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Communications Law

communications law

Communication is one facet of human life that has gone through so many changes ever since time immemorial. From the telegraph, telephone, radio, television, to the Internet, humanity bear witness to the evolution of how information was disseminated and, more importantly, how people were able to connect with each other even if they are from distant places. It is even more evident in today’s setting, wherein the aspect of telecommunications has become a huge part of our life, especially with the various technologies now within our reach. Truly, the general concept of communications helped shaped the world to what it is today, paving the way for the so-called “age of information” that we currently experience today.

With the changes in the realm of communication came the changes in its legal aspects. To begin with, there are laws that govern various aspects of communication, particularly electronic ones either by wire or radio. Over time, with the advent of the television and the Internet, subsequent changes were made in the regulations that govern the broad spectrum of communicating and disseminating information to the public. These policies are what comprise the broad body of law called communications law, which, in present time, involve regulations and rules on broadcasting content over television and radio, as well as satellite communications, wireless telecoms, and the Internet.

The law on communications often covers activities of entities that provide communication services, from radio, TV and multimedia companies, cable companies, Internet or Web service companies, to telephone and cellular companies. The laws also regulate how public resources are used to help set up the facilities and operate the services. Meanwhile, below are some of the specific facets of communications law:

  • Broadcast law. This specific branch of communications law pertains to regulations and policies that radio and TV stations should follow. This include the technical aspects of their facilities, the allocation of frequency, and certain issues in relation to public broadcasting, such as the content being shown on TV or discussed on air. In the U.S., the law also covers how a certain station must be able to promote fairness and balanced reportage of a certain controversy or event being covered.
  • Telecommunications law. This specific branch of communications law pertains to the same provisions as with the existing regulations already in effect, with the addition of other forms of media, particularly the Internet. In the U.S., the Communications Act of 1934 was amended, thanks to the enactment of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. From that point, the Internet was included as part of broadcasting and spectrum allotment. The amendment also allowed for a cross-ownership within the facet of media. However, due to the growing and emerging new technologies in communication such as video conferencing and wireless services, legal issues began to rise, with legal counsels and those within the industry of telecommunications left to interpret them on the legal standpoint.

In the U.S., the laws on communications are enforced via federal statutes that are codified in the United States Code, Title 47. These are enforced and regulated by the independent agency that is widely known to a lot of people for controlling content being shown on television or in any other form of media, which is the Federal Communications Commission or FCC. It is responsible for regulate both interstate and international communications on all forms of media, from radio, television, wire, satellite, to cable, with its jurisdiction covering not only the 50 states of the U.S., but also the nation’s capital and its territories overseas.

Meanwhile, companies within the realm of broadcasting and other specific facets of communication who may have legal issues with regard to anything that is regulated by the FCC can seek an expert lawyer who specializes in communications laws.