Video Marketplace Regulation: A Primer on the History of Television Regulation and Current Legislative Proposals
by Adam Thierer, Brent Skorup
May 07, 2014
The television distribution marketplace has been substantially regulated since the advent of broadcast television in the 1940s and 1950s. The Federal Communications Commission and Congress have relied on several justifications for the regulatory protection of the system of local broadcasters envisioned post-World War II, namely, (1) universal service, (2) localism, (3) free television, and (4) competition. These policy goals are at odds with one another and can only be supported simultaneously through far-reaching regulations like compulsory copyright licenses, network nonduplication rules, retransmission consent regulations, and industry concentration prohibitions. We describe the history of these and other regulations. We argue that regulatory repeal would improve distorted television markets and improve consumer welfare. Finally, we describe pending video legislation and explain how various pending bills would affect the current regulatory system.