Media Regulation


What would you do if your cable or satellite bill doubled in price from here on out? Who would you complain to or would you complain at all? Do you even pay attention to how much you pay for TV or satellite radio and compare it to the competing services' pricing schemes? Well believe it or not, there is a place that is responsible for not only keeping your bills from doubling, in the forum of regulation, but is also there in the event that you feel you have been taken advantage of by a broadcasting company. It is called the Federal Communications Commission and is given power by the Congress to regulate all forms of broadband and wireless communication.

The FCC is tasked with granting and revoking licenses to broadcast, as well as preventing monopolies and promoting competition. Although some would use the example of the recent XM and Sirius merger as an example of how the FCC has failed, overall it has been very vigilant in making sure that there is sufficient competition to promote fair pricing schemes within the industry. It still remains to be seen whether or not the satellite radio merger will work out well for the consumer, but so far it seems as if the plan has not resulted in increased prices or inferior service quality.

Obviously, unless you purchase satellite radio, you do not pay for most radio channels. However, the FCC does license individual frequencies and spectrums so that companies do not cause interference with each other, which in turn allows them to provide you free radio at the price of listening to advertising. The FCC also has strict levels of advertising enforcement in place as well, to make sure that you are not bombarded with false or illegal messages when you are listening to the radio.

You probably think that cable and satellite prices are already high, but can you imagine if one single company was in control and had no competition? I am sure you could imagine the result, which would be for you to pay more for service and probably receive less in the process. This happened in the mid 1900's with the telephone industry, and as a result the FCC was forced to step in and de-regulate the telephone industry. As a result, it has been easier for smaller companies to get started and remain competitive, which has also greased the path for VoIP companies like Vonage to sell their services. If there were still a monopoly on the telephone industry, then these sort of companies and services would probably have been stopped during their creation. Imagine the problems we would face if the industry kept superior technologies from developing.

Although the FCC isn't perfect, overall they have done a very good job in a difficult environment. As technology continues to evolve, the FCC is often forced to catch up on the fly. They've got a very difficult job to do, but thankfully they do enough to keep prices low and service quality average at worst and decent at best. We'll see if the FCC is going to be able to adapt to things like internet radio and TV, but at the present they have ignored them.