On Wednesday morning, the U.S. House of Representatives Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing on “The Future of Video.”
As we Tech Liberators have long argued on these pages (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), government’s hands have been all over the video market since its inception, primarily in the form of the FCC’s rulemaking and enforcement enabled by the Communications Act. While the 1996 Telecommunications Act scrapped some obsolete video regulations, volumes of outdated rules remain law, and the FCC wields vast and largely unchecked authority to regulate video providers of all shapes and sizes. Wednesday’s hearing offers members an excellent opportunity to question each and every law that enables governmental intervention—and restricts liberty in—the television market.
It’s high time for Congress to free up America’s video marketplace and unleash the forces of innovation. Internet entrepreneurs should be free to experiment with novel approaches to creating, distributing, and monetizing video content without fear of FCC regulatory intervention. At the same time, established media businesses—including cable operators, satellite providers, telecom companies, broadcast networks and affiliates, and studios—should compete on a level playing field, free from both federal mandates and special regulatory treatment.
The Committee should closely examine the Communications and Copyright Acts, and rewrite or repeal outright provisions of law that inhibit a free video marketplace. Adam Thierer has chronicled many such laws. The Committee should, among other reforms, consider:
- Restoring traditional copyright protection to broadcast signals, instead of the compulsory license created by the 1976 Copyright Act;
- Abolishing the “must-carry” rule that requires pay-TV providers to transmit certain broadcast signals without compensation;
- Ending syndication exclusivity, network non-duplication, and sports blackout rules;
- Repealing programming availability mandates and set-top box regulation;
- Undoing broadcast/cable ownership restrictions and media cross-ownership rules;
- Eliminating program access rules;
- Stripping the FCC of the authority to intervene in and promulgate rules regarding retransmission negotiations;
- Ending special regulatory treatment for public, educational, and governmental channels.
Here’s to the success of Sen. Jim DeMint, Rep. Steve Scalise, and other members of Congress who are working to achieve real reform and ensure that the future of video is bounded only by the dreams of entrepreneurs.