Free Press Calls on Feds to Halt TV Innovation

by on January 4, 2010 · 12 comments

Free Press, the radical regulatory activist group founded by Marxist media scholar Robert W. McChesney, has never seen a media or technology regulation they don’t like, but their latest effort to have the feds halt innovation is shocking even by their standards. According to The Washington Post:

Free Press and other public advocacy groups are sending letters Monday to the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission calling for a probe of the “TV Everywhere” plan by cable, satellite and phone companies that brings television shows and movies to computers and devices, but only for those that subscribe to both television and high-speed Internet services.

Think about this. “TV Everywhere” is still in its cradle, having only just been launched recently. It will give multichannel video distributors a chance to find their footing as millions of consumers continue to “cut the video cord.”  And it would provide consumers with ubiquitous access to content over the Internet while also ensuring that content creators are compensated for their programming.

OK, so what’s wrong with all this again? Why would we want federal antitrust officials throw a wrecking ball into this innovative new business model?

What’s so galling about this is that Free Press and these other “media reformista” groups are constantly harping about how struggling media operators need to “change their business models,” and yet those groups would tie the hands of media creators and distributors at every juncture. No liberalization of old rules would be allowed if Free Press had their way, and new regulations would be layered on prophylactically to disallow any future marketplace evolution or innovation.

So, what is the Free Press alternative if no private restructuring or innovation is to be allowed?  Can you say “public option for the press“? Free Press has proposed an industrial policy for journalism and for “saving the news” that includes over $50 billion in subsidies for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and other bureaucracies, a “journalism jobs program” for that would be part of AmeriCorps, a variety of new tax incentives for struggling media operations or individuals who support favored institutions, and an assortment of government incentives to encourage local ownership and media divestiture (by handing over control to smaller operators or minority-owned groups). And in an essay Robert McChesney penned with John Nichols of The Nation last year, the price tag for their proposed “press infrastructure project” was over $60 billion.

Hmmm, let’s see… we could spend $50-$60 billion for a state-subsidized press, or we could allow private marketplace experimentation with innovative new media business models.  I would hope the choice would be an easy one.

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