Video on the Net Alliance–Not So Fast!

A new coalition has asked the FCC to declare it will not “regulate” Internet video. They want us to rely on “self-governance and public-private partnerships to address social issues” related to any concerns about the role and operation of broadband Net content. It is way too premature, in our opinion, to say there is no role for the FCC with broadband video. Trends shaping the U.S. broadband environment suggest, at least for this blogger, that there will need to be rules. Big media business economics for both entertainment and political discourse will shape the broadband `triple-play’ delivery system. The wealthiest advertisers, phone & cable companies, and major communications companies (representing Hollywood, Silicon Valley, etc.) will be able to privilege their content in a variety of ways.

Rules are likely needed to ensure that political communications related to electoral campaigns are readily accessible. So too may be policies that truly promote a wide range of news and opinion. There will also need to be policies protecting us from abuses related to the data collection and privacy-threatening marketing which will be totally integrated into broadband “rich media” content. FCC rules protecting children from the inappropriate role marketing will play in broadband video content will also be required.

I know that FCC rules will be abused–they could likely favor those who wish to censor or, paradoxically, the interests of big media. But we don’t know how the broadband video “revolution” will turn out.  We need to have a serious informed national discussion of where broadband communications is headed in the U.S., and what must be done to promote the maximum democratic expression and public service. Leaving it to the “market” won’t be sufficient to provide us what we likely require.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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