COMMUNICATIONS DEREGULATION: The Unleashing of America's Communications Industry by Jeremy Tunstall

COMMUNICATIONS DEREGULATION: The Unleashing of America's Communications Industry

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A wide-ranging and worldly-wise overview that examines the short-term results as well as the longer-range implications of the US Government's deregulation of the communications industries. A professor of sociology at London's City University, Tunstall traces the consensus resolve to give a relatively free hand to broadcasters, cable TV operators, computer makers, phone companies, and allied enterprises back to the mid-1970's. The trend reached a visible peak in January, 1982, with the dismissal of antitrust charges against IBM and the breakup of AT&T. In the meantime, there have been other substantive, albeit less publicized, developments. Space, to illustrate, is no longer NASA's private preserve; it has been opened to commercial competition. In addition to a greater willingness to give the marketplace a chance, Tunstall observes, there's general agreement that technology has made traditional boundaries irrelevant and, in many cases, impracticable. He points out, for example, that satellites are, via cable, part of the mass media; similarly, computer-based telecommunications systems can handle voice, video, and/or data traffic, while the proliferation of VCRs elicits muted hoorays from Hollywood. The mere fact of deregulation does not amount to policy, he cautions; nor does deregulation insulate the communications industries from political pressures. Tunstall's cynical but probably accurate assessment is that contending interest groups now call most of the plays, with lawmakers, regulatory authorities, and the judiciary serving mainly as referees. Among other things, he concludes: ""Lobbyists have become the foot soldiers of communications policy: the suppliers of research, phone calls, and letter-writing campaigns as well as the carriers of rumor, the financiers of political campaigns, the bush telegraph of the political tribes."" In the main, Tunstall steers clear of predicting outcomes. He does, however, offer lively, informed progress reports on a broad spectrum of fields consequentially involved in the deregulation revolution. Of necessity, then, an interim audit, but one well worth the attention of a large audience.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1986
Publisher: Basil Blackwell