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Columnist: FCC Abdicates Its Responsibility

Columnist: FCC Abdicates Its Responsibility

The much-heralded FCC vote on ownership rules is less than two weeks away now, and rhetoric continues to fly among politicians and industry observers.
Among the latest is a column in the Washington Post by Steven Pearlstein, who thinks the debate misses the real issue, “which is that the FCC has abdicated its statutory responsibility to ensure that television and radio stations operate in the public interest.”
“The reason that even the laggard stations post 30, 40, even 50 percent profit margins is not because these guys are so good — it’s because they operate in markets where competition is limited by the width of the spectrum,” he wrote. “Rather than letting them keep their monopoly profits, the government should insist that they use them to provide ‘public goods’ that markets have never been good at generating.”
For radio, he says, that would mean yanking licenses of stations that have little local programming and “use long-distance disc jockeys to play the same 50 songs. … Die-hard deregulators will say we tried this before and it didn’t work. The reason it didn’t was that we didn’t have regulators and legislators with the backbone and the flexibility to make it work. If hospitals and universities can come up with fair and flexible accreditation processes, so can the FCC.”

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