Political issues

Figure 3: The “spectrum Police” at work in JakartaFigure 3: The “spectrum Police” at work in Jakarta

The importance of spectrum as a communications enabler cannot be overstated. Television and radio broadcasting have a strong influence in shaping public perceptions on any issue, and have been used overtly for political propaganda. It has been said, for example, that Kennedy’s election as president of the U.S. was due mainly to his television campaign. During the cold war, The Voice of America, Moscow Radio and Radio Havana Cuba were very effective ways to sway a global audience.

More recent examples include the influence of CNN and Al Jazeera in shaping public interpretation of current events.

At a national level, the role of radio and television in steering public opinion is often quite overt. Berlusconi’s ascent to power in Italy was made possible by his control of commercial television. It is therefore not surprising that governments everywhere exert a strong control of spectrum access and have shut down broadcasting stations that aired “inconvenient” viewpoints on allegedly technical or legal grounds.

Spectrum used for two-way communication, including mobile and internet technologies, has also been subject to government interventions, especially in cases of political unrest.

Economic interests also play a vital role in broadcasting. Concentration of broadcast media ownership has had demonstrable negative impact on freedom of expression and unbiased reporting whether that concentration was in government or private sector ownership. The increasing economic value of communication spectrum whether in broadcast or telecommunications increases the likelihood of influence.

We can conclude that the electromagnetic spectrum is a natural resource whose usefulness is heavily conditioned by technological, economic and political factors.

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