Why conservatives should kill the FCC and defend free speech

Why conservatives should kill the FCC and defend free speech

: The other night on Aaron Brown’s show, I argued with the Heritage Foundation’s Rebecca Hagelin over the FCC and the First Amendment (I attacked the first and defended the second, which only logically follows these days but she argued for more government regulation of speech from the agency). Today, someone sent me a wonderful post from the Heritage Foundation’s very own weblog agreeing with me. In other circumstances, that last sentence might scare me. But today it only makes me gloat.

First, it points to a great post by James Gattuso, which says:

But the real question is who should decide this question: five members of the FCC, or 300 million Americans with their remote controls? There

  • I thought the fact that they aren’t against things like this are exactly what makes them conservatives instead of libertarians…

  • Jeff,
    I agree with you on the abolition of the FCC – and you and I can holler about it – but that won’t happen until people leave the FCC-regulated channels/mediums in droves because they prefer non-FCC-regulated channels/mediums. Only then will people see the FCC as anti-business, and that’s what will kill it.
    The best thing we can do is encourage people to buy into and use non-FCC-regulated channels/mediums and prevent the FCC from widening its authority.
    I haven’t listened to them lately, but where do Limbaugh/Hannity/etc stand on broadcasting on alternative mediums, a la Stern?

  • youre fighting the right fight jeff. keep up the great work. it was awesome to hear howard mention you last night on letterman.

  • pragmatist

    No. The FCC should NOT be abolished.
    It should simply stick to setting and
    monitoring the TECHNICAL aspects of
    wireless [and wired] communication.
    And not the content of what is broadcast.
    As a licensed Amateur Radio operator I
    understand the need for a “technology
    As at taxpaying American Citizen I
    am outraged at the FCC presuming
    there is a need for “cultural/content

  • Michael

    I think pragmatist is on the right track. So, what would it take to officially & legally re-focus the purpose of the FCC? An act of Congress? Presidential decree? Judicial action?

  • Whether the FCC should be abolished or not, I continue finding it unsettling to read things like “calling for Michael Powell’s head”. Either he’s doing his job or he’s not. Do I throttle my mailman because he delivers junkmail to my mailbox?
    I’ve already agreed, at least half-jokingly, that we should boot the FCC. Maybe the arguments from JJ and others would be more convincing if there wasn’t such an effort to demonize Powell in the process, as if Powell singlehandedly invented the FCC, the concept of decency in broadcasting, and families with children all at the same time. Even if you take Powell out of the picture, you’re still left with a large number of people who want to have broadcast TV held to some standards. If Powell gets fired… what are you going do to *then*? Put families in front of firing squads because their commitment to free speech isn’t as well-defined as yours?
    Hate is never a convincing argument, and hatred of Powell seems to be argument #1 so far. If the process is the problem, lay off of him for a while and concentrate on the root.

  • the hate, if thats what you want to call it, regarding powell is rooted in his smug tone and inconsistant rulings that appear to be based more in the whims of the whitehouse.
    he is not doing his job when he fines stern for the same thing that oprah does and doesnt fine oprah.
    what will we do if powell goes away? we will demand the same sort of fairness out of his replacement that we are demanding now.
    and i am still waiting for a clearly written text from the FCC that would lay out the guidelines as to what is fineable and what is not.
    by not providing clear rules they create the hate that you are sensing because they are obviously trying to hide in the bushes and pop out with million dollar AH-HAs.

  • Dave V.

    Powell may well have a smug tone, but the rulings are by the commission, not by him alone. At least one other commissioner, a Democrat whose name escapes me (Robb?), appears to be the prime mover behind the more aggressive attitude. Further, the Congress has leaned on the FCC (especially after the Super Bowl) to enforce the rules more strictly. I’m pretty much in agreement with Jeff, but making Powell the object of the criticism misses the point. He may well be part of the problem, but he’s hardly all, or even most, of it.

