Edwards and the FCC ownership caps

The anti-FCC bandwagon grew today, with would-be Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards hopping on. He released a letter today to Chairman Powell saying that he opposes increasing the national broadcast ownwership cap. His argument seemingly hinges on the point that “many Americans” do not have cable and satellite television, so allowing more concentration in broadcast television would hurt those folks by reducing diversity.

I am sympathetic to those who feel media concentration has gotten out of hand, but critics will have to make better arguments than Edwards’. About 90% of U.S. homes subscribe to multi-channel services, and the remaining 10% are the recipients of this implict subsidy.

Further, if the crux of this debate is the damaging effect of media concentration through reduced competition, then let’s just have it out as an antitrust issue via the DoJ. Blanket prohibitions against cross-ownership, or against arbitrary numbers of companies owned in certain markets, are difficult to justify economically.