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One of the most enduring tenets of U.S. television policy has been the commitment to localism. I suggest that the FCC's localism policy can be disaggregated into four, more specific commitments: (1) the preference for locally oriented over nationally oriented programming, (2) the preference for free (i.e., advertising-supported) over pay television, (3) the preference for single-channel over multi-channel television technologies, and (4) the preference for incumbents over new entrants and new technologies. I then analyze each of these commitments in light of what is perhaps the most distinctive feature of the television industry, which is the fact that its cost structure gives television programming many of the qualities of a public good, and conclude that each of these four commitments is fundamentally flawed. I then employ the public goods analysis I develop to critique the manner in which policy makers are regulating conventional television broadcasting, cable television, direct broadcast satellite systems (DBS), digital television, and third-generation wireless devices (3G).

Publication Title

Emory Law Journal

Publication Citation

52 Emory L. J. 1579 (2003)