Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Rights and Reason: Adelstein Defends Diversity

After several months of political wrangling, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to approve Univision Communications' $3.1 billion purchase of Hispanic Broadcasting Corporation, a merger that stregnthens the nation's largest Spanish-language media company. Jonathan Adelstein, a Democrat, was one of the two FCC commissioners to vote against permitting the deal. His rationalization, not surprisingly, is rooted in the Democratic Party's main recurring theme--diversity:
Adelstein said the "FCC is turning a deaf ear to millions of Spanish-speaking Americans."

"By allowing this transaction to go forward with no protections for consumers, the FCC denies Spanish speakers their right to receive a diversity of perspectives over the nation's airwaves," Mr. Adelstein said.
How exactly does a group obtain a "right" to diversity? In the absence of private property owners to develop commercial television stations, there would be no "perspectives" at all over the airwaves. What would Adelstein do if there was only one Spanish-language media company to begin with? Or what about the various language groups that don't have any broadcast stations dedicated to their interests? Should the FTC force the networks to develop "Russian-language" or "French-language" formats to satisfy the "right" to diverse programming?

Adelstein's view also assumes, as most anti-business regulation does, that consumers are incapable of making their demands known to the marketplace in the absence of government intervention. If Spanish-speaking Americans are dissatisfied with their media choices, they will act accordingly within the market, and if a large company like Univision doesn't satisfy consumer demand, those consumers will seek other alternatives, even if that means looking for entertainment and information outside the limited spectrum of broadcast television and radio--say through cable and satellite television and, um, that Internet thing.

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