The rise of IPTV — getting video content on-demand and streaming over the Internet — is an intriguing and powerful new development. There’s a potentially dark side to it to, however. The service provider who controls the connection to your home will also be empowered to control what content you get to see.
Broadcast television and radio has long been regulated by the US government to encourage free speech and public access to the airways. In part, these controls were put in place in return for letting the broadcasters use part of the public’s radio spectrum. Cable and telephone companies don’t use those frequencies, and since their services must be purchased — rather than accessed over the air for free — the government has put far fewer regulations on them. Even satellite subscription services enjoy much more freedom from government control; that’s one reason why Howard Stern is moving to a satellite network where the FCC is not going to give him such a hard time for his on-air behavior.
The downside of this lack of regulation is that the providers may be in a position to block access to programming of which they don’t approve. This country already seems to be stratifying into separate segments that aren’t interested in hearing other points of view or engaging in debate. If the new “broadcast” media content is controlled to eliminate some points of view or subjects, it may result in a less-informed public. And I find that prospect to be discouraging.