There’s much to discuss as Obama shapes his administration (more on this at OpenMarket.org) but arguably one of the most important unanswered questions is who Obama will pick to staff the Federal Communications Commission.
CNET reports that Henry Rivera, a lawyer and former FCC Commissioner, has been selected to head the transition team tasked with reshaping the FCC. This selection gives us a glimpse of what the FCC’s agenda will look like under Obama, and it’s quite troubling.
Rivera has embraced a media “reform” agenda aimed at promoting minority ownership of broadcast media outlets. A couple weeks ago, Rivera sent a letter to the FCC that backed rules originally conceived by the Media Access Project to create a new class of stations to which only “small and distressed businesses” (SDB) could belong. The S-Class stations would be authorized to sublease digital spectrum and formulate must-carry programming, with the caveat that only half of the content can be “commercial”. To avoid the Constitutional issues surrounding racial quotas, eligibility for SDB classification would be based on economic status, rather than the racial composition of would-be station owners.
The S-Class proposal, like other media reform proposals, falsely assumes that current owners of media outlets are failing to meet the demands of their audience for a diverse range of content. The proposal also ignores the fact that consumers already enjoy an abundance of voices from all viewpoints, as we’ve discussed extensively here on TLF.
The reason we aren’t seeing more of the programming that media reformistas desire is not because there’s a paucity of small and distressed station owners, but because most television viewers simply don’t care for the same kind of content as the folks at the Media Access Project.
Let’s hope Obama realizes that a nation that has just taken a “breathtaking leap…in terms of racial politics” is one that doesn’t need federal regulators dictating broadcast speech in the name of “diversity.”