The FCC and Free Speech
When you think about it for long, you question if there is a great reason that the United States even has a Federal Communications Commission. However with a closer take a look at the value this essential federal government department contributes to our public life, we can get an excellent viewpoint on the reasons we require the FCC to be there to supply some guidance for how the general public airwaves are used.
The FCC outgrew a requirement in the early thirties to have a regulative body to assist with concerns relative to the growing radio industry in regards to monopolies on the airwaves and how radio conglomerates were handling relationships with affiliates and staff members. So in 1934, Congress passed the Communications Act which broadened the Federal Radio Commission that was already in existence and provided it a broader jurisdiction. The firm that came out of this reorganization and growth became exactly what we now called the Federal Communications Commission.
Much of the work of the early FCC was to work to diversify ownership of radio stations and impose some control on the powerful communications conglomerates of NBC and CBS. So the early regulatory activity of the FCC accomplished 3 improvements in the radio industry …
* In a file provided in 1940 called Report on Chain Broadcasting, the FCC began the work of limiting the growth of conglomerate ownership of telecommunications facilities. It was thought then that diversification of ownership would cultivate competitors and greater creative chance in the radio market.
* The FCC presented some limitations on the extent that the huge radio corporations might demand time of their affiliates. This control was essential to establish a cooperative relationship between affiliates and the huge networks and reduce affiliate abuse which was dangerous to regional markets.
* Lastly the FCC stepped in to put considerable control over “artist bureaus” by which networks had the ability to function as both the representatives and employers of artists they had under contract. Clearly this was not a circumstance that resulted in the best interests of the artists.
Notification that in none of these initial objectives of the FCC was there any jurisdiction over material or public decency implied in its powers or duties. This does not suggest that taking an administrative role in the content of what heads out over the nation’s airwaves not a proper use of the FCC. But it is a change from the original charge that was provided to the FCC to validate its creation.
The change in focus began in the Reagan administration. It was throughout this time in our history that much of the oversight of the large media conglomerates were gotten rid of. As an outcome the door was opened for large corporations to own a range of media outlets and to seize a big ownership of a bulk of a specific media’s outlets which narrowed competition. The outcome was the concentration of ownership of radio stations in the hands of a few big corporations which has actually resulted in a homogenization of that media. However the lifting of tight regulations also has actually led to the explosion of cable the expansion of options for customers and the proliferation of talk radio.
It was in the brand-new century when the FCC started to shift its focus toward taking a higher control over content in broadcasting. Numerous state that it was the incredibly bowl mess with Janet Jackson that set off the changes. However leading up to that occasion, there had actually already been some notable crackdowns such as higher fines for especially offending programs such as the Howard Stern radio broadcast.
It stays to be seen if the FCC will remain to work as a mediator of content and profanity in years to come. If that is the instructions, there will be some very public conversation over the role of federal government versus the rights of individuals under the totally free speech protection offered by the constitution. However such dialog is healthy in a totally free society as we continue to redefine how far we will allow the companies of our government to safeguard us while using the power of these firms for the greatest public good.