Editorial: Regulatory Offenses

Mark Twain deliciously mocked James Fenimore Cooper for creating characters that appeared not to be able to jump onto a boat one foot from the river bank, and moving at a snail’s pace.

The FCC has similarly, and indefensibly, missed the boat with its proposal to retain and even toughen outdated media ownership rules. These are the same broadcasters being moved to smaller spectrum quarters, which for some means giving up spectrum that could be used for digital multicasting and other services that would provide more programming in the marketplace.

The FCC appears to see—through a “glass eye darkly,” we would add—a marketplace filled with thriving newspapers and a powerful broadcasting industry that lacks video competition. Fifty years ago, maybe, but today? That’s like calling myopia “focus.”

Instead of finally getting rid of the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rules, or abandoning the plan to tighten joint sales agreements remanded by the courts, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has doubled down on regulation.

“Our analysis indicates that the ownership restrictions remain necessary in the public interest,” the chairman said in an overdue ownership review that came in both late and way off the mark. That is even more reason for the FCC to give broadcasters some purchase on the future via ATSC 3.0.