Friday, January 9, 2009

Talkin 'Bout the FCC

With a new federal administration on its way, there's been a lot of talk about possible changes at the Federal Communications Commission — the agency charged with regulating the public spectrum (including television and radio broadcasting), as well as "interstate telecommunications" (like the phone lines, radio and cable). Increasingly, the FCC is called upon to deal with internet issues like net neutrality. So you can see why people are paying attention to how things shake out over there.

Some, like law professor Lawrence Lessig, have advocated for scrapping the FCC and replacing it with an innovation-oriented agency. Others have called for a more measured approach. On January 5, 2009, the Washington group Public Knowledge co-presented (with Silicon Flatirons) "Reforming the Federal Communications Commission"— a conference that examined the agency's history while discussing its possible future.

Now, Public Knowledge and has launched a website "to provide information and solicit your suggestions about what changes need to take place at the FCC for the agency to restore the public’s confidence that it will meet its legal obligation to promote the 'public interest, convenience and necessity.'"

The site contains papers and opinions from leading minds in the field. It's pretty wonky stuff, but there's tons of good information about how the FCC can better serve the public interest while allowing for marketplace innovations.

So what does any of this have to do with music? Plenty, actually. Whether its the airwaves or the internet, artists need to be able to reach potential audiences. That's why FMC has worked to fight consolidation in radio station ownership and stop payola, both of which have kept too much talent off the dial. And it's why we support net neutrality, which lets all artists — established or developing — compete on a level online playing field with the biggest companies.

FMC wants more artists to be able to connect with more listeners, so we look at changes in the policymaking landscape as an opportunity to get some stuff right on behalf of musicians. If you want to know more about these issues, you should check out our D.C. Policy Day on February 11, 2009. As always, we're offering musician scholarships — click here to apply. And stay tuned for more news about this exciting event!

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