by Ithiel de Sola Pool ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 1, 1983
MIT political scientist Pool's chief contention echoes his title: contrary to the viewers with-alarm (like David Burnham, above), ""electronic technology is conducive to freedom."" Pool proceeds from a free-market bias, and from a technocratic weakness for the electronic cottage (or Cambridge); nonetheless he lucidly develops a great deal of complex material about the new communications environment, its technology and free-speech linkages, set in a historical context; and on that basis presents a clearly organized, intellectually sophisticated (if sometimes myopic) argument. In the American past, there have been three models of communication: the print model (newspapers, magazines, books), protected from regulation by the First Amendment; the common carrier model (the telephone, telegraphs, and postal systems), regulated by the government to assure universal service and fair access; and the broadcast model, government-regulated on the grounds that the resources are scarce, or not easily divisible, and therefore might be monopolized by a privileged few. Pool's purpose is to show that the broadcast model does not generally apply to the new electronic media--though he does admit of some divergences from the print model that would require adherence to the common carrier concept. On the side of deregulation: ""The use of coaxial cable and of very high frequencies has eroded spectrum shortage. . . . Satellite communications has reinforced this trend, for nothing prevents there being several competing satellite transmission organizations."" Or, in the emerging area of electronic publishing: ""electronic information systems are in the same business as the print media. . . . It would confuse the mechanism with the function to subject data networks and storage devices to legal precedents from the previous electronic media rather than to the law of print."" There are economic, political and civil-rights problems with the argument. Pool rests, for one thing, on the new model of monopoly newspaper, sanctioned by the courts: responsibly, he notes, it prints divergent opinions (columns, letters to the editor); irresponsibly, says Bagdikian (above) and others, it caters to the market for its advertising. Pool does assert, however, that ""where monopoly exists by public favor, public access is a reasonable condition."" The grounds of the debate are set out here.
Pub Date: April 1, 1983
Page Count: -
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1983
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