Regulating the Future: Broadcasting Technology and Governmental Control

Regulating the Future: Broadcasting Technology and Governmental Control

Regulating the Future: Broadcasting Technology and Governmental Control

Regulating the Future: Broadcasting Technology and Governmental Control

Synopsis

This comprehensive study examines the case of AM stereo and subsequent technologies to demonstrate the FCC's evolution from stern to reluctant regulator. It also discusses emerging technologies, such as digital audio broadcasting, and their impact on the evolution of broadcast regulation. In the 1980s the FCC deregulated TV and radio, electing to set only technical operating parameters and allowing legal operation of any system that meets those minimal standards. Huff argues that this approach is likely to influence regulatory approaches to other new developments in broadcast technologies.

Excerpt

One of the points that W.A. Kelly Huff raises in his book has to do with the age-old question of whether human beings are capable of learning enough from their past mistakes to avoid repeating them in the future. Like most reasonable and compassionate men, he is hopeful—if not certain—that this is the case. History would seem to suggest that we as a species are doomed to make the same blunders over and over again, and this sad pattern appears all the more likely to occur when big business and government constitute the elements of the alchemist’s ladle. If you don’t think this is true, just check your history books. Each faction (when business and government convene, it nearly always is factious) tenaciously and greedily clutches its cherished agenda as it sets out to apprehend a payoff that is more often than not at cross-purposes with the other faction, or so it seems. Invariably, the product of these ritualistic and futile machinations is a numbing standoff. One side objects to what the other side proposes, and vice versa, and the grand impasse begins. Mediators, lawyers, and regulators are called in, and the arterial clog congeals to a deadly density. Eons pass, the rest of the world moves on, but the original point (whatever that was) of contentious debate goes unresolved.

In the case of Amstereoization (as the author calls it), much of the preceding applies, but somewhat in reverse. In this particular situation the government’s refusal to get in the way of manufacturers, to let them work things out for themselves, actually (and ironically) proved to be anathema to the timely development and full realization of stereo on the standard broadcast band. When broadcasters were given the much-coveted opportunity by the feds to decide for themselves (something that they had long sought), they could not do it. In fact, they were in profound discord as to which way to go, so they literally went nowhere, and the hope and dream of AM stereo faded like the theme music from an old radio melodrama.

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