I’m pleased to report that the Mercatus Center at George Mason University has just released a new white paper on video marketplace regulation and the ongoing “retrans” wars by one of America’s leading media economists, Bruce M. Owen. Owen’s new paper, “Consumer Welfare and TV Program Regulation,” examines the lamentable history of misguided federal interventions into America’s video marketplace. Owen also explores to possibility of deregulating this marketplace via the important new Scalise-DeMint bill, “The Next Generation Television Marketplace Act.” If you’re following these issues, Owen’s paper is must-reading. Here’s the abstract:
Getting rid of obsolete regulation of the broadcast and distribution of video programming is essential to the efficient operation of a market that has the potential to greatly increase the benefits to consumers. Services that increase video program distribution capacity have been delayed and suppressed for many years, and consumer benefits were lost as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) pursued ill-defined and ephemeral “public interest” and “localism” objectives.
It is past time to stop extending interventions originally intended for old technology to a range of new competitive media. No longer is there any rational public policy basis for a government agency to dictate how much or what content the viewing public can see, any more than there ever has been for printed media. There is no market failure to which the current regulatory framework is responding and no longer any reason for FCC bureaucrats to decide how much of the spectrum should be used for each of many existing and future commercial services. Spectrum reform, along with the repeal of other broadcast programming restrictions contained in the proposed Scalise-DeMint Next Generation Television Marketplace Act, provide a roadmap for the necessary reform. With an adequate supply of tradable rights in spectrum, we will find out how much additional competition is possible among traditional wired and wireless, analog and digital, and fixed and mobile delivery services.
Read the entire thing here [PDF], and you might also be interested in this Forbes column (“Toward a True Free Market in Television Programming“) and these two blog posts of mine (1, 2) on the retrans wars.