Monday, August 30, 2004

Entertain Me!

Michael J. Copps, a Democrat member of the Federal Communications Commission, believes
our broadcast media owe us more coverage of an event that remains an important component of the presidential campaign. Yet tonight, if people around the country tune in to the commercial broadcast TV networks, most will not see any live convention coverage. That's not right.

Let's remember that American citizens own the public airwaves, not TV executives. We give broadcasters the right to use these airwaves for free in exchange for their agreement to broadcast in the public interest. They earn huge profits using this public resource. During this campaign season broadcasters will receive nearly $1.5 billion from political advertising.
Where to begin? Let's start with fundamentals and go from there:

1. American citizens don't own the public airwaves. The federal government, acting through the FCC, regulates the airwaves in the mistaken belief that chaos would ensue if the airwaves weren't regulated. If the FCC didn't regulate the electromagnetic media, the users of the media would regulate themselves, just as surfers regulate themselves.

2. How much money broadcasters make is therefore none of the FCC's business.

3. What broadcasters broadcast is therefore none of the FCC's business.

4. Broadcasters should broadcast in order to maximize their profits. A concept that happens (through the magic of the "invisible hand") to serve the interests of consumers.

If Copps thinks that people who watch political conventions actually learn anything they can't learn by watching or listening to news programs, reading newspapers and magazines, surfing the web, and -- best of all -- reading political blogs of all persuasions, then Copps is a fool. But we already knew that, didn't we, when he said that a convention is an "event that remains an important component of the presidential campaign." That's true only in the sense that a convention affords a major party the opportunity to grab some free advertising for its candidate.

Copps is more than a fool, however; he's a paternalistic fool. He's itching to force broadcasters to cover conventions because watching them would be good for us, the unwashed masses who, obviously, don't know where to turn for our political news.

Well, Copps's term as commissioner expires June 30, 2005. So, if Bush wins re-election, Copps won't be around the FCC much longer.