Federal Confusion Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has become quite the activist regulator. No one running anything likes a regulator … but, rationally, regulations and regulators are necessary, especially in a complex modern society. Regulations are necessary partly because the regulators, too, must be watched. But bad policy can produce bad regulations. Bad regulations emerge from not understanding the entire eco-system in a much broader sense than many understand -- like Wheeler’s set-top box gambit.
While he might have won by prodding cable operators to do what they were already doing faster (i.e. expanding the STB to access OTT guides), his move really just proved he doesn’t completely understand the complex inter-relationships of the broader media/internet/communications eco-system.
A long time ago in another lifetime, I wrote a “manifesto” … only slightly exaggerating what I thought was wrong with how those of us in the worlds of media/Internet/communications thought about our businesses and how they fit into the larger picture. My point was that silos had to go. We all needed to look at the greater landscape. All those silos, such as TV, cable, fiber, radio, online, newspaper, video, magazine, pamphlet, e-mail, advertising, conferences, mail, lists, telephone, cellphone, wi-fi, spectrum, satellite and so on and on and on, don’t exist in a vacuum, even if the folks in them act like they do.
We’re all, I believe, in the same boat. And we all have two basic things in common that sets us apart from most other businesses: content and conduit.
No matter how or by whom the content is created it needs to be distributed … there just happen to be tons and tons of choices now. We also have two other necessary things in common: costs and, we hope, revenues.
And, oh yeah, there’s that other common denominator: competition. Just this week, Business Insider headlined “Facebook just took away the last reason to watch TV” because of the live video distribution -- with instant access following -- of the sad denouement of another police shooting incident, this time in Minnesota.
But, we in this eco-system don’t really know how to talk about it … and the FCC doesn’t really understand it … nor does a micro-managing legislature.
Those silos continue to get in the way. They contain inwardly, they don’t allow for inclusive ways to talk and work together.
So, help. Help us find a way to talk about it. Talk about all of the various competitive silos and some of the companies that transcend two or more, such as Comcast, whose ever-growing umbrella covers TV, broadcast, cable, online, video, advertising and more. Or Google, which is today’s big Kahuna in search and advertising and is growing in fiber. Or Fox, which is live-streaming prime time every night (which might make retransmission consent subject to re-pricing).
In other words, it is almost past time for reframing the conversation in terms of the broader media/Internet/communications eco-system. We need to find a way to allow everyone in the broader eco-system to embrace the idea that each is a part of a relatively new, larger and ever-growing and intricately interconnected complex world of media, the Internet and communications … all the in larger sense of each word.
We need to name it, this new world. If we can name it, understanding it might follow. Wouldn’t it be nice to actually understand one another in the new, broader context? Maybe that might lead to more sensible regulations by the regulators. Naturally, we’ll have to teach them a new way of understanding. Sounds impossible, but isn’t. Let’s do it.
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