Wired nation term paper

Write an eight paper about an important media regulation decision or policy. Your paper should outline the history of this policy and cite key government or legal documents relating to its origins and development. How did this decision represent a “constitutive choice,” to use Paul Starr’s phrase. How did it impact broadcasting/telecommunications environment? Do you think that the policy served the “interest, convenience, and necessity” of the public?

Here are some term paper topics. Most link to stories I’ve written for arstechnica.com. I’m not interested in you repeating what I’ve written or opined in these stories. I want you to follow the links to documentation and come up with your own conclusions.

Violence on Television

Write a paper about if/how the FCC should regulate violence on television. Read this report. More comments on the issue here and here. Your task: Reading this material, what are your recommendations for how to regulate violence on television to protect children. Follow up a few of the sources in the report. What’s the public interest here? What constitutive choice would you make?

The battle over fleeting expletives

Should the FCC be allowed to punish broadcasters for fleeting expletives? What are fleeting expletives? Here’s the FCC’s decision on the question regarding Fox Television’s Billboard Music Awards. Here’s a story about the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals rebuke to the FCC. And the 2nd Circuit’s decision (if server is down try this one or read summary here). Then the FCC appealed to the Supreme Court (read the pdf at the bottom). Then read this story about artists urging the Supremes to reject the FCC (and read the pdf file at the bottom). And this story about former FCC Commissioners urging rejection (and the pdf file at the bottom). What’s should the Supreme Court do about this problem? What’s the constitutive choice here? What do you think would be the decision that would best reflect the public interest?

The FCC’s rules against pretexting

In 2007 the FCC established rules against “pretexting”—fooling phone companies into disclosing your cell phone records and then selling the records privately or over the Internet. But the agency’s Order also gave the FBI and Department of Homeland Security first dibs over this stolen data, giving them the option to keep it a while before letting you know that it’s been stolen.

Read the Order, and read key documents in the proceeding on this in 2007 and 2006. These would include FBI/Homeland Security filings. Read this, this, and this response from the wireless trade association. What’s the constitutive choice here? Do you think that what the FCC decided was in the public interest?

White space

The Federal Communications Commission has authorized the use of unlicensed devices to send and receive broadband in the “white space” channels. What does this mean? Read the FCC’s Order and this article by Nate Anderson of Arstechnica.com. Who wants white space devices? Why? Who opposed them? Why?

Go through the FCC’s proceeding and pick three substantial filings for and against unlicensed devices. What were the arguments for or against them? What’s the “constitutive choice” here? Do you think that the FCC acted in the public interest in its decision? Why?

Product Placement

The FCC is still trying to decide how much to regulate product placement on television. What is product placement? What are the different arguments for and against the practice (follow the links in the article)? Read the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and the positions of different groups on this issue. What do you think the “constitutive choice” should be regarding this controversial practice?


Earlier this year the FCC ran an investigation of BusRadio, the streaming Internet company that pipes music and talk into school buses. Many groups complained that kids shouldn’t be forced to listen to an ad based service. What are the issues here? If you were writing the report that Congress asked the FCC to produce, what would you recommend that lawmakers do (if anything) about BusRadio?

The MusicFirst petition regarding the Performance Rights Act

An organization that purports to represent musicians has complained to the FCC that some radio stations are refusing to play the songs of artists who support the Performance Rights Act. What is the Performance Rights Act? Read MusicFirst’s Petition for Declaratory Relief and the National Association of Broadcasters’ response. Should radio stations be allowed to boycott artists who support it? Does the FCC have any regulatory power here? Should it?

The iPhone and Google Voice

The Federal Communications Commission recently launched an investigation into why the AT&T networked iPhone has yet to allow its users to access Google Voice. What’s at stake in this issue? Read this article about the Carterfone decision and the Skype petition. Should the FCC apply the “open device” principle to all smart mobile phones? Why or why not?

The Sirius XM merger

In 2008 the FCC approved the merger of the Sirius and XM satellite radio services. What were the arguments for and against the merger? Do you think that the FCC made the right decision? What decision would you have made?

Which is more efficient: TV broadcasting or mobile wireless?

The wireless industry says it has a problem. It doesn’t have enough spectrum to meet the enormous demand for smartphones like the BlackBerry and iPhone. Read this report, commissioned by the Consumer Electronics Association and this filing by CTIA – The Wireless Association. Then read this response from the National Association of Broadcasters. The FCC has released a new public notice asking for feedback on this issue. Should spectrum owned by the broadcasters be leased or auctioned to the mobile services? Why or why not? What’s your constitutive choice here?


Double spaced? Yes. Reference system? Use endnotes. Can I use wikipedia? No. You cannot use any source that does not disclose its author (besides FCC documents). How do I approach this paper overall? I will explain this in class. What happens if you catch me plagiarizing? I will do everything I can to get you thrown out of UC Santa Cruz. Short of this I will flunk you and turn your name over to the Provost of your college.

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