it up with an outstanding editorial entitled "Out of MySpace." They note:

Age verification... just will not work. The practical problems are considerable. Fourteen-year-olds do not have drivers’ licences and credit cards that can be checked via established agencies. The sites could insist on verifying the parents, but anyone who believes that a teenager will not “borrow” his father’s Visa has never been 14 years old.

The consequences of successful age verification, meanwhile, would be even worse. Minors would be driven off mainstream sites such as MySpace and Facebook and on to unaccountable offshore alternatives or the chaos of newsgroups and minor bulletin boards. There they would be far more vulnerable than on MySpace, which now makes efforts to keep tabs on its users.

That's exactly right and it very much follows what I have found in my own research. If you're interested, check out my paper "Social Networking and Age Verification: Many Hard Questions; No Easy Solutions," as well the transcript of an event I hosted in March on "Age Verification for Social Networking Sites: Is it Possible? Is it Desirable?"

As I wrote about here, the last big showdown in the states took place in North Carolina in July. But it won't be the last.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 9:31 AM | Free Speech, Online Safety & Parental Controls

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Response to Christian Coalition-NARAL call for net neutrality regs

In an editorial in yesterday’s Washington Post, Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition of America, joins Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, in calling for congressional investigation of purported censorship by wireless operators. Combs, who has vociferously argued for net-neutrality regulation for communications and Internet companies, is now stepping up those calls, claiming that private companies want to squelch speech over wired or wireless networks. “We’re asking Congress to convene hearings on whether existing law is sufficient to guarantee the free flow of information and to protect against corporate censorship,” Combs and Keenan write.

Prompting this latest call for regulation was an incident two weeks ago in which Verizon Wireless blocked text messages from NARAL. Verizon admitted that it had made a mistake and immediately changed its policy. But net-neutrality fans like NARAL and Christian Coalition say that the incident shows why a Fairness Doctrine for the communications and online sector is essential. In reality, as I point out in my latest City Journal column, the incident proved the opposite: the message got out, and this episode is hardly an excuse for imposing Net neutrality mandates on the Internet. Read on...

Continue reading Response to Christian Coalition-NARAL call for net neutrality regs . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 4:07 PM | Free Speech, Mass Media, Net Neutrality

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Media Deconsolidation (Part 18): Scripps Splits

To continue my long-running series of essays about media DE-consolidation...

One of the America's oldest media operations, the E.W. Scripps Company, announced a major plan to split up its operations yesterday. With a loan from his brothers in 1878, E.W. Scripps went on to establish a successful penny press newspaper business that later blossomed into a nationwide media empire with newspapers, syndicated features, cable networks and Internet / interactive properties.

But now the Scripps media empire will be dividing into two different companies. One, which will still be called "E.W. Scripps," will cover "old media" print properties and stick to covering local markets. The other company, which will be called "Scripps Network Interactive," will focus on "new media" efforts of an interactive nature and with national scope. This is somewhat along the lines of the Viacom-CBS split a few years ago, which I wrote about here.

It's all just more proof that the modern media marketplace is far more dynamic than the pro-regulation media critics ever want to admit. These stories about media breakups get relegated to the backpages of newspapers and buried on websites, if they get reported at all. By contrast, whenever there is a merger, it's always front-page news full of Chicken Little quotes about the coming media apocalypse. It's all quite silly.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 12:50 PM | Mass Media

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Thoughts on Andrew Keen, Part 2: The Dangers of the Stasis Mentality

In a previous essay, I critiqued Andrew Keen's thesis that our culture was better off in the age of scarcity than it is in today's world of media and cultural abundance. In this essay, I want to make a few comments about his latest anti-Web 2.0 rant regarding how, in addition to destroying art and culture, the age of abundance and "amateur" content creation is going to result in the death of advertising.

In an AdWeek guest editorial this week, Keen argues that:

Web 2.0 is, in truth, the very worst piece of news for the advertising industry since the birth of mass media. In the short term, the Web 2.0 hysteria marks the end of the golden age of advertising; in the long term, it might even mark the end of advertising itself.
[F]or the advertiser, media content is indeed losing its value, a value historically derived from its scarcity. This devaluation of media isn't hard to quantify: It can be measured everywhere, in falling CPM and the failure of social networks to develop viable business models. No new technology--neither the false dawn of mobile, nor the holy grail of personalized, targeted advertising--is going to save the advertising business now. No, the truth is that advertising can only be saved if we can re-create media scarcity. That means less user-generated content and more professionally created information and entertainment, less technology and more creativity. The advertising community desperately needs more gatekeepers, more professional creative authorities, more so-called media "elites" who will curate, filter and organize content. That's the way to re-establish the value of the message. It's the one commercial antidote to Web 2.0's radically destructive cultural democracy.

