Regulation of Electronic Speech
• phase out compulsory licensing for all communications content industries, • repeal must-carry rules for cable television and satellite networks, and • eliminate the Federal Communications Commission's power to control broadcast content in the name of the “public interest.”
In the United States, freedom of speech is secured by the First Amendment, which declares that Congress “shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” The language of the First Amendment does not distinguish one medium of speech from another. Electronic free speech should be no less protected than speech on paper, as the Supreme Court has affirmed in the case of the Internet.
The regulations governing carriage of broadcast programs on cable television and satellite networks are an appalling mess. One key feature of those regulations is compulsory licensing of broadcast programming to satellite networks and cable television stations (intended to help the satellite networks and cable television stations). A second key feature is the must-carry rules (intended to help broadcasters) that require cable television stations and satellite networks to carry certain local stations. Compulsory licensing and must-carry should be phased out together, furthering both equality under the law and freedom. The benefits for broadcasters of repealing compulsory licensing would balance the benefits for cable and satellite networks of repealing must-carry.
Compulsory licensing was adopted to give cable television and satellite networks access to broadcast programming without having to negotiate