First, it should be obvious that the EU, through its “Television Without Frontiers,” is attempting to stifle free speech. Video bloggers and our audiences, regardless of our politics, should see the EU’s move as a threat to our own free speech. But I can anticipate a few arguments against our stand so I’d like to deal with them.
Some might argue in the EU’s defense that what it’s doing is no different from what the FCC does and has done for decades with respect to broadcast spectrum space. But that is an apples and oranges comparison. When broadcast technology was first invented and when radio stations began to appear, there was only one spectrum space available to them. It’s what we know as AM, for Amplitude Modulation, today. As more and more stations appeared, chaos ensued. Stations in different cities were broadcasting on the same frequencies, there were stations out of Mexico that were broadcasting at 500,000 watts on the same frequencies of some US stations and drowning them out, and it quickly became apparent that if there wasn’t some regulation of the limited available spectrum space, radio would soon turn into a wall of noise and interference. Coupled with that, the government recognized the usefulness of of reserving some spectrum space for police, fire, rescue, the military, public broadcasting, etc. So the government began to regulate how the spectrum space, which it regarded as public property, would be used–what frequencies would be available for which kinds of broadcasts, what tower wattages would be available, and so forth. It was about bringing some order to chaos, in the initial years. Like all government agencies, the FCC has experienced some mission creep, but its initial reason to be was to impose some order on broadcasting so that it could grow and thrive as an industry.
The EU’s “Television Without Frontiers” effort isn’t about any of that. There is no limited spectrum space on the Internet, and as long as domain name regulation remains in force there’s no worry of one web TV station stepping on the signal of any other. The EU’s effort is all about grabbing power and dictating what is and isn’t acceptable speech. They don’t even attempt to hide their intentions, but openly state that they want to stamp out “hate speech.” Well, hate speech is in the eyes of the beholder, and you can be sure that the Brussels bureaucrats who will be in charge of the TWF will not play fair.
In some ways, the TWF is analogous to the current drive to bring back the so-called Fairness Doctrine in the US. That effort is about anything but fairness. Fairness is letting all voices be heard and seeing which ones find an audience and which ones don’t. The Fairness Doctrine imposes speech codes that stifle free speech. And so will the TWF stifle free speech, if it’s allowed to become the law of Europe. And in the Vent, Michelle is exactly right–what happens in Europe has a way of getting into our own national dialogue, especially if the Democrats take power. They look to Europe for leadership instead of looking to American ideals to guide them. So the EU speech code bell doesn’t just toll for 18 Doughty Street, it tolls for American video bloggers as well.
Putting that aside, though, video bloggers of all political and apolitical persuasions should regard the EU’s TWF for what it is–a threat to freedom.
More: Totally unrelated other than by basic philosophy, you can’t stop the signal. But the EU will try very, very hard.
Yes, I know–“Can’t Stop the Signal” was the movie’s campaign slogan, not the series. But the series is much better than the movie. And I liked the movie quite a bit anyway.
Update (Allahpundit): There are ways to suppress free speech on the Internet without directly regulating content. Those crafty mullahs!