The responsibility of the FCC and their regulations are often questioned if they are necessary or not. By examining Horwitz’s “The Evolution of the American Telecommunication System and the Origin of Communication Regulation. ,” one could take the side that the regulation of media is necessary. Regulation of media is necessary to prevent a monopoly– which is one company controlling the entire market. If there was a monopoly on media then the company could charge and price whatever they want and only give service to those they wanted to.
By having media regulations this is not able to happen. Natural monopolies in wired carriers, which are monopolies approved by the FCC, keep costs down and prevent a cluttering of wiring in the air or ripping up streets to install underground wiring. The first sign of natural monopoly was with AT&T and the telephone. According to Horowitz, it states: “Under the leadership of Theodor Vail, AT&T maintain the telephony constitution a natural monopoly. One policy, one system, and universal service’ was Vail’s ot-reapted slogan. ” (Horowitz, Page 99) Vail argued that by having more then one provider there would be a waste of resources and if there was one provider pooling its resources they would be able to provide a better service to the customer. Though this might be true, unless there is regulation by the government this idea of natural monopoly would be horrible. Now the FCC regulates any kind of natural monopoly that exists within universal carriers of a media.
The beginning of regulation began with the start of large scale communication, other then print, in 1835 when Samuel Morse proved a signal that could transmitted a message by wire. Morse used pulses of current to provide a written code on a strip of paper. This code became known as the Morse Code. Morse gave a public demonstration in 1838 to congress, but it took congress over five years to fund Morse’s experiment of the telegraph. Congress funded Morse $30,000 to construct a 40 mile experiment from Washington to Baltimore, using telegraph wire.
It took six years before a message was sent and received over the telegraph wire. This was the first time a message had been transferred other then print or word of mouth. Western Union became the main provider of the telegraph service, and became a monopoly in 1867. The telegraph created the umbrella of commerce, which was the first time the government intervened with communications. According to Horwitz, a common carrier obligation was established for all carriers that provided service for the telegraph. Telegraph companies resemble railroad companies and other common carries, in that they are instruments of commerce and in that they exercise a public employment and are therefore bound to serve all customers alike without discriminations, they have doubtless a duty to the public to receive to the extent of there capacity all messages clearly and intelligible written and to transmit them upon reasonable terms but they are not common carriers, there duties are different and are performed in different ways and they are not subject the same liabilities. (Horowitz, Page 95, 96) What this law meant was that there could be no discrimination in who the provider wanted to extend service to. In 1895 the first radio message was transmitted by Marconi. Radio area waves were open to who ever could make a device to transmit messages to other people with the same device. Broadcasting became more and more popular. According to Horwitz, “broadcasting-the dissemination of electrical messages through the airwaves to an undifferentiated audience-may not have been contemplated, but it was inherited in the technology of radio. (Horowitz, Page 112) Radio became more and more popular and the government stepped in like they did with the telegraph and telephone and began regulating radio. The first major regulation was the Radio Act of 1912. Before this, radio waves were open to the public. The airwaves started to become too crowded and the U. S. government decided to take action. The Radio Act of 1912 established government control over the airwaves and created guidelines for issuing licenses and distributing radio airwaves.
The Radio Act of 1927 was the second major act that was established to regulate the media industry. This act created the Federal Radio Communications (FRC), which was responsible for giving licenses to broadcasters. This act also made it so that the radio airwaves were a public resource. As a result, broadcasters were required to serve the public interest. The regulations of broadcasted media and the regulation of print media are different. The regulation of print deals with copyright laws.
Anyone could publish anything they want but if some one uses someone else’s words without proper notation they could be sued. Print is regulated more when dealing with news print; for example the newspaper. Most print media would not use profanity or any kind of naked pictures. Print media is mostly written based on ethics. The writer tries not to take sides or out right seem bias towards one particular side. Broadcast media like radio have different kinds of regulations. In order to have air time on the radio one needs to have a license.
Radio also must provide a public service toward the listener. Radio just like print media tends to stay away from profanity and over sexual connotations. Print media usually has a fee, whereas, radio is free to the public. Both of these media’s have regulations but have different kinds of regulations from the FCC. Overall, the world of mass media has many regulations that exist. These regulations are decided by the FCC, which is an independent government agency created under the Communications Act of 1934. At the beginning the FCC was responsible for regulating broadcast, telegraph, and telephone.
Now the FCC has expanded its regulations to include new communication technologies such as: the satellite, microwave, cellular telephones, PCS service and private radio communications. As one could see, the responsibilities of the FCC are necessary in monitoring both the delivery system and the actual media itself. Overall, by using Horwitz’s “The Evolution of the American Telecommunication System and the Origin of Communication Regulation. ,” one could tell the history of regulation and how important it really is to the people.