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PACE LAW REVIEW
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The Federal Communications Commission has a congressional mandate to regulate broadcasting under the public interest standard. During the first forty-five years of its existence, the Commission established a number of rules and procedures intended to ensure that each broadcast station serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity. However, during the 1980s, it has eliminated or relaxed many of those provisions, preferring to leave regulation in those areas to "market forces."
The "market" to which the Commission has repeatedly referred is not the marketplace of ideas, the first amendment concept so central to a functioning democracy. Rather, the Commission has based many of its deregulatory actions on the economic marketplace. The benefit to the broadcast industry is clear: stations are more profitable than ever; they are being bought and sold for skyrocketing prices; and they are unfettered by restrictive regulations.
However, the Commission's first responsibility is to the public interest, not to the private interest of the industry it is supposed to be regulating. It must reconsider the impact of deregulation on the public interest. It has the power to require stations to air programming that contributes to the marketplace of ideas. It also has the power to establish rules designed to maximize the diversification of station ownership. Under deregulation, the public is being cheated out of the beneficial use of its airwaves because of greedy, and increasingly unregulated, exploitation by private entities.
Deregulation has had a devastating effect on the public interest standard and on the public interest itself. If the Commission is unwilling to reregulate the broadcast industry, Congress must act to see that it does.
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