The Invisible Conceptual Idiot Baton, last seen welded to the forehead of Colin Powell's kid, has been pried loose and bestowed upon FCC Chief Kevin Martin. Yeah, let's let the telcos hold the Internet hostage. That way, the telcos get a piece of every Internet innovation that comes out for the forseeable future. What a load of crap.
Responding to calls from conservative groups for tighter standards for decency in broadcasting, the chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has raised the option of allowing pay television viewers to pick their own channels, setting up a potentially costly brawl with the cable and satellite industries.
My first reaction reading about this in my morning paper was, "My Gawd, what new stupidity hath the FCC wrought?"
Then I thought about it some more. There are a whole host of things wrong with this notion of letting people pick cable channels a la carte. The first thing that comes to mind is that it will allow people to essentially dig themselves deeper into an ideological sinkhole. Conservatives will pick Fox News and hear no opinions that they disagree with through their idiot boxes, resulting in yet another echo chamber situation.
Secondly, how will new cable channels get started without a guaranteed distribution right off the bat?
Thirdly, isn't this against everything I ever read from Ayn Rand? Umm, yeah.
Then again, think about the upsides. It's certainly a blow struck for consumer choice. Such a move would simply usher in the age of Citizen Media even more quickly than it's currently speeding toward us. Think about what the world would look like if broadcast and cable relinquished one of the few advantages it still has over emerging media - its penetration into households.
The advertiser community would have a collective conniption, and the siphoning of emerging media ad dollars from broadcast and cable budgets would accelerate greatly. (Back up a dump truck!)
Most likely, this is just more posturing by the FCC. But what if it wasn't? Strategically, I'd let them have their way with this one and then fight them tooth and nail on regulation of the Internet and satellite, armed with the notion that the FCC's mandate doesn't apply when bandwidth isn't constrained by geography and signal strength as is the case with terrestrial radio and TV stations.
If this is real, then the FCC has pushed a good chunk of its chips to the center of the poker table. It's time to call their bluff.
This is one of the most misguided things I've ever seen. Ever. Why would federal regulation be applied to blogs and exempt other media through which news and opinion are disseminated? Furthermore, is the government intent on telling me which websites I can and can't link to? This is an assault on grassroots political organization, and even worse, upon political discourse in general.
Just when I thought no one would ever be able to wrest the Invisible Conceptual Idiot Baton away from Michael Powell...
We were considering awarding the Invisible Conceptual Idiot Baton to Dick Cheney yesterday, after his use of a really bad word in a conversation with Patrick Leahy. But then we remembered the baton was last seen welded to the forehead of Michael Powell, and our welding guy is on vacation.