I remember one political science trip to DC during my college years. I had a chance to talk to the Commissioner of the FCC, Jonathan Steven Adelstein. My question revolved around the lack of open market mechanics in the radio spectrum. Adelstien stated that the FCC doesn’t allow an open market in the radio spectrum because it would quickly become a monopoly.
Even pretending, as Adelstien does, that all monopolies are bad or that a monopoly could really bid to buy up the entire spectrum, what he did not realize is that people have a very powerful button on the radio to prevent evil monopolies from destroying the airwaves: the “off” button. No one is forced to listen to the radio. If some powerful company was trying to buy up all the stations, unless they played what people wanted to hear, the endeavor would quickly become a net loss for the company. It costs money to broadcast, and naturally the spectrum would flow to its most productive use due to price mechanics.
It is almost poetic justice that the FCC is becoming irrelevant in the age of podcasts and Hulu. But, like the little dictators that they are, the FCC is pressing for the government to wield its gun to force radios on all new technology. The FCC is the soviet state, building a wall to prevent the escape of those over whom they exercise power. It is no fun to play dictator when no one is around to control.