Why Should The Government Force Local Restrictions On Media?

from the not-needed dept

Ed Felten has a great post questioning various government regulations forcing “local” ownership, advisory committees and content for certain types of broadcast media. Felten points out that local content makes sense for local communities, but communities aren’t just defined by locality anymore. In fact, he points out how such “local” broadcasting rules made it more difficult for him to keep in touch with his “local” community back in Princeton, New Jersey, when he spent a year on sabbatical in California. Due to those local restrictions, he couldn’t get the local television stations from back in Princeton that he enjoyed.

But, perhaps an even bigger question (which Felten doesn’t touch on) is why there need to be regulatory mandates for local content in the first place. As we were just pointing out, in the newspaper business, newspaper chains that have aggressively focused on producing local content have found that it’s quite profitable while the newspapers that focus on more national news are struggling. In other words, the market itself seems to reward local content without any government mandate. So why is a government mandate necessary at all?

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Comments on “Why Should The Government Force Local Restrictions On Media?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Remember that “broadcast media” usually involves use of the public spectrum which is scarce (unlike newspapers). The fear is that in the absence of such regulations, local content could not effectively compete against the scale advantage of national content. Many would point to the ClearChannel example to support this theory.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

That’s essentially it really. All we need is the government to divvy up the scarce resource; the spectrum.

One day our technology will advance to a point where it’s probably moot but for now we DO need that regulated otherwise it’ll be chaos.

Only downside is that because that is needed, people just think other things should be regulated by the government as well.

Tom (profile) says:

Ownership vs. Content

Usually Mike is very thorough about separating out the issues in a piece, but I think he missed on this one (just my opinion). I believe that the “local ownership” issue is about the concept in a war of “destroy communications”. If a country can’t communicate then its easier to confuse and attack. So, if stations are locally owned, its harder to bring down communciations in large areas. So “we” don’t want a large faceless corporation with a central broadcast source to take a hit and have the whole country go down. Make it harder by having many local broadcast sources and then it is much more difficult to take down the whole country.

The issue of local content is separate and I agree that local content is better despite the cost.

jakomi (profile) says:

BPI, ISPs and UK gverment come to 3 strikes and your out file sharing agreement

Well in the UK, the BPI (aka the major music industry), the government and ISPs have ironed out an agreement based on three strikes of file sharing and you are disconnected.

I have written an article on my blog which examines whether this bandaid is actually hitting the root cause of a lot of piracy.

The blog also has a video interview with Pim Betist the founder of http://www.sellaband.com

Be good to get your thoughts…



jt says:


By the same token, national newspapers producing local content is not the same as local newspapers producing local content.

Proximity of product “owner” and consumer is generally good. It shortens the feedback loop.

“Market effect” is just a type of feedback loop. A long one, in most cases. Long enough that some things we might value, could be damaged.

Regulations are simply a way to shorten a feedback loop.

Regulations on local ownership are a simplification that has, as it’s goal, a shortening of the loop between producer and consumer.

The other problem is that national companies, in an effort to simplify their own business will tend to produce content that meets local regulation across their entire operation. Which means that community standards in someplace like Smalltown Arkansas will tend to be applied to someplace like San Francisco. So you have a greater tendency to “lowest common denominator”.

Add to that the problem that no matter what local market, the underlying owner’s opinion permeates the company. So now they can market that opinion as “local” in multiple places, making something seem to be more populist than it is.

But it’s a silly debate. Many arguments *for* local ownership and nothing substantial against it.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Local

But it’s a silly debate. Many arguments *for* local ownership and nothing substantial against it.

Really? I don’t understand this. You listed out all the arguments in favor of what you believe, and none of the others, and then think that this is a substantial list?

There are plenty of substantial arguments against it. And while you complain about market feedback, it actually has a LONG history or working better than gov’t intervention.

And did you not read the Felten discussion, which includes many “substantial” arguments against local regulation, none of which you responded to.

As for your claims, they don’t seem to be substantiated. The market effect does work, you provide no proof otherwise. The claim about community standards is not at all supported either — witness the link in my story to those local newspapers — each of which gets to create their own local standards, despite what you say.

snowburn14 says:

Re: Re: Local

“And did you not read the Felten discussion, which includes many “substantial” arguments against local regulation, none of which you responded to.”

JT didn’t say there wasn’t an argument to be made against local regulations, just that there wasn’t against local ownership. Big distinction, if you ask me.
And as far as refuting the regulation bit…just how much of a local Princeton, NJ-specific station do you think it would remain if it was broadcast across the country? Over time, the market feedback you support would push it towards targetting the nation as a whole rather than a local demographic. And that’s precisely the point of the regulations, albeit an inconvenient one at times. As with any government regulation, it could likely be done better, but sometimes they really do have a reason for putting things in place…

Clueby4 says:

The same reason...

you’re not allow to take a backhoe to the cable, telephone, etc running across your property.

It’s called right of way, and effectively the current privilege of using it is grossly uncompensated.

Local contented should most certainly be forced on the media, and since they have room to make SAP pointless and infomercials 24/7, I hardly think it would be a burden.

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