An NPR story yesterday captured some pungent words from soon-to-go-through-the-revolving-door Senator Trent Lott. He was commenting in disbelief about the FCC move to permit more consolidation of media companies. He said (paraphrasing):
Newspapers? Why is the FCC protecting newspapers? I don’t get why we’re crying crocodile tears over newspapers. . . It’s technology that’s affecting newspapers. Where I live [on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi], we use newspapers to wrap mullet.
Putting aside the fishwrap reference (oddly reminiscent of the fate of some Bach manuscripts), let’s just note the incredulity with which Sen. Lott approaches the idea that the FCC is out there regulating newspaper mergers.
It’s like D.C. Circuit Judge Harry Edward’s reaction to the broadcast flag rule:
“You’re out there in the whole world, regulating. Are washing machines next?” asked Judge Harry Edwards. Quipped Judge David Sentelle: “You can’t regulate washing machines. You can’t rule the world.”
And now, today, we have another quote, this time from Sen. Rockefeller of W. Virginia:
During an oversight hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. John (Jay) Rockefeller, D-W.Va., recommended that the panel develop legislation next year to overhaul the agency from top to bottom.
“The FCC appears to be more concerned about making sure the policies they advocate serve the needs of the companies they regulate and their bottom lines rather than the public interest,” Rockefeller said. “Congress cannot allow that to happen.”
All three of these pungent moments go together. We’ve got an agency that moves erratically over a vast landscape of communications issues, affecting a seemingly-unlimited array of companies and activities, at a time when everything is converging and becoming packet-switched. We’ve got concentrated infrastructure marketplaces (particularly in the wireless arena) that are prompting decreased innovation and higher prices. At the same time, we have no shared vision of the public interest this agency is supposed to serve.
I personally am not as upset as many of my colleagues about the idea that mass-media sources are becoming more concentrated – let the dinosaurs huddle in the snow! – but the sheer ad hocery of the entire enterprise is hard to take.
*Cross-posted from [Susan Crawford blog](http://scrawford.net/blog).*