Time to Kill the FCC?
After reading Jeff Jarvis’ account of how the Fox fine ($1.2 million) was not really 159 people, not 90 people, not 23 people, but 3 people I think the time has come for that nest of vipers known as the FCC to be wiped out (now before anybody gets hysterical, I’m not talking about anything violent, merely a complete dissolution of this bureaucratic dinosaur). I think the entire thing needs to completely dismantled. When 3 people can determine what is and is not appropriate for millions of people to watch on television there is a problem, IMO.
Some might try to draw an analogy to say the Supreme Court and the fact that it is 9 people who make decisions that affect millions. Granted it looks like a powerful argument, however there are some differences. These differences, in my view, are significant enough to invalidate the analogy. Witht he Supreme Court there is a vetting process through the Senate. Not just any old person with a computer and enough spare time can change the law. Further, the justices try to use past precedents, logic, and reason to make their decisions (note I wrote “try”). With the people making the complaint against FOX we have absolutely no idea what is guiding these people in their decision that the offending parts of Married by America are indeed offensive. Finally with the Supreme Court you have an opportunity for both sides to have their arguments expressed before the court. With the FCC there appears to e absolutely nothing at all like this.
Now others might argue that we need a some sort of rules for what can be broadcast over the public airwaves. Okay, that isn’t a bad point. But do we need a multi-million dollar bureaucracy that makes decesisions affecting millions of people that is apparently governed by 3 individuals? That strikes me as a bureaucracy that is completely bankrupt in terms of competency and understanding its mission.
The solution, in my view, must be equally as powerful: complete dissolution of the bureaucracy. And then start all over. Further, stipulate that anybody working for the old FCC is prohibitted from working at the newly formed agency. After all, why go through the trouble of getting rid of the problem in the first place only to re-institute the problem, but with a new name. One thing the new agency should do is come up with as clear as possible rules that constitute a dividing line between what is offensive and what is not. Also, there will need to be some sort of mechanism that reviews these standards. After all what is on television now probably would shock people 100 years ago (yes I know they didn’t have televisions, but it shouldn’t be too hard to imagine). Also, there should be a complaint process where a broadcasting company accused of violating the standards can have a fair hearing. No more strong arm tactics of holding up license renewals, granting sales/purchases of other stations, etc. Also, consider some sort of warning/rating system much like movies currently have. This will allow people to decide for themselves (or their children) if the upcoming material is something they want to watch. And it should be tatooed on every commissioners forehead that ultimately the viewers have the final say on what they watch: the remote. Change the channel, turn off the television, read a book, talk to your kids, etc. There is nothing that forces people to watch television, listen to the radio or anything of that nature.
Yes, that last part is pretty shocking isn’t it? You have ultimate decision making power. That is part of what it means to be free: make your own decisions. So don’t go giving it away to three anonymous people who have way to much time on their hands and want to force their view of morality on you.
Update: Over at my blog (yeah, so I’m a hit-whore) a Dan makes the following suggestion:
Why not just separate the FCC (and its powers) into
- a license-granting authority, and
- a censuring authority
that are mutually exclusive of one another?
Not a bad idea. It would make changing things easier, and those who work in the license-granting/technical side wouldn’t have to be put through the wringer due to the ineptitude of those on the censuring side. So break it in two, and completely redo the new censoring authority.