Oh my, where to begin...

Continue reading Thoughts on Andrew Keen, Part 2: The Dangers of the Stasis Mentality . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 11:44 AM | Books & Book Reviews, Generic Rant, Mass Media

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Thoughts on Andrew Keen, Part 1: Why an Age of Abundance Really is Better than an Age of Scarcity

Andrew Keen is the web's favorite whipping boy these days, and in some ways he has it coming. His latest book, The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture, is an anti-all-things-Web 2.0 screed. Keen lambastes "Internet democracy" (specifically the Wiki model of collaborative creation) and decries the rising tide of user-generated everything. When you get right down to it, Keen's view of the world is unapologetically techno-conservative and culturally elitist. He's angry that there are fewer intermediaries minding the culture. As a result, he argues, "professional" media (by which he means to say "better" media) is giving way to "amateur" media (which he regards as synonymous with, well... crap).

Unsurprisingly, the blogosphere has fought back with a vengeance and called Keen every nasty name in the book. But the best and most level-headed critique of Keen's work is still this old essay by the ever-insightful Clay Shirky. Clay's response rightly concedes that Keen in correct in pointing out that some important things have been lost with the rise of the Internet. There certainly are fewer intermediaries filtering our culture for us, and that will sound like a great thing to many of us. But it's important to realize that some of those mediating forces serve a valuable role. Editors, for example, play an important, but often overlooked, role in terms of improving the quality of great deal of media content of all varieties (journalism, books, movies, music, etc). The blogosphere is becoming an editor-free zone, and at times it really shows. There are times when some particularly insulting things are said or silly mistakes are made that probably would have been corrected had a good editor been responsible for overseeing the final product.

On the other hand, the unfiltered Web 2.0 experience is wonderfully refreshing. Sometimes it's nice to see what the uninhibited exchange of ideas results in. Regardless, the bottom line is that the editing profession (broadly defined) is changing because of the Internet. That is undeniable. And other mediating forces or institutions are seeing their power or relative importance in the cultural creation process diminished as the Internet-spawned disintermediation continues unabated.

Will that create short term problems? Undeniably. But Keen thinks these developments are contributing to a sort of cultural catastrophe and that we are collectively much worse off because of this disintermediation and empowerment of the "amateur." This goes much too far in my opinion.

Continue reading Thoughts on Andrew Keen, Part 1: Why an Age of Abundance Really is Better than an Age of Scarcity . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 9:55 AM | Books & Book Reviews, Generic Rant, Mass Media

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Parental Control Perfection

PFF has just released my latest paper entitled "Parental Control Perfection? The Impact of the DVR and VOD Boom on the Debate over TV Content Regulation." In the report, I focus on the extent to which new video technologies, such as digital video recorders (DVRs) and video on demand (VOD) services, are changing the way households consume media and are helping parents better tailor viewing experiences to their tastes and values. I provide evidence showing the rapid spread of these technologies and discuss how parents are using these tools in their homes. Finally, I argue that these developments will have profound implications for debates over the regulation of video programming. As parents are given the ability to more effectively manage their family’s viewing habits and experiences, it will lessen—if not completely undercut—the need for government intervention on their behalf.

This 16-page report can be found at:

posted by Adam Thierer @ 4:42 PM | Free Speech, Online Safety & Parental Controls

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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Cyber-Safety in a Web 2.0 World

posted by Amy Smorodin @ 12:39 PM | Events, Internet, Online Safety & Parental Controls

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Karlgaard on "The Cheap Revolution"

posted by Adam Thierer @ 8:37 AM | Innovation

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Should Government Censor In-Flight Movies?

posted by Adam Thierer @ 4:46 PM | Free Speech

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NY Times Gets it Wrong on IM Blocking & the First Amendment

posted by Adam Thierer @ 10:02 AM | Free Speech

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  Copps on News Corp-WSJ deal
Troubling poll regarding attitudes toward Net regulation
Pearlstein on Google & Antitrust
Unplugging Plug-and-Play Regulation
FT on age verification for social networking
Response to Christian Coalition-NARAL call for net neutrality regs
Media Deconsolidation (Part 18): Scripps Splits
Thoughts on Andrew Keen, Part 2: The Dangers of the Stasis Mentality
Thoughts on Andrew Keen, Part 1: Why an Age of Abundance Really is Better than an Age of Scarcity
Parental Control Perfection
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