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In a paper for the Competitive Enterprise Institute's "On Point" series, Jesse Walker makes the case for anarchy in the Hz.

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  1. Sweet, I’ll be able to point out that article to some of my friends who got all up-in-arms about the last round of broadcast liberalisation.

  2. I don’t really understand the technology of radio broadcasting and the airwaves. However I see no reason at this point why we can’t at least have an experiment, a two year moratorium on prohibitions on broadcasting that 1) Don’t “mess up” licensed broadcasters signals 2) adhere to all other laws, such as nudity for television, and banned “bad” (cough) words for any tv or radio signal.

    If the experiment somehow creates madness in the streets, then lawmakers can always rescind the experiment early. If things are basically fine though, then at the end of the two years lawmakers can make it “permanent”, which is to say they’d have to enact legislation to ban it once again.

    By the way, the libertarian in me thinks any bad words or nudity bans are silly. Let stations adhere to their own standards and practices, and if the public hates those standards and practices, they can 1) not watch/listen. 2) boycott advertisers on those stations. I suspect we’d see something very similar to our current government censorship, without wasting taxpayer dollars on it, and without big brother telling us what to do.

  3. happy: you don’t need to be an expert to know that the current restrictions on low-power stations were developed in the 1930’s and are derived from 1930’s technology. Obviously, signal control is much, much better now than it was then, thanks to decades of military-sponsored research. Arms makers around the world have spent a fortune developing radio transmitters that use less power to achieve better range through more precise control of the emissions. Less power=less weight. More precise control makes them harder to jam and less likely to bleed all over your numerous other expensive radars, walkie-talkies, threat receivers, etc…

    In other words, the technical problems have been solved. The electromagnetic spectrum is fundamentally infinite. Unfortunately, one of the FCC’s chartered functions is to help develop the industry by concentrating the market. They consciously limit the number of stations in order to consolidate the listeners for the benefit of the broadcasters. This isn’t a left/right thing. National Public Radio sent representatives to Washington to testify against looser standards, along with every other broadcaster in the country.

    They spent a lot of money for their licenses with the understanding that the government would protect them from competition. It’s a racket, pure and simple, and if the Feds aren’t going to hold up their end, well, then we’re back to a free market. Like animals or something.

  4. It’s a racket, pure and simple, and if the Feds aren’t going to hold up their end, well, then we’re back to a free market.

    We’re already about half-way back to a free market- Internet radio, which will truly rock once cell phone data bandwidth gets wide enough and cheap enough, making it just as mobile as regular radio, though probably not as robust in a natural disaster. I look forward to the day that cell phones have internet radio tuners bundled in, sort of like the nokia 770 does now with wi-fi.

    It might have taken a long time, but technology, found a way around the regulatory roadblock. However many stations can fit on the dial, about a zillion times more can have an IP address.

  5. elvis: can you imagine wi-fi replacing cable or satellite? Folsom, CA, is looking into a different wireless technology that would use fewer towers and thus be cheaper and easier to construct. (Google WiMax)

    But don’t be too complacent: most cities are planning to grant exclusive concessions to a single wi-fi network, as they did with cable and telephone service. So we may not be coming out that far ahead. And the government has never lacked for an excuse to monitor and regulate new technologies.

  6. Compared to the alternative, anarchy is warm and fuzzy.
    Anarchy shouldn’t be causing Hz attacks… except to all bureaucrats.

  7. The broadcast spectrum does not need the FCC to act as gatekeeper. At best, the FCC can serve as “spectrum court,” to keep people from jumping each others’ claims. Any more involvement in the free market enriches well-connected players, but harms broadcasting in general.

    The broadcast spectrum already has more capacity than the market for newspapers has displayed in recent decades. The justification of government intervention based on the idea that spectrum space is a “limited commons” no longer holds water.

    The FCC can either linger in increasingly obnoxious obsolescence, or it can bow out gracefully, retaining no more than those powers and functions that make it useful in the modern environment. It bowed out gracefully, when it came to individual radio operator licensure; it can bow out gracefully in the arena of station licenses, too.

  8. Mainstream radio’s chief lobbying group, the National Association Of Broadcasters is the most vocal advocate of draconian measures against the so-called “pirates,” proving once again that the worst enemy of free enterprise is big business…

  9. Good; primarily for the Samantha Mathis reference.

  10. Once everything is digital, with meta-information available for every single program, regardless of delivery channel, what’s the justification for blanket bans on any protected content? Narrow the restrictions to requiring disclosure (e.g., “Large bosoms to be revealed on this week’s CSI episode”), and you’ll have something “narrowly tailored” and closer to passing Constitutional muster. Not that what I’m suggesting isn’t a restriction on speech itself, but it’d be a danged sight better situation that the one we have today.

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