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1999 Ron Paul Chapter 32

On Regulating Satellite TV

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27 April 1999


1999 Ron Paul 32:1
Mr. PAUL. Mr. Speaker, today we are faced with an unfortunate and false choice between two evils. The false choice is whether the government should ban voluntary exchange or regulate it — as though these were the only two options. More specifically, today’s choice is whether government should continue to maintain its ban on satellite provision of network programming to television consumers or replace that ban by expanding an anti-market, anti-consumer regulatory regime to the entire satellite television industry.

1999 Ron Paul 32:2
H.R. 1554, the Satellite Copyright, Competition, and Consumer Protection Act of 1999, the bill before us today, repeals the strict prohibition of local network programming via satellite to local subscribers BUT in so doing is chock full of private sector mandates and bureaucracy expanding provisions. H.R. 1554, for example, requires Satellite carriers to divulge to networks lists of subscribers, expands the current arbitrary, anti-market, government royalty scheme to network broadcast programming, undermines existing contracts between cable companies and network program owners, violates freedom of contract principles, imposes anti-consumer “must-carry” regulations upon satellite service providers, creates new authority for the FCC to “re-map the country” and further empowers the National Telecommunications Information administration (NTIA) to “study the impact” of this very legislation on rural and small TV markets.

1999 Ron Paul 32:3
This bill’s title includes the word “competition” but ignores the market processes’ inherent and fundamental cornerstones of property rights (to include intellectual property rights) and voluntary exchange unfettered by government technocrats. Instead, we have a so-called marketplace fraught with interventionism at every level. Cable companies are granted franchises of monopoly privilege at the local level. Congresses have previously intervened to invalidate exclusive dealings contracts between private parties (cable service providers and program creators), and have most recently assumed the role of price setter — determining prices at which program suppliers must make their programs available to satellite programing service providers under the “compulsory license.”

1999 Ron Paul 32:4
Unfortunately, this bill expands the government’s role to set the so-called just price for satellite programming. This, of course, is inherently impossible outside the market process of voluntary exchange and has, not surprisingly, resulted instead in “competition” among service providers for government favor rather than consumer-benefiting competition inherent to the genuine market.

1999 Ron Paul 32:5
While it is within the Constitutionally enumerated powers of Congress to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries,” operating a clearinghouse for the subsequent transfer of such property rights in the name of setting a just price or instilling competition seems not to be an economically prudent nor justifiable action under this enumerated power. This can only be achieved within the market process itself.

1999 Ron Paul 32:6
I introduced what I believe is the most pro-consumer, competition-friendly legislation to address the current government barrier to competition in television program provision. My bill, the Television Consumer Freedom Act, would repeal federal regulations which interfere with consumers’ ability to avail themselves of desired television programming. It repeals that federal prohibition and allows satellite service providers to more freely negotiate with program owners for just the programming desired by satellite service subscribers. Technology is now available by which viewers will be able to view network programs via satellite as presented by their nearest network affiliate. This market-generated technology will remove a major stumbling block to negotiations that should currently be taking place between network program owners and satellite service providers. Additionally, rather than imposing the burdensome and anti-consumer “must-carry” regulations on satellite service providers to “keep the playing field level,” my bill allows bona fide competition by repealing the must-carry from the already over-regulated cable industry.

1999 Ron Paul 32:7
Genuine competition is a market process and, in a world of scarce resources, it alone best protects the consumer. It is unfortunate that this bill ignores that option. It is also unfortunate that our only choice with H.R. 1554 is to trade one form of government intervention for another — “ban voluntarily exchange or bureaucratically regulate it?” Unfortunate, indeed.
Notes:

1999 Ron Paul 32:2 bureaucracy expanding provisions probably should be hyphenated: bureaucracy-expanding provisions.

1999 Ron Paul 32:2 requires Satellite carriers probably should not be capitalized: requires satellite carriers.

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