ERIC Number: ED318407
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1989-Oct
Reference Count: N/A
Physical Scarcity, Rent Seeking, and the First Amendment.
Hazlett, Thomas W.
The driving force in federal licensing has been the combined political interests of legislators desirous of obtaining valuable prerogatives over the assignment of frequencies; incumbent broadcasters, ever vigilant in restricting new entry into broadcasting; and "public interest" lobbyists, whose self-interests lay in politicizing the assignment process despite the expropriation which their constituents thereby suffered. Hence, a classic rent-seeking competition forged the licensing regime in broadcasting in the 1920s and has steadfastly maintained it since, due to the vector payoffs associated with such a scheme. The support for this thesis is evidence suggesting that the historical rendition of the pre-regulation broadcasting market offered in both the NBC and the Red Lion cases was largely fanciful, and that a more accurate history of the early broadcasting period reveals that an orderly market was reshaped by political interests to yield rents, not to solve interference. This history shows that physical scarcity and its ancillary justifications for content regulation are ad hoc rationalizations of policies adopted for specified political purposes. Most important for Constitutional considerations is that the means chosen to implement such dealings provoke precisely the same concerns that make government licensing of print unlawful; i.e., politicization of the press produces results antagonistic to the most fundamental First Amendment values. (GL)
Publication Type: Historical Materials; Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: First Amendment