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Digital Television and the Quid Pro Quo

Author

Listed:
  • Hazlett Thomas W.

    (American Enterprise Institute)

  • Spitzer Matthew L.

    (Caltech and University of Southern California)

Abstract

The recent zero-priced award of $11-70 billion in digital TV (DTV) licenses by the federal government occurred when auctions had been initiated for non-broadcast licenses and when the seven decade-old regime of 'public trusteeship' in broadcasting had become famous for licensee reneging on promised obligations. Policymakers nonetheless declined to auction DTV licenses when enacting the Telecommunications Act of 1996, rejecting a plea from the Senate Majority Leader. This paper provides an overview of the episode and investigates three basic questions. (1) Why does Congress continue a regulatory system that routinely fails to provide the benefits it is supposed to generate? (2) Why did the National Association of Broadcasters propose high definition television as a way of keeping land mobile operators off an unused spectrum? (3) Why did Congress delegate to the FCC the decision to award licenses for digital television broadcasting?

Suggested Citation

  • Hazlett Thomas W. & Spitzer Matthew L., 2000. "Digital Television and the Quid Pro Quo," Business and Politics, De Gruyter, vol. 2(2), pages 1-46, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:buspol:v:2:y:2000:i:2:n:2
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    Cited by:

    1. Thomas W. Hazlett & David Porter & Vernon Smith, 2011. "Radio Spectrum and the Disruptive Clarity of Ronald Coase," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(S4), pages 125-165.

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