An Assembly of Pieces

James Anderson Merritt's piecemeal thoughts and observations, and the occasional attempt to put some of the pieces together.
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All material except cited quotations Copyright (C) 2004-2008 by James Anderson Merritt. All rights reserved.
Sunday, May 16, 2004

The Santa Cruz Sentinel, my hometown newspaper, printed yet another of my letters to the editor. This one was in response to their recent editorial, in celebration of World Press Freedom Day.

Here is the text of the letter that I submitted:

It is said that "freedom of the press belongs to him who owns one." Suppose there were a Federal Print Communications Commission, to which the Sentinel must apply, even to own or upgrade its presses? Suppose that, if you published without FPCC approval, they would come to your offices and smash or confiscate your presses, or empty your bank accounts to satisfy onerous fines levied upon you?

If the Sentinel were a TV or radio station, that scenario would be realistic. Ask Free Radio Santa Cruz about the Federal Communications Commission. Then ask yourself: as excellent transmission equipment is cheap, as almost anyone can own the electronic equivalent of a printing press, and as technological advances have opened up enough "room" on the airwaves for everyone who wants to broadcast, what is the point of a government agency that dictates who can and cannot enjoy "freedom" of the electronic press?

Santa Cruz

The Sentinel published my letter on May 9, 2004. According to Santa Cruz Indymedia, Free Radio Santa Cruz moved to new facilities and permanently to a new frequency the day before. Just a few days later, on May 13th, the FCC came knocking on their door.

This was just one of those letters I felt compelled to write at the time, for no particular reason, other than it seemed like the right thing to do. I am stunned by the unforeseen timeliness and relevance of my little bit of protest. My experience just goes to show: it's never too soon to speak out against government gone wrong.

If the airwaves belong to "the people," then "the people" ought to be able to set up an electronic soapbox without needing government permission, just as they have historically been able to do in a public park or on a public streetcorner. If, instead, the airwaves belong to those who go to the trouble and expense of establishing transmission facilities, then all we need -- at most -- is a court or similar agency to sort out competing claims, and charges of trespass (interference). Either way, the FCC, as currently chartered and operated, does seem to be the wrong agency for the job.

If you don't like the FCC's unconstitutional stranglehold over the airwaves, or their heavy-handed tactics, or anything else about that agency, please let your local media and federal officials know. Quiz your candidates for federal office about their views on the FCC, and please let their answers inform your vote in November.


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