Want to Avoid Censorship? Use Satellites

Most justifications for the FCC censoring the radio airwaves stem from the argument that anyone can turn on the radio and have to be 'forced' to listen to whatever is on. Thus, a government body is present to hand out licenses to appropriate broadcasters and levy fines when their content in inappropriate. With the heavy hand of the FCC coming down on him, Howard Stern is considering a move to satellite radio. The FCC cannot legally regulate satellite radio content because it is available to paid subscribers only.

Which brings up an interesting observation: Those giving something away for free and generating revenues from advertising have to submit to regulation. Those charging a fee for their service can avoid regulation.

Whose interests is the FCC really looking out for?

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Lay justifications aside, I

Lay justifications aside, I was under the impression that the official rationale for censoring the airwaves is that the electromagnetic spectrum is ?owned by the public.?

Yes, that is the political justification. Since "we all" own the airwaves, "we" get to dictate what gets broadcast.

Satellite radio is over the

Satellite radio is over the peoples' glorious airwaves, too. There goes that difference.

Lay justifications aside, I

Lay justifications aside, I was under the impression that the official rationale for censoring the airwaves is that the electromagnetic spectrum is "owned by the public." Since the public is gracious enough to allow broadcasters to trespass upon our proprietary electromagnetic frequencies for free, the least that broadcasters could do is agree to keep obscenity off of our property.

This sort of "contract with the public" justification is much less easily assailable than the more common "forced listener" argument. And though I think that even it ultimately doesn't withstand close scrutiny, it nevertheless explains your fee / no-fee question.

We learned about the history

We learned about the history of satellite radio last semester in a business class, and I remember something about how companies like XM are prohibited by law from offering local stations in certain markets. These regulations exist to "protect" the local "mom-and-pop" radio stations, or some such drivel.

The long arm of the law extends in all directions and in all spectrums.

why the derision of the idea

why the derision of the idea of public ownership? Who else owns the airwaves?

They spring forth unowned, but ownable by those who have the money at the right time? That doesn't sound so good.

Satellite radio is over the

Satellite radio is over the peoples? glorious airwaves, too. There goes that difference.

Oh. I guess I've revealed my technological ignorance. So, satellite signals aren't - like - beamed down directly to a receiver?

Anyway, the problem with the "public ownership" argument is that, given the proper theory of property rights, there's no reason to treat the electromagnetic frequency any different than - say - land. Certainly, there was some primordial point in history when nobody owned most of the land, but this didn't cause soceity to say that all land would be perpetually owned by the public at large.

Furthermre, land, like the electromagnetic spectrum, is finite. Once a certain parcel of it is occupied, then nobody else can own that particular piece. Given this parallel, there is no reason for the public to insist that the electromagnetic spectrum somehow remain in the public doman and that individual owners of - say - 95.1 FM in Montgomery, AL are somehow merely "renting" it from the rest of us.

So why can't the government simply sell the airwaves to us outright? I see no reason. Once in the private domain, the electromagnetic frequency could be traded among interested parties, and property rights in a certain frequency could be protected by the proper authorities much the same way that rights in land are.

Here's the problem with the

Here's the problem with the idea that We The People own the airwaves -- that isn't how ownership works. You own unowned land by homesteading it. You should acquire a frequency by putting a signal on it and keeping it there. You build your electromagnetic fence by maintaining a signal, and when you drop off for a reasonable time (or announce that you are leaving) then it is up for grabs.

One of the arguments that you hear against this is, "People are just going to put junk signals up and horde the frequency space." Balderdash. That space is valuable. For someone to put a "holder" signal up when you can instead sublet that space to someone that can make money on it is foolhardy, and not likely to happen.

As far as the issue of maintaining order on the airwaves, that can be done the same as it is in any other real property. If you degrade an established signal, you are damaging someone else's property. If you put up a new signal that interferes with an established signal, then you have committed a tort and are liable for damages and an injunction taking your infringing signal off the air.

Certainly, there was some

Certainly, there was some primordial point in history when nobody owned most of the land, but this didn?t cause soceity to say that all land would be perpetually owned by the public at large.
Many people did say this actually, and the history of the land's taking is often a history of force. There's alot of good questions as to the history of property that are basically insurmountable by private property advocates, at least in terms of absolutes (meaning that proving that private property is justified in and of itself.) Just try to go from "unowned" to "owned" justfiiably. And that's even assuming that the land is morally ownable.

Given this parallel, there is no reason for the public to insist that the electromagnetic spectrum somehow remain in the public doman and that individual owners of - say - 95.1 FM in Montgomery, AL are somehow merely ?renting? it from the rest of us.
I should probably wear a "radical" stamp on my forehead. While many people around this blogging area would probably be swayed by such an argument (surely not wanting to question sacrosanct property rights) I am not one such person- absolute property rights can go.

Phelps,
You own unowned land by homesteading it. You should acquire a frequency by putting a signal on it and keeping it there.
why does homesteading give you ownership rights to the land? I can see reasons why it would give someone conditional rights to it (ala the right to eat what they have harvested and so on) but this is a far cry from absolute rights. In fact, for a small homesteader their rights to the land would likely be identical to "big P" Property rights. Larger than that, given people who must go without, it wouldn't be so justified.