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With a new Congress coming in January, now might be a good time to think about the critical role television general managers play in the national legislative process.
2022 marks 110 years since the federal government first began to issue radio licenses. Since that time, the United States has enjoyed the freest — and unique — system of radio and television in the world.
Unlike most countries, our government does not operate stations, nor does it dictate content. Thanks to the First Amendment, which is also unique, American broadcasters enjoy the right to produce and air programming without government oversight.
Sadly, broadcasters do not enjoy the same absolute First Amendment protection as newspapers. Television stations operate under federally issued licenses using spectrum which, under our system, is owned by the people. That opens the door to regulation.
In an ideal world, broadcasters take the position that federal regulation should be limited to technical issues. That has obviously never been the case. Congress and its appointed administrators have a long history of creating rules and regulations that are sometimes logical, sometime onerous and sometimes a minefield of contradictions.
For instance, the government dictates specific rules regarding children’s programming on television, including length, time of day, age appropriateness and other considerations. Any variance from those rules can lead to large fines. However, the government does not have the right to regulate actual content, nor can the government ask for advance approval. If that sounds murky, it is.
Congress has delegated day-to-day governance