Tuesday, May 20, 2003

SUPER DMCA AND MEDIA CONSOLIDATION Writing on Tech Central Station, Glenn Reynolds argues that the Super DMCA is an attempt by existing old media (telecom, cable) to restrict competition in the same fashion that Ma Bell used to. Because of this attempt to squelch competition by, for instance, preventing you from accessing a network with your wireless Bluetooth card without having to buy or rent that card from the network owner, this reduces the competition among media outlets that would have otherwise allowed for the FCC to permit concentration of broadcast and print media. Anyway, Reynolds explains it better.

But it is also helpful to consider whether the concentration of media such as radio has improved or reduced the quality of radio since 1996. There's no need to consider the impact of new media, such as the internet or satellite radio, because so far they have had no effect. The concentration of radio into fewer hands has not only lessened the "diversity" of voices, its really squashed innovation. The real point to competition is not about some feel-good sociologist's dream of skin-deep "diversity", but about innovation. Monopoly doesn't encourage innovation, competition does.

We haven't had a break-out new music style since radio was concentrated. Why? Because Clear Channel focus groups its formats and therefore takes no risks -- doesn't innovate. A focus group never would have decided to play Nirvana or even Pearl Jam when they could have gone on happily playing 80s pop. But they'll certainly decide to play knock-offs of those previous styles.

It's about innovation. The Super-DMCA will stop it with respect to emerging new technologies. Further consolidation will stop it not just because the internet is failing to compete with radio, but because radio doesn't compete with itself.

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