FCC's "Public Value Test": An Essential Step To Dictatorship

by | Dec 12, 2010

And so it begins. Michael Copps, of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has suggested a “public value test” to determine who should, and should not, hold licenses for television and radio. Read this as: Shut down Fox News. But there’s a much bigger and important principle at stake than Fox News. It’s called freedom of […]

And so it begins.

Michael Copps, of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has suggested a “public value test” to determine who should, and should not, hold licenses for television and radio.

Read this as: Shut down Fox News. But there’s a much bigger and important principle at stake than Fox News. It’s called freedom of speech.

The problem lies not with Michael Copps — just another freedom-hating statist whose name nobody will recognize in the future. The problem lies with the very existence of the FCC in the first place. Back in the 1930s, the Federal Communications Commission was created, unconstitutionally by Congress, to regulate the airwaves. The rationalization at the time, and more or less since then, has been that the FCC exists to protect property rights. The reality, of course, was just the opposite. It was only a matter of time before the government decided who is, and isn’t, worthy of having those property rights. That time has arrived.

What exactly is a “public value test” and how will it work?

According to Copps (with whom fellow liberal Barack Obama presumably agrees), it’s the basis for a radio or television station earning back its license at renewal time. If a particular station or network fails the “public value” test, it goes on probation until it proves it has “reformed.”

Which segment of the “public” is to decide the nature of the “value” being tested? It doesn’t matter. A few officials at the FCC will take care of that for you.

If this doesn’t sound like Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany or any other totalitarian state, I don’t know what does.

What are the criteria for passing a public value test? “Diversity,” as the government defines it. What this means, in practice, is: Left-wing programming must be instituted where it is absent. Left-wing programming must be maintained where it’s present. In practice, it will be Fox News, not MSNBC or CNN, who will be forced to alter its content. Specific suggestions for altering content, according to Copps, are stories and program content that follow the recommendations of the FCC’s Diversity Advisory Committee.

In other words, private broadcasting will start to look a lot like NPR and public television — or the raging liberal MSNBC, if you prefer. Copps also recommends forcing “local programming” into broadcast markets. Music and news must reflect the tastes of the broader population, not simply the listeners in a particular market. In a free market, broadcasting is supported by advertising, and the incentive is to please the customers so that advertisers can be found to pay for it. Under broadcasting “diversity,” it’s not about profit or advertising; it’s about what the government thinks is best.

Anyone who thinks government can create diversity is out of their minds. Government represents uniformity, command and control … not diversity and choice.

All of this is a revolting sideshow to the fundamental issue: The FCC is, by its nature, unconstitutional. Why? Because it enjoys the power to grant or revoke licenses to broadcast. Translation: Permission to speak. A government license implies that the airwaves belong not to the broadcasters who provide content for them, but to the government. This would be like saying that all private property in the United States — where a private home is located, or a private office building is constructed — belong to the government. If this were the case, how long would it be before government completely dictated the size, structure and nature of the buildings on that private property, along with what happens inside those buildings? It’s the same with airwaves. Broadcast licenses (under existing law) are to be renewed if the station meets the “public interest, convenience, or necessity”. As it stands, the FCC is entirely within its legal rights to control broadcast content; within its legal rights, but not its moral or Constitutional ones.

Has the federal government been reluctant to use its power to regulate content? So far, yes. But the times are changing. We live in an increasingly fascist and socialist society where government is the first and final authority on nearly everything. In the last three years alone, the federal government has nationalized medical care, most of the banking industry and much of the automobile industry. It’s not a stretch to imagine that an irate Obama (stung by election defeats) will use the powers of the executive branch to implement his will.

Obama undoubtedly realizes that his greatest enemy is dissent. The apparatus is in place for impairing if not crushing dissent, and it’s known as the FCC. It’s probably true that no prior President could have gotten away with it. This one might, not because he’s widely respected or wildly popular (he’s neither). But America, especially in the last few years, has been in a downward spiral of what psychology calls, “learned helplessness.” The more the government takes away our freedoms, the more helpless too many of us feel — leaving the government in a position to take away still more powers. It’s a vicious cycle that ends with totalitarianism.

Americans show no indication of being in a revolutionary mood. An angry mood? Yes, to some extent. But not a revolutionary one. The true revolution is taking place on the socialist and fascist side, in the halls of government. The pro-freedom side is stirring, but it has not yet come to life. What will it take? I don’t know. I know it took less to stir Americans to a first revolution, back in 1776. I also know that if Americans lie down and allow government to take over the last private component of our society — the last, and the most important — then we’re truly history.

Wake up America. Obama — and his nebbishes at the FCC — are watching how you respond to the takeover of broadcast content. They’re hoping you won’t respond at all.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at: www.DrHurd.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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