But It’s Cool So Long as Big Media can Pay the FCC for Spectrum, Property of the Blissfully Unaware Public
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s original charter was somewhat ambiguous. Over time, it has changed to accommodate evolving technology and interests. The FCC does provide some valuable services to the public…spectrum allocation, regulation of emergency communication networks, etc. That is, if those services aren’t simply unnecessary busy work or, worse yet…their intent isn’t to benefit the public. Maybe it never was.
The FCC may have once been only passively involved in acts against the public interest. But their recent Net-Neutrality power grab, outright lies and pretending to be blind to overwhelming media deception are deliberate acts. The media is fake news, and the FCC is bad news.
In 2006, the phrase, “Homeland Security” appeared in the FCC’s charter with the birth of their new Public Safety bureau. If it was unreasonable to be suspicious of the FCC before, it no longer was. Overseeing communications standards, helping to serve remote communities and allocating the frequencies and channels needed for network communications are necessary and generally benign functions. But the FCC does so much more. And then there’s the matter of how they do it.
Decency v. Morality
You can’t say, “Fuck” on network television. But you can depict a disturbingly violent blood-bath or glamorize promiscuous gay anal sex. You can’t run a political ad slandering an opponent. But a big network news program can report a fake protest that convinces viewers that war crimes are justified. Any standard of decency is illusory.
Although they enforce rules that limit market saturation and prevent complete monopolies, it hasn’t prevented consolidation of media companies at an alarming rate. Government wire-tapping and spying on American citizens continues unabated. Net-Neutrality appears to have been an attempt by the FCC to gain regulatory authority over the Internet. The FCC later admitted to lying about their public comment system being hacked during the Net-Neutrality affair. All of this says nothing of their budget or other organizational issues.
A Little Background
ABC, CBS and NBC are multi-faceted TV networks. All are pioneers of radio and television broadcasting in one way or another. CNN and ESPN are TV channels available via cable and satellite, broadcast technologies that came along much later. These are just a handful of the many media companies broadcasting today.
The FCC was formed in 1934 to regulate interstate communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. All of the aforementioned companies are therefore regulated by the FCC.
The FCC’s mission and jurisdiction does include such things as public safety and national defense. But ultimately the bulk of its job is regulation of media communications. The Communications Act of 1934 states its mission is…
…to make available so far as possible, to all the people of the United States…wire and radio communication services with adequate facilities at reasonable charges.
So it seems the FCC’s role is complicated and grows more so as technology and public interest continue to change.
A primary function of the FCC, in their oversight of TV broadcasting is allocation of broadcast spectrum. There are a limited number of frequencies and channels through which to broadcast. Use of a particular frequency or spectrum in a given area is granted by license. Licensees must operate within guidelines, obey restrictions and follow rules set forth by the FCC.
The Public Inspection File
All FCC licensees must maintain a public inspection file accessible to the public during business hours…
Should Media Companies Be Regulated?
TV networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and cable networks like CNN are regulated by the FCC…....Why?……
Because the mere existence of some is a conflict of interest and most engage in unfair business practices. NBC’s enormous chain of affiliates led the FCC to break them up, creating ABC. CBS, born as a propaganda tool of the US and England, was granted a WWII reporting monopoly and special access to early TV technology appropriated from Germany after the war.
The Fairness Doctrine
Between 1949 and 1987, FCC licensees were required to present issues of public importance in a manner deemed honest, equitable and balanced. They were also required to present contrasting viewpoints, all under the Fairness Doctrine. But the FCC was not obliged to enforce it.
In 1969 Justice Byron White, nominated to the Supreme Court by JFK declared…
“A license permits broadcasting…the right of the viewers and listeners, not the broadcasters…”
In short, broadcast channels belong to the public and use of those assets must serve the public interest. But all broadcasters use their licenses as vehicles for their profit-driven commercial enterprises. Today, the FCC does literally nothing to prevent commercial exploitation by licensees who enrich themselves at the public’s expense.
How Much is Your Heart & Mind Worth?
In the past the FCC held comparative hearings to determine the “most qualified” applicants or held lotteries, awarding a license to the winner.
