Abolish the FCC

Alex Epstein recently wrote a fine article for the Ayn Rand Institute titled, “‘Open Access’ and the Tyranny of the FCC.” Epstein argues:

In today’s discussions of FCC policy, it is taken for granted that airwaves are “public.” But it shouldn’t be. As philosopher Ayn Rand argued in a landmark 1964 essay, “The Property Status of Airwaves,” airwaves should be private property. … Under the “public” airwaves regime, businesses do not own but merely “license” portions of spectrum–which the government has total authority to control in the “public interest.”

Epstein explains that the government is going to license the 700 MHz spectrum with strings attached. He argues that Americans should “demand the abolition of the FCC.”

The Rocky Mountain News recently discussed another way that the FCC violates free speech and property rights: it imposes “a dated legal prohibition on ownership of a newspaper and a television station in the same city by the same company or individual…” The News points out that the FCC is considering only trivial changes to this rule, and the rule may result in newspapers disappearing altogether in some communities.

Unfortunately, the News suggests that the rule was once valid, in the days before cable TV and the internet, but that now it should be repealed. But the rule was never valid. It was always a violation of the rights of free speech and property. The rule never should have been passed. The FCC never should have been given such power. And, by the way, how does the perverse doctrine that radio waves are public property justify the FCC’s control of newspapers? Are those public property, too?

The religious right wants to ban whatever it deems pornographic. The left wants to politically control radio, television, newspapers, the internet, and political campaigns. Sometimes the left and the right defend those aspects of free speech that they find useful, but neither the left nor the right consistently defends free speech.