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Media Literacy in the Digital Age

Posted July 8th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

By Karen Archer Perry

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them."  
Mark Twain realized that literacy meant not just reading and writing but critical thinking, analysis and discernment.   In this digital age of information overload and self-publishing, Mark Twain’s understanding of literacy resonates anew. In the vast space of internet information, it’s ever more important to have an educated citizenry: one that can separate credible information from that which is unfounded and one that contributes constructively to civic discourse.
 
Media itself is being redefined as part of this new landscape of unlimited space and easy entry points to online publishing. In the new information ecosystem, a high responsibility falls on both producers and consumers of information. For consumers, there is endless material – and the challenge is to find the good blogs, videos, essays, news stories and documentaries of our time. Producers, on the other hand, bear responsibility to adhere to high standards of accuracy, diligence and transparency.
 
According to the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in Democracy, successful participation in the digital age of media requires, in part, “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create the information products.”[i] 
 
But what should “media literacy” or “digital literacy” entail?
 
 The National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), has included media literacy in the Common Core Standards for what American school children should learn. They write:
.
“To be ready for college, workforce training, and life in a technological society, students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and report on information and ideas, to conduct original research in order to answer questions or solve problems, and to analyze and create a high volume and extensive range of print and nonprint texts in media forms old and new. The need to conduct research and to produce and consume media is embedded into every aspect of today’s curriculum. In like fashion, research and media skills and understandings are embedded throughout the Standards rather than treated in a separate section.” [ii]
 
Do you agree?


[i] Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age, the Report of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in Democracy,” 2009, The Aspen Institute, page 45, www.knightcomm.org.

[ii] “National Governors Association and State Education Chiefs Launch Common State Academic Standards,” News Release from NGA Center and CCSSO, June 2, 2010, http://www.corestandards.org/news, retrieved June 28, 2010.

Posted in Ideas and Debates Information Needs of Communities
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From the Public Comments: Should the FCC Lift Restrictions on Underwriting for Religious Broadcasters?

Posted June 11th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) recently wrote in their public comment [filed February 18, 2010] that while they generally are skeptical of government involvement in media, there are two practical policies in which the FCC could “fertilize” the conditions surrounding the media without actually subsidizing it.
 
The NRB first proposes that the FCC to change its rule and allow fundraising for “third party, non-profit charities by non-commercial broadcast stations.” Currently, noncommercial stations are prohibited from substantially altering or suspending regular programming to fundraise for any entity other than itself. The NRB suggests permitting “NCE licensees to alter or suspend up to 1% of its annual broadcasting time for the purpose of raising funds for third-party, non-profit organizations recognized under section 50 I 1(3) of the I.R.S. code.”
 
Secondly, NRB urges the Commission to lift restrictions on programming sponsorships and underwriting for NCE stations that do not receive federal money, thus allowing more competition with stations affiliated with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
 
The NRB notes that F.C.C. rules “permit sponsorship content that merely ‘identifies’ the
sponsor in a given broadcast spot, but prohibits any that ‘promotes’ a sponsor.” NRB seeks a new rule “which makes sponsorship and underwriting regulations more flexible, provided that it would not substantially alter the non-commercial nature of NCE licensees nor cause them to morph into a commercial model.”
 
Do you agree with these suggestions made? Why or why not?

Posted in Public Notices Noncommercial and Public Media
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From the Public Comments: Should There Be Tougher Standards for Public Media?

Posted May 25th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

The organization American Public Media (APM) recently wrote in their public comment that one critical way to help journalism is to establish tougher standards for public media organizations. APM believes that the public media system in the U.S. has been allowed to underperform for many years without consequences, and this has made it largely ineffective as compared to its international peers or measured against its mission.

 The following is from the public comment filed by American Public Media on May 7, 2010. Do you agree with the suggestions made? Which actions do you think would be most effective?
 
 In order to create a truly relevant and robust public media in American, the FCC
and Corporation for Public Broadcasting (“CPB”) must systematically raise the bar for
public media organizations. We can no longer afford to give away valuable spectrum
resources and public funding to organizations simply because they qualify. Instead, the
FCC and CPB should create a high standard for audience engagement and local content
origination for all public media organizations that receive federal funding or are licensed
broadcasters.
 
The FCC should act in concert with the CPB on the following actions:
 
  • Initiate a new license renewal process for CPB-funded public media organizations that requires a demonstration of significant public service and locally originated content, moderated by market size.
  • Require an accounting illustrating that all media related revenue be invested in an audited public media entity. Eliminate the practice of some colleges and parent companies of charging "overhead" fees that cream off essential public media funding for other purposes.
  • Consider stopping the NCE waiver for main studios beyond some reasonable distance from a headquarters station (for example, within a state or within a certain radius) to encourage regional service and more local origination and discourage “national stations”. The national station concept can be accomplished by satellite radio. Terrestrial radio should not be comprised of legions of transmitters fed by satellite without local studios.
  • Support the development of public interest broadband capacity connecting public media centers and their audiences at affordable cost to the producers. These new modes of distribution will require subsidy if they are going to be used at a significant scale by public media.
  • Require a community board or advisory board for all CPB-funded public media organizations to connect it with community leadership. The current standard, which requires an advisory board for a community licensee but not for a public university, was a legislative error.
  • The CPB NCE-FM standards that call for broadcasting eighteen hours a day, two full time employees and two full time equivalents paid at least minimum wage as a condition of funding are actually lower in some ways than those that were set in 1970. These standards assume a station model that predates our current definition of a large and established public media.These need to be re-evaluated as standards of performance appropriate to communities of various sizes.
  • Consider the concept of a rigorous accreditation process, similar to the college and university validation process, to measure impact and continued eligibility for CPB funding.
  • Encourage models that reduce overhead and duplication and provide incentives for operational consolidation.
 

