Friday, May 25, 2007

Media Licensing, Convergence and Globalization

Media Licensing, Convergence and Globalization

Open Spectrum Foundation

EastBound, Vol. 1, March 13, 2006

For nearly a century, governments have imposed detailed limits on the use of radio - who can use what frequencies and waveforms, at what power levels, in which locations, for what purposes. Licenses summarize these controls for specific users or stations. State control of radio use goes far beyond what is accepted for other media, (publishing, photography, Internet, speech, etc.). Most people think this is necessary to control interference; others felt that broadcasting was too powerful a social influence to be left unregulated.

But recently, there has been explosive growth in short-range, personal uses of radio - Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, cordless phones, etc. The arguments used to justify radio licensing seem inappropriate for such low-power devices. In fact, government regulation of purely personal, informal communications is unnecessarily intrusive and politically risky. Many countries now allow some short-range wireless devices to be used without a license in specific bands. In general, smarter radios go a long way toward solving problems that once seemed to require rigid government controls, giving rise to the open spectrum movement.

At the same time, digitalisation and the widening use of TCP/IP make it possible to transmit nearly any content through any channel. We use our mobile phones to take photographs, send text messages and watch videoclips. Our cable television networks provide Internet access. Seeping out of their original contexts, dissimilar media traditions now mix and clash in interconnecting, hybrid networks. In this situation, it is crucially important to the future of human communication which regulatory norms emerge as default choices and dominant models. Will it be broadcasting, telephony, publishing, Internet or ordinary speech that sets the tone for communications policy in the age of ubiquitous networks? Which regulatory approach do we WANT to set the tone?

Suggested Citation Horvitz, Robert J., "Media Licensing, Convergence and Globalization" . EastBound, Vol. 1, March 13, 2006 Available at SSRN:

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