Today the FCC grants licenses through spectrum auctions so long as a minimum of requirements are met. Not only do companies bid on spectrum for continued television broadcast, they also bid to compel existing broadcasters to go off the air. This allows new use of the spectrum for telecommunication or other wireless purposes. As you might imagine, evolution of broadcast technology which is supposed to serve YOUR interest is often motivated by profit. Adoption of 5G spectrum will hence be promoted despite overwhelming public concern over its safety.
Making matters worse is collusive bidding, where broadcasters make private non-competitive agreements. Even the simple fact that some bidders will appear to hold an advantage will lead other bidders to refrain from bidding. In one sense, the auctions are a negotiation between the bidders.
Billions have been “raised” through FCC auctions. Following the money trail from there is more difficult. Finding evidence of how that money is used to benefit YOU seems virtually impossible. Fortunately past auction results are made available to the public here…
The FCC Enriches Itself & Protects its Reputation
Remember when we were forced to switch from analog to digital TV? It required some people to update their equipment or, failing that use a digital converter. Either out of fear the public would revolt or to enforce the notion the switch was in the public’s interest, free digital converters were made available to those willing to jump through hoops.
The media at large did only a fair job of explaining why the switch was being made. In reality, the basic reason given was to free up 108 MHz of radio spectrum for wireless services. Digital TV channels don’t require guard bands between them.
There’s little speculation about other motivations for converting to digital TV. But at a bare minimum the conversion allowed the FCC to auction the 700 MHz radio frequency band in 2008. Deemed Auction 73, it raised $19.5 billion. However, some licenses went unsold. So a second auction, Auction 92, was held in 2011 raising another $19.8 million; chump change compared to their earlier take.
Promotion of 5G Spectrum is (at least partly) Driven By Economic Interests
There has been consistent vocal opposition to 5G technology, which is basically the planned use of 24GHz and 28GHz spectrum. The concern is mostly over the electromagnetic radiation caused by use of this millimeter-wave spectrum and the resulting health effects. Most opposition comes from a hodge-podge of pseudo-legitimate groups and individuals making unscientific claims. But some who oppose 5G are respected groups with related technological or scientific expertise.
Some municipalities and organizations with public oversight responsibility have been roadblocks to the roll-out of 5G. But the roll-out appears to continue, the FCC largely ignoring public concerns.
The Bottom Line
Unfortunately I can’t make a clear recommendation regarding what to do with the FCC. I don’t know whether anything should be done at all. My gut says they should be dismantled and restructured. My research contains many things to support this gut feeling. But it’s just a gut feeling. It seems that much of what they do is important. They may even do some of it well. But clearly they have acted without regard for public interest and colluded with the private and public sectors. Just how badly they may have acted is unknown, but does any of this warrant their dismantling?
One unlikely solution would rely on government accountability and law enforcement. Something like that found in an internal affairs division. Maybe there are corrupt elements in the FCC. But it’s possible the corruption isn’t very systemic. Elimination and prosecution of the responsible individuals may be sufficient to fix the problem and open the door to better things.
But this is likely impossible for a few reasons. First, any attempt to identify and prosecute FCC officials would be halted before it got off the ground. Too much is at stake to risk the public losing faith in their core institutions. Second, the corruption very likely extends beyond leadership into the structure and operations of the FCC itself. Blame would therefore be harder to assign and simply appointing new personnel wouldn’t work. Lastly, let’s not forget the companies actually producing the propaganda. No solution could exist that doesn’t address the corruption and criminality that exists there.
The government isn’t going to enforce any anti-corruption or anti-conspiracy law within its ranks. The few laws that exist are just for show. To rely on public demand for accountability is foolish, as the public acts under the influence of the very propaganda they would be expected to identify and address! It’s a bit like expecting a friend to realize they’re in an unhealthy relationship, when their partner is also their therapist. I’m afraid all I can suggest is to keep an eye on the FCC and hope for greater public awareness of the problems. The best outcome realistically is for all this intergovernmental corruption to implode, either exposing the FCC for their part in it or causing its total destruction.