Deregulation and Market Structure: The Case of Television

For half a century, a television broadcast license from the Federal Communications Commission was a permit to mint money. Over the past two decades, though, regulatory and technological change have altered the very meaning of “television” and dramatically redistributed rents across the U.S. television industry. Relationships among television stations, broadcast networks, cable and satellite distribution systems, program producers, and viewers have increasingly been shaped by market forces rather than FCC regulations. This deregulation has had significant consequences for industry structure, driving mergers and acquisitions as industry participants have sought to increase their bargaining leverage with respect to one another. This paper will consider the television industry as a case study of how deregulation has disadvantaged small firms and encouraged consolidation throughout the U.S. economy.