Fear and Loathing in D.C.: Halloween Nightmares


Washington — In the
spirit of Halloween and
things that go bump inside
the Beltway, Multichannel
invited some Washington
policymakers and
shapers to weigh in with
their picks for the scariest
media policy initiatives or
outcomes that they could
summon up. The request appeared
to scare off a number
of lobbyists, who declined to
drive a stake into the heart
of their most-feared policy
initiatives. Those who
stepped up had some truly
bone-chilling offerings,
with a particular focus on
the network-neutrality rules
that go into effect at the end
of November.

Scott Cleland, chairman,
“The scariest media policy
scenar io is when
communications pol icymakers wax nostalgically
about the good old days of primordial commoncarrier
communications policy as they search for ‘innovative’
tricks to impose common-carrier regulations on the
21st century competitive communications marketplace
of the Internet and cloud computing. Nothing is scarier
than driving down the communications road to the future
with policymaker drivers more focused on looking backwards
over their shoulders at where they’ve been, rather
than looking ahead to where they are going.”

Randolph J. May, president, Free State Foundation:
“My ghoulish nightmare goes like this: When the FCC
recently fi nally removed the Fairness Doctrine from its
rules, all along it had in mind a trick to go with the longoverdue
treat. The agency intends to use its newly adopted
net-neutrality regulations to enforce, in the name of
preventing discrimination, its own view of fairness on the
net. A new Fairness Doctrine for the Internet! Applying
discredited legacy regulations to new media. That is truly
a scary thought.”

Andrew Schwartzman, policy director, Media Access
“The Supreme Court overrules the Red Lion
precedent, which holds that spectrum scarcity justifi es
the current licensing process. One result would be that pirate
radio stations would have the same First Amendment
rights to broadcast as every licensed station. Must-carry
rules for cable and [satellite-TV] would be invalidated. And
broadcasters would have to bid at auction to keep their
spectrum, since they would lose the ‘renewal expectancy’
built into the current law.”

FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn: “That the Ghost of
Prometheus Past, clad in a black robe and wielding a deadly
gavel, continues to haunt us, pleading with us to improve
and repent under threat of future misfortune and woe.”

FCC commissioner Michael Copps: “My scariest scenario
is we continue to be haunted by [the] bad private and
public decisions on media policy that have already caused
so much damage to our news journalism. It’s time to quit
with the tricks and start harvesting the treats of our great
media potential.”

FCC commissioner Robert McDowell: “My Halloween
nightmare would be watching a black hooded unelected
Washington bureaucrat lead our First Amendment rights
into the dark, cold abyss of content regulation under the
banner of ‘the government saving journalism.’ ”

Craig Aaron, president, Free Press: “The president
promises to take ‘a back seat to no one’ on net neutrality.
But chased by zombies, I mean lobbyists, the FCC chairman
retreats and retreats and retreats until there’s almost
nothing left to the rules. But the zombies, I mean lobbyists,
aren’t sated, so they take him to court, and they introduce
legislation that would strip him of all his powers.
But they’re still hungry, so they come for bill shock, and
[Universal Service Fund reform], and media ownership,
too. And as the lobbyist-zombies close in around him on
the eighth floor he huddles in the corner, you hear a faint
whisper: ‘Authority … I should have dealt with authority.’
But it’s too late.”