Media and neutrality regulation: contradictions?

by on February 27, 2007 · 6 comments

Susan Crawford asks a good question: How does one reconcile being both “for” network neutrality regulation and rules against media concentration?

To be “for” network neutrality, it seems natural to have the view that the internet is displacing many prior forms of communications modalities–the press is in a free fall, people are watching much less broadcast television, etc.–and so it’s even more important to get internet access policy right and avoid gatekeepers. You’d want to talk about the empowering, emergent communications taking place online.

But to be “for” limits on media ownership, it may be necessary to argue that nothing much has changed. You have to claim that broadcast and newspapers control news and culture, and so it’s important to avoid more consolidation. The internet isn’t changing the local news picture, you’d have to say, and so its existence doesn’t change the media landscape. Blogs aren’t legitimate alternative news sources.

One logical response might be that big media does control information and culture despite the emerging competition of the net and precisely because of this should we have neutrality regulations to protect the fledgling voices. Media ownership rules would also be necessary until the emerging competition on the net actually serves as a check on concentrated media. That’s just me thinking out loud, but I’m sure it’s not too off the mark from the argument we’re likely to see. What I always want to know, and what is rarely made clear, is how much competition is enough to make regulation unnecessary in either context.

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