Edward Wyatt and Jennifer Steinhauer, “Congress Will Auction Public Airwaves to Pay for Benefits,” New York Times, February 17, 2012
“The measure would be a rare instance of the government compensating private companies with the proceeds from an auction of public property — broadcast licenses — once given free.”
My Comment (the comment can be found at nytimes.com here)
Yes, Congress, the President, and the broadcast/media lobby are calling this an “auction.” And yes, there is an auction. And yes, some of the auction receipts will go into the public treasury. And yes, this will repurpose spectrum to much more valued public uses. But what this really is, if you read and understand the implications of the fine print, is a very cleverly designed giveaway of tens of billions of dollars worth of public assets to the powerful broadcast/media lobby. We’ve all heard of bills that are presented publicly as in the public interest but are in fact special interest giveaways. This is one of the great classics of that Orwellian, doublespeak genre. Indeed, it may be the largest example of such a Congressional giveaway so far in the 21st century. But it’s been brilliantly constructed, offering members of Congress lots of room for plausible deniability. The million dollar a year lobbyists who framed and packaged the “incentive auction” part of this legislation probably deserve a bonus, maybe even a billion dollar bonus, which would still only be a small fraction of what they’ve earned for their clients.