Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal


Paul Cowling


This article examines the Federal Communications Commission's public interest principle of localism and its role in media ownership regulation, particularly the National Television Station Ownership rule. The article explains the enigmatic concept of localism by approaching it from several angles, including other regulatory spheres, such as banking and antitrust; Canadian nationalism; historical broadcast regulation; federalism; and contemporary debates on media ownership. While * explaining what localism means, the article identifies the territorial impulse behind media ownership regulation and its link with territorial reference points in the self-determination of national and local communities. In doing so, the article constructs a simple yet unique account that offers an alternative to unsubstantiated assumptions and the public choice critique. The author argues that localism and localist ownership regulation reflect the tension between the persistent relevance of territorial parameters in defining communities and the media's increasing. capacity to defy territory. The article thereby goes beyond the ideological dichotomy between regulatory and marketplace models for realizing the public interest and offers a balanced approach, enriched with political, cultural and economic perspectives, that refreshes the debate between proponents and critics of media ownership regulation and its liberalization.