Posted by: Andrew | May 7, 2008

Reshuffling the FCC

As more journalists and critics point to the declining relevance of the U.N. or the need to revamp the Security Council and G-8, it got me thinking about the American media’s own version of these political bodies, the FCC.

The global political arena now encompasses a host of players that challenge the architecture of the U.N. (namely, rising national powers, NGOs, terrorist groups, and “transnational” bodies). These players have tested the U.N.’s ability to deal with the complex international current affairs.

Similarly, the emergence of new media powers in the online world begs the question whether the FC is equipped to regulate a marketplace increasingly tied to New Media. Answering this question has become all the more crucial given pending legislation that sets out to define standards for an open Internet. Looking at the FCC today, one can see that the current commissioners have very little background in media at all, let alone digital media. This fact leads me to believe that we will have great difficulty addressing our media issues until we can reshuffle the commission to reflect the new millennium’s changing culture and technology. How, for example, do copyright laws created in a pre-online world apply to a creative economy that depends on the open, social protocols of the Web? Should a commission originally set up to deal with large media corporations have regulatory authority over millions and millions of small content providers. (Think, for example, of how standing regulations affect independent Internet radio stations. Incidentally, it appears that the Internet Radio Equality Act has stalled or died in the House).

This is no longer a space dominated by a handful of TV, radio, cable and print conglomerates. Power is being diffused across a broader pool of content contributors, developers and infrastructure companies. Congress and the FCC need to wake up to this situation and put the right people in place to affect positive change, with the intent to preserve the openness and diversity of the Internet.

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