  • Dishman

    Thinking about it…
    There may be another way to run a counter-campaign. That is, when something happens that draws complaints, write to the FCC and say “I found xxx to be valauble TV/radio, and I am not offended”, or something to that effect. Right now, they’re really only hearing one side of the conversation, so they’re leaning that way.

  • Andy Freeman

    While I agree that speech restrictions are wrong (although I emphasize political speech by not-media), isn’t it a bit rich to argue that one’s political enemies have some obligation to your cause?
    While the right hasn’t been especially good on speech, “liberals” like Jarvis can find more than enough work to do in their own backyard.
    Perhaps they should start doing it.

  • Why conservatives should kill the FCC and defend free speech
    They won’t side with you on this for one reason. It sets them against the very people they need to keep the Republican party in power. As long as the left is battling the religious fundies over this issue, the conservatives win because the liberals will most likely win out over the fundies anyways and the fundies will just end up seeing this as one more reason to hate liberals.

  • dave, that dude is a democrat in name only.
    i dont know any other dems like him. do you?

  • oh wait, i do, zel miller

  • aaron

    Oh wait, and the 172 Dems who voted for HR 3717.

  • Thank you Jeff Jarvis.

  • tony, you need to ask yourself this question: who are you trying to convince? People who are willing to listen to your argument, or people who already agree with you?
    I don’t feel like I need to convince anybody. The FCC is in place; Powell is in charge. It is incumbent upon the anti-FCC, anti-Powell forces to win converts to help them in their crusade, but all we’re getting is reconstituted “smirky chimp”… now it’s “smuggy censor”.
    I would like to hear one anti-FCC person here explain what you propose to do about, in lieu of the FCC, the concerns of American families who are worried about kids being exposed to stuff during what’s usually considered safe time. Screw them? Will there be any oversight still in place? What about hate speech?
    There are dozens of worrisome issues raised by a serious abolotion of the FCC, and no one really addresses them… just repetition of the mantra of how much we ooooh! hate Michael Powell. The argument from the right that government should be completely hands off in order to be philosophically consistent is just as unconvincing. And so if you don’t already agree with the position that the FCC should be trashed because of one personality (mud! oink oink!), you’re left with the impression that the people behind the movement are childish and irresponsible.
    We know the upside of abolishing the FCC. Address the downside. Otherwise, you’re nothing but an ineffectual anarchist.

  • Jon

    With the election over and the Scott Peterson trial completed, the American media apparently has little else to report but the supposed scandal over the raunchy Terrell Owens Monday Night Football pre-game skit.
    For conservatives like the Heritage Foundation’s Rebecca Hagelin, ABC and the NFL joined to open yet another front in the war against the traditional values and decency of the American family. For those on the left, the Disney-owned ABC network’s cross-promotion of its Desperate Housewives during MNF brought back the Mandingo and other stereotypes of yore. For the media, this once again was an opportunity to discuss the overblown electoral importance of “values voters” and “moral issues.”
    For my part, I believe this mole hill-turned-mountain reflects something much more important, and in the long term, more interesting. That is, the belly-aching on the right highlights once again the tenuousness of the alliance between “social” conservatives and “economic” conservatives. The traditional religious Right sees a culture at risk; the laissez faire free marketeers want media markets, concentration and ownership unfettered by the heavy hand of the government. Unfortunately for them, they can’t have it both ways…
    For more, see:
    “Markets, Morality and Monday Night Football”

  • Ripper

    Broadcast TV is a mistake, the highest and best use of the spectrum is cell phone -conversations-. Once we terminate the content we don’t have to worry about the censors.

  • There’s the movement I can get behind. At this point, why shouldn’t ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS be consigned to cable, and free up the airwaves?
    Of course, poor people who can’t afford cable will no longer have TV, but that should be no concern to any of the anti-FCC forces. It’s poor people who most feel they need the FCC there to protect kids from rich, elitist media types who think they know better how to run the world. Poor people? In the words of the great DailyKos, screw ’em.