applied in the United States this general concept describes most
American electronic media policy in the past two decades. Largely
a bi-partisan effort, this fundamental shift in the Federal Communications
Commission's (FCC) approach to radio and television regulation began
in the mid-1970s as a search for relatively minor "regulatory underbrush"
which could be cleared away for more efficient and cost-effective
administration of the important rules that would remain. Congress
largely went along with this trend, and initiated a few deregulatory
moves of its own. The arrival of the Reagan Administration and FCC
Chairman Mark Fowler in 1981 marked a further shift to a fundamental
and ideologically-driven reappraisal of regulations long held central
to national broadcasting policy. Ensuing years saw removal of many
long-standing rules resulting in an overall reduction in FCC oversight
of station and network operations. Congress grew increasingly wary
of the pace of deregulation, however, and began to slow the FCC's
deregulatory pace by the late 1980s.
deregulatory moves--some by Congress, others by the FCC--included
(a) extending television licenses to five years from three in 1981;
(b) expanding the number of television stations any single entity
could own grew from seven in 1981 to 12 in 1985 (a situation under
consideration for further change in 1995); (c) abolishing guidelines
for minimal amounts of non-entertainment programming in 1985; (d)
elimination of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987; (e) dropping, in 1985,
FCC license guidelines for how much advertising could be carried;
(f) leaving technical standards increasingly in the hands of licensees
rather than FCC mandates; and (g) deregulation of television's competition
(especially cable which went through several regulatory changes
in the decade after 1983).
proponents do not perceive station licensees as "public trustees"
of the public airwaves required to provide a wide variety of services
to many different listening groups. Instead, broadcasting has been
increasingly seen as just another business operating in a commercial
marketplace which did not need its management decisions questioned
by government overseers. Opponents argue that deregulation violates
key parts of The Communications Act of 1934--especially the requirement
to operate in the public interest--and allows broadcasters to seek
profits with little public service programming required in return.
deregulation has been widely emulated in other countries in spirit
if not detail. Developed and developing countries have introduced
local stations to supplement national services, begun to allow (if
not encourage) competing media such as cable, satellite services,
and videocassettes, and have sometimes loosened regulations on traditional
radio and television. Advertising support along lines of the American
model has become more widely accepted, especially as television's
operating costs rise. But the American example of relying more on
competition than regulation also threatens traditional public service
broadcasting which must meet increasing competition for viewers
by offering more commercially-appealing programs, usually entertainment--rather
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Duc, Don R. Beyond Broadcasting: Patterns in Policy and Law.
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Communications Commission; License;