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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4387/the-baptists-are-the-bootleggers-fcc-edition/

The Baptists Are The Bootleggers: FCC Edition

November 30, 2005 by

Televangelists on Unusual Side in Indecency Debate:

WASHINGTON — Trying to preserve their electronic pulpits, the nation’s religious broadcasters find themselves in the unusual position of fighting an effort by anti-indecency groups to thwart channels offering racy programming.

The issue involves a debate over whether cable companies should continue offering subscribers mainstream and niche channels in bundles, or let them buy what they want on an a la carte basis.

The gist of the article is that in the past, some televangelists have pushed for ‘decency standards’ on all channels (i.e. punishment for ‘wardrobe malfunctions‘). The way the current system is set-up is that channel operators (i.e. networks) bundle certain programs together which are sold as one branded package (e.g. ESPN picks shows to place into certain timeslots, continuously tweaking the lineup throughout the year). In addition, cable companies themselves also bundle certain channels together in packages (e.g. ABC Family, Disney, Nickelodeon).

In addition, many cable companies currently have legalized monopolies on broadcasting rights for a certain geographic area. And to complicate things further, you have contractual packaging deals between these cable companies and the networks that include a wide variety of programming (from children’s cartoon shows to “adult” movies).

Members of Congress and various consumer groups are now pushing for legislation that would unbundled the packaging deals with channels, so that consumers can pick and choose the particular channels they wish to buy, without having to pay for ones they do not want.

Do to relatively low demand, many of the televangelists believe that their market share would decline if unbundling were to occur, from the article:

Christian broadcasters, including such big names as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, worry that changing the current system will cut into viewership. If that puts them on the opposite side of where they usually stand in the indecency debate, Crouch said, “so be it.”

But Winters contends that religious broadcasters oppose more cable choice because they “are very fearful of losing any market share.”

To preserve viewership, big religious broadcasters such as Trinity, which owns 33 TV stations, and Daystar, operator of stations in San Francisco and 44 other U.S. cities, are pushing the government to expand regulations requiring that cable operators carry local, over-the-air channels such as theirs.

That has put them at odds with other religious programmers that don’t own TV stations, such as INSP and Gospel Music Channel. They fear their shows will be crowded out by channels that cable operators have to carry.

“I don’t think the answer to indecency is necessarily more religious programming,” said Gospel Music President Charles Humbard, son of televangelist pioneer Rex Humbard. “The answer is for people who know better to correct what’s going on … by extending broadcasting indecency rules to cable.”

Again, what many commentators and legislators have failed to discuss is the legalized geographic monopolies they have created with cable companies. By deregulating the industry from the very bottom, issues of decency standards would become a non-issue that would be regulated via the private market.

In the meantime however, in their frenetic effort to create ‘family-friendly-only’ channels, some of the Baptists have become the bootleggers*, trying to unilaterally benefit by forcing their product onto other providers vis-à-vis legislation – having their cake and eating it too.

More: 1 2 3 4

*[Some Baptists are not only trying to promote a certain kind of moral code through legislation, but they also want to monetarily benefit from this subsidized market place (higher barriers to entry and increased market share via meeting the "family friendly" standards that they themselves created in the first place). Thus, they essentially benefit in every way under the current system.]

{ 3 comments }

ANM December 1, 2005 at 12:00 am

“free-speech advocates who are fearful that the unbundling of cable channels is being used by anti-indecency advocates as a tool against provocative shows.”
That’s false free speech because
A) Free speech includes choosing what you want to hear. Changing to the “ala carte” method promotes free speech, by allowing you greater freedom to tailor your choices (thereby you give funds only to those channels you deem worthy). Free speech does not mean shoving objectionable material in your face (not at all to advocate indeceny regulation).
B) Free speech cannot exist when (FCC) bureaucrats are breathing down your back in wait of some nebulous indecency violation.

The best short term solution is (short of abolishing the FCC) letting the companies do what they want. Perhaps they will continue to offer both ala carte and the status quo, albeit with modified prices.

Jim Bradley December 1, 2005 at 12:24 pm

ANM — Free speech isn’t “choosing what you want to hear”. Clearly a judge handing down a sentence isn’t contrary to the free speech rights of the defendant.

Free speech is a private property right: i.e. you’ve the right to speak on your own property to people who come willingly to hear you. Public property is more complex case, and to the extent we can minimize public property the better. Public property creates many problems (e.g.: management by the state that you are forced to pay for irrespective of the quality of the product or the correct use of the property).

No one has a right to buy things the way they want, only to buy what is offered for sale. One cannot demand (i.e. use force against a seller) that a car be offered “in parts” if the seller does not desire to offer his property in that manner.

Cable companies should not be subject to any bundling or unbundling by force of government.

aaron December 3, 2005 at 7:16 pm

Well, I am a Baptist and let first say that a very small fraction of televangelists are Baptists.

However, this is just another attempt to use the system in place to try and exert monopolistic powers and market coercion.

The real issue is that the FCC, by its very existence, creates the problem that we as free-marketers try to correct by way of privatization and deregulation.

I just wish that everyone was free to choose and that the FCC did not exist in the first place to create these issues.

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