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Challenges for Audiovisual Regulation

How is media policy and regulation developing in a world moving from broadcasting to audiovisual content on many platforms? Joan Barata presents the agenda

Challenges for Audiovisual Regulation

In a little more than a decade, we will look back on the first century of independent regulation of the broadcasting sector. As part of the so-called New Deal, and under the leadership of US President Franklin D Roosevelt, a congressional statute of 1934 created the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as an independent agency in charge of regulating interstate communications (although its competencies were basically focused
on radio licensing), replacing the Federal Radio Commission. The FCC is nowadays considered one of the most important independent communications regulatory agencies and many countries look at its decisions and functioning as an example to follow.

In Europe, independent regulation of what was called the broadcasting sector started much later, during the last quarter of the 20th century. In this case, independent regulation is linked to the gradual liberalisation and opening of broadcasting markets in traditionally state-monopolised markets. Such privatisation took place in parallel with other economic sectors such as the distribution of energy, telecoms, transportation etc. Independent authorities were created to guarantee proper regulation and the protection of public interest in sectors where state operators were also in place.

Independent regulators are entrusted with the responsibility of interpreting and applying legal provisions according to high technical and professional skills. As legislation can only set general principles but is not generally able to anticipate all the issues which can be raised in highly complex economic sectors, regulators have the difficult task of creating ‘ad-hoc norms’ - that is, to transform general legal principles into appropriate and enforceable binding resolutions.

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