On Feb 5, 2014, at 8:32 AM, Mark Schubin <tvmark@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote: > On 2/5/2014 7:12 AM, Craig Birkmaier wrote: >> The Federal Radio Commission was formed in 1926, > 1927 Wiki says it was formed in 1926, but the formal legislation to control it was not passed until 1927. > I don't follow your reasoning. Most radio broadcasting at the time was by > independent stations, not monopolies. While RCA and AT&T wanted radio to be > a monopoly, the government did not assist them in that cause, even though the > government had created RCA in the first place. My reasoning is that the government acting in “collaboration” with the existing broadcasters imposed regulations that limited competition. As the industry started before the government stepped in to regulate it, you are correct that there were many players. Once regulation began, the government managed the licensing of stations, and each market began to operate as an oligopoly. Some of this was necessary, as there is a limited amount of spectrum available, and wary technology often required some “protection" from interference. As technology evolved and more spectrum was assigned to radio (e.g. FM) radio stations did proliferate. But you still had to meet the regulatory burdens to obtain a license. Initial government policy was that the spectrum belonged to the people - you could not buy or sell it. Eventually, however, the government allowed the sale of stations, essentially creating a market for spectrum. By the time TV was ready for prime time the entrenched radio broadcasters had an easier time convincing the FCC that there should only be a few voices in each market. So TV was set up from the get go as a regulated oligopoly, typically with three commercial networks and one public station per market; in some larger markets, such as New York, a few independent voices were allowed. It was many decades later before a fourth commercial network was allowed, in part because the spectrum scarcity issue was eased a bit when the UHF spectrum was opened up to TV broadcasting. The four major commercial networks have enjoyed the benefits of operating as an oligopoly. But the biggest “mistake” IMHO, was the 1992 cable act, which essentially has allowed five companies to come to dominate both the content and distribution businesses, in tandem with the MVPD oligopoly. > > In any case, government regulation of radio transmissions began much earlier > than the FRC. Consider, for example, the Radio Act of 1912, which explicitly > authorized the Department of Commerce to determine spectrum allocations. > Even before that, there was the Wireless Ship Act of 1910, which also > inserted the government into radio regulation. Regulation is not the real issue in this discussion. I think we all understand and agree that regulation and standards are important in a mass communications medium that relies upon a public resource - i.e. the spectrum. The real issue is business models, and the role the government has played in creating and regulating one of the most profitable and influential industries in history. In many countries there was NEVER the pretense of competition; the media is viewed as a function of the state, with carrying degrees of control over the content. In the U.S. we created the illusion of competition and independence from government control of content. Ironically, while the media is breaking free of government shackles in many areas of the world, we now understand that our media is far from free from government control and influence on the content side of the business. The politicians rely on the media to carry their water, and the media is richly rewarded... > > As for the electric power industry, that's not my field, so I can't say when > it began to be regulated, but I HAVE researched one little tidbit of it, > which shows that there was not a common electric-power industry in 1903. > That's when Dr. Percy Brown became head of what we would today call the > radiology (and was then called the roentgenology) department at the > Children's Hospital in Boston. > > The X-ray machine required electric power, but there was no power company to > provide it, and the hospital was gas lit at the time. A nearby opera house > had electric lighting and their own generators to power the lamps. So the > hospital ran a line to the opera house for power. But the opera-house > generators ran only when the opera house needed them. So, in Brown's words, > "No opera, no X-rays!” Like yourself, I am no expert on the power industry. But I did a significant amount of research on the subject of “natural monopolies” while I was working on the U.S DTV standard. There is fascinating history here with an abundance of information to shift through. But the bottom line seems to be that everyone recognized the need for a common distribution infrastructure, and the industrialists ASKED to be regulated as natural monopolies, giving each protected regions in which to operate and freedom from price competition. This in turn evolved into government regulation of pricing that still dominates today. > So, do you think that between 1903 and 1910 an electric-power industry was > created, was regulated as a monopoly, and became a model for U.S. government > regulation of wireless transmissions? The same government that had already > been regulating communications since its establishment of postal service? > The same government that DECLINED to establish a monopoly on radio? > > I don’t. An absolute YES to the question of how the electric power industry became a regulated "natural monopoly.” I believe this decision set the stage for the government to look for other natural monopolies from which they could benefit and profit. Clearly broadcasting did not have the burden of needing a single distribution infrastructure, as is the case for electric, water and sewer services. But the politicians knew that this new medium (radio) had enormous potential to influence the public and keep them in the spotlight. While much of the world moved to government run broadcasters, we allowed a limited number of commercial interests to operate in this new medium. As it became obvious that broadcasting is the most powerful tool ever placed in the hands of the politicians, they decided that a few voices were adequate to create the illusion of competition, even as they used the media to (sorry) “fundamentally transform America.” So here we are today, and five companies control 90% of all television programming; they are enormously profitable, and have the political clout to maintain their oligopoly, even in the face of a new medium that is fundamentally transforming almost every other aspect of our lives. Regards Craig ---------------------------------------------------------------------- You can UNSUBSCRIBE from the OpenDTV list in two ways: - Using the UNSUBSCRIBE command in your user configuration settings at FreeLists.org - By sending a message to: opendtv-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with the word unsubscribe in the subject line.