Re: CPSR document on telecom [cr-95/10/27]


Sender: •••@••.••• (Glen Raphael)

>> >    In a direct blow to diversity, the bill raises the percentage
>> >    of national audience that a single person or company can reach
>> >    from 25% to 35%.
>> If I'm reading this right, then why isn't it 100%?

"Craig A. Johnson" <•••@••.•••> writes:
>If the cap were 100 percent, as you would like, CBS, NBC, and ABC
>could literally own every channel or station in many communities
>across the U.S.  Otherwise, how could they reach that level?

They could reach that level simply by having ONE channel in every market in
the country. CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX could each own at least one station
across the entire US. In fact, for convenience it might easily be the same
frequency across the country. They'd own, perhaps, channels 2,3,4 and 5.
This would still leave 54 other channels (excluding cable and DSS) for
everybody else. Most markets in the US currently have at least five
network-affiliated stations, a few independent stations, and a lot of
wasted space devoted to static. In order for any of the major players to
lock out competitors in any market they would have to buy up not only the
used slots but all of the unused broadcast slots as well. This would be a
ludicrously expensive undertaking; it would be like McDonalds keeping out
Burger King by buying up all the prime real estate and not using it.

So the theoretical cap on how much of the national audience one company
could reach would be 100%, but the actual reach would depend on how
compelling people found their programming. If everybody in the entire US
decided to watch ABC one night, ABC would have a 100% market share that
night. But in reality it would probably be impossible to get even 40% on a
regular basis with this many players and this much diversity in the market.

>you want to drown out local voices, but it has been the regulatory
>tradition of our country to encourage diversity in broadcasting,
>rather than monopolistic ownership and control, much like there
>existed in the countries of the former Soviet Union.

On the contrary, I want to free up local voices to actually be *local*! We
would probably end up with MORE bandwidth available for independent and
unique programming in the scenario I describe than we have today. (where,
for instance, my local channels 7, 11, and 13 are all ABC affiliates and
all show essentially the exact same information during primetime)

>As Markey said in introducing his amendment on the floor of the
>"In this bill it is made permissible for one company in your hometown
>to own the only newspaper, to own the cable system, to own every AM
>station, to own every FM station, to own the biggest television
>station and to own the biggest independent station, all in one
>community. "

The fact that some of this is even vaguely plausible is why we need to get
the FCC out of the business of allocating frequencies and instead turn them
into transferable private property. How in the world would one company
manage to buy EVERY AM or FM station if anybody could come along and start
a new one in any unused frequency? Would this company broadcast on EVERY
frequency? Why would they want to? How would they avoid going bankrupt? How
could they possibly recoup their investment?

>FYI, even the more restrictive of the two bills, H.R. 1555 contains
>the following:

Did I say that I favored either bill?

>In short, Glen, the bill endorses planning, industrial policy, and
>price regulation.

Yup. That's why I'm opposed to it.

>The bill, Glen, was written by Republican *deregulators.*

Um, so what? I'm a Libertarian, not a Republican. If the Democrats proposed
blowing up New York with one big bomb tomorrow, the Republicans would
counter with a plan to do the same thing with a lot of little bombs spread
out over a 3-year period.

>CPSR is arguing that the Snowe-Rockefeller-Kerrey amendment in the
>Senate bill ought to be included in the final legislation.

Right. CPSR has accepted the political inevitability of bad legislation in
this area and is simply trying to get a few bennies thrown its way in
exchange for support. But once you've compromised your principles in order
to be seen as politically mainstream, you're no better than the
Demopublicans and Republicrats. Instead of supporting it with minor
modifications, CPSR ought to fight this bill and go down kicking and
screaming. In the long run CPSR would have more credibility if it stuck to
its principles. Assuming it still has some, that is...

>The thinking here is that our children are still the best resource we
>can invest in, and that the "advanced telecommunications services"
>that you pooh-pooh so loudly might just give kids an educational and
>learning tool which far exceeds the opportunity cost of providing it.

Oui, mais in practice I think this is a stupid and short-sighted way of
furthering the (worthy) goal of educating kids better. And it puts the
burden of cost on the wrong party. If we were to pass a law requiring all
professional mathematicians in industry to serve one year grading 4th-grade
math papers or talking to students, this could easily be justified as an
example of investing in our children, "still the best resource we can
invest in", and "giving our kids an educational tool which far exceeds the
opportunity cost of providing it." But it would still be dumb. If we want
kids to have the latest gadgets, *we should be willing to pay what those
gadgets are worth*. On the other hand, if you think it makes sense to
impose price controls on gadget producers for the benefit of our kids you
should at least be consistent about it and apply the same reasoning to book
publishers. Make it illegal for anybody to sell any book -- even the OED --
at a rate that schools and libraries cannot afford. Force them to
"unbundle" the OED into affordable bite-sized "basic-rate" chapters!

Then outlaw hardcover fiction books entirely; school libraries often can't
afford them and we shouldn't force our kids to wait months longer to get
their Stephen King novels than the rich people who patronize bookstores do.

>What this also means Glen, is that a cable operator, cannot waltz
>into a community, offer an off-the-shelf package with Net access,
>500 channels, and interactive services bundled together at a rate
>that schools and libraries cannot afford.

Suppose somebody were to do exactly this: who has been HARMED? Nobody! The
provider has made a new option available to the community, which it did not
previously have. Some people who choose to exercise the option (the early
adopters) benefit and people who choose not to are no worse off for having
had the choice than they were before. On the contrary, they probably save a
lot of time and headache by waiting for technology to mature. By the time
they can afford it it will likely be a lot easier to use than it is now.

Hey, while we're at it let's also make it illegal for anyone to offer a
bunch of new _plumbing services_ bundled together at a rate that schools
and libraries cannot afford. We gotta invest in those kids, remember?


Glen Raphael, •••@••.•••
President, Stanford/Palo Alto Macintosh User's Group
<A HREF="">Home Page</A><BR>

 Posted by Andrew Oram  - •••@••.••• - Moderator: CYBER-RIGHTS (CPSR)
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