Lawyer: Airwaves Not Public

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Lawyer: Airwaves Not Public

Postby jon » Wed May 04, 2011 8:52 am

WCFL Chicago Top 40 era fan Brian Goodrich discovered this recent article by a lawyer that argues that the airwaves that radio and television stations broadcast on are not Public. Here are Brian's comments on's General Comments:
Erwin Krasnow, a former FCC General Counsel and presently a partner with Garvey, Shubert, Barer wants the FCC to put an end to the idea of "public ownership of the airwaves." He’s written an opinion piece, just released by the Media Institute, noting the 50th anniversary of former FCC Chairman Newton Minnow’s speech describing television (Minnow certainly viewed early 1960s Top 40 radio as trash unworthy of comment) as a "vast wasteland". He refers to FCC Commissioner Michael Copps’ twenty-first century concerns about public service programming, quotes Ayn Rand and former Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas and calls the idea of public ownership of the airwaves "absurd."

Here are some excerpts:

The radio frequency spectrum cannot be seen, touched, or heard. It has existed longer than man, and like air, sunlight, or wind, cannot be owned by anyone. Does a person who uses a windmill to grind grain or pump water owe the 'public' for the use of the wind? What about the sunlight used by those who grow wheat, corn, or other crops? And what about the use of the “public’s air space” by aircraft? The list could go on and on, and in each case it can be said that someone is engaging in a business enterprise by using a 'public resource.'

The concept of public 'ownership' of the airwaves is demonstrably at odds with Congress’s intent in enacting the Radio Act of 1927 and the Communications Act of 1934. The spectrum is there whether it is used or not; only when it is enhanced by the use of broadcasters and others does it have any value at all to the public.

There is no blinking from the fact that technological developments have advanced so far that the time has come for both Congress and the FCC to revisit and to renounce the notion of scarcity in today’s digital world. The time has come for the FCC to take the following actions: Renounce the discredited concept of public ownership of the airwaves, bury the scarcity rationale, and adopt the approach advocated by former FCC chairman Mark Fowler, by applying a public-interest standard based on minimally regulated marketplace forces rather than content regulation. Fowler once said that whether you call the public-trusteeship model of regulating broadcasters 'paternalism' or 'nannyism,' it is 'Big Brother,' and it must cease. Amen.

Here is the original article:
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