Posted in Public Notices Noncommercial and Public Media
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Columbia Journalism Dean Delivers Commencement Speech on Future of Media

Posted May 19th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism, delivered this commencement speech to the Class of 2010:

Last year I urged our graduates to get involved in the larger conversation about the future of journalism that is now taking place very intensely in societies all over the world—a conversation that is going on not just within the confines of the profession, as was customary before the digital revolution arrived.

This year I’d like to deliver a similar, but more pointed, message. If you heard me last year, well, sorry, but as my mother used to say, it bears repeating.
 
Just after I arrived here as dean, seven years ago, I got a call from a senior at Harvard who was writing a thesis about the media reform movement—the folks who push for government policies meant to reduce the scope of big media companies. She wanted to know why there never seemed to be any journalists involved in that movement’s activities, either as supporters or as opponents.
 
It was a good question. Media reform simply isn’t on most journalists’ minds, even though many or most of us work for media companies, or would like to. Why not? I think it’s because we like to conceive of ourselves as independent solo crusaders, who go out, uncover uncomfortable truths, and resolutely bring them to the public’s attention. All we need to be able to do this is freedom.
 
But what makes our idea of ourselves more complicated now is that, at least in the United States, with the advent of the open Internet we don’t lack for the freedom to say what we want. What we urgently need more of is economic support for the kind of dogged reporting that, at least at this school, we hold up as the sine qua non of great journalism. Journalists of my generation grew up believing that the best way to get this support was by demanding it from rich owners. But now owners of journalistic properties aren’t so rich. So whom do we ask?
 
Many years ago when he was a law professor, Lee Bollinger, the president of this university, used to write that the United States had a dual press system, with an unregulated realm, print, and a regulated realm, broadcast. Both the newspapers and the broadcast outlets usually had a highly protected monopoly position in their markets, which made them very profitable and therefore able to support journalism.
 
In the digital age, President Bollinger’s distinction doesn’t really hold any more. Most journalism is consumed online, and most of us get online through a system that government touches: a cable line, a telephone wire, a satellite.
So even though it may not appear that way to you, journalism is deeply intertwined with government policy. And the way government, business, and technology have set up the playing field, the folks who carry the signal to your computer make money and the folks who create the material the signal carries (meaning, among others, we journalists) do not.
There is an intense debate going on right this minute about government policies that will have enormous effects on the future of journalism.
 
The media reform movement, as always, is mainly focused on limiting the power of big media companies and on improving public access. Therefore its main causes regarding the Internet are universal broadband access, so that everybody everywhere can have fast service, and net neutrality, so that Internet service providers have to continue giving every user equal access to every Web site. Internet service providers, as always, are pushing back against the media reform movement—and journalists are almost nowhere to be found in the debate.
 
One of the few journalism organizations to answer a recent call from the Federal Communications Commission to comment on the future of our business was the Radio, Television, and Digital News Association, whose public comment pronounced the state of commercial broadcast journalism to be just fine, and ended on this libertarian note:
 
“The Commission should not accede to calls from those who would have the government tell the public what is best for them or who would integrate the government and the press. That would deal a far greater blow to our democracy than any perceived contraction in journalism.”
 
If the reformers win this round, then most Americans will be able to go anywhere they want in the vast reaches of the Web. But I am far less optimistic than the RTDNA that journalists will have the economic means of producing journalism. We could wind up with a situation that’s an exaggerated version of what we have now: more access, less real reportorial journalism.
 
Let’s assume everybody in this room wants to see our profession have the resources it needs to perform its function in society to the fullest. Where will the resources come from?
 
Most of the discussion about the fabled new business model for journalism, whose arrival we are all eagerly awaiting, seems to be turning to the idea of restricting the regime of absolutely free access to all journalism produced everywhere that we have had over the last few years. News organizations’ Web sites will begin charging for access. New tablet-style mobile devices will probably charge readers from the git-go. And advertisers may find readers who can and do pay to be a more attractive audience than easily distractible Web surfers.
 
Even if all this works economically, it will still represent a departure from the current socially attractive and economically untenable idea that the fruits of our journalistic labor should be available free to all the citizens of the world. So one could argue that economic support for journalism is a public good and should be funded from sources in addition to the free market, as universities like Columbia are.
 
Maybe Internet service providers should be compelled to set aside some money for news production, as broadcasters, in effect, used to be. Or maybe the public radio and television systems should get funding to do more original local reporting. Or maybe philanthropy should fund journalism. Or maybe government itself should, with appropriate firewalls to protect editorial freedom, as it has with high distinction in some other countries.
 
These are not abstract ideas from a seminar room. They are intensely and urgently under discussion right now, in Washington and much of the rest of the world—but mainly without the participation of journalists. I am using my few minutes at the podium today to urge you as strongly as I can not only to go out and be great journalists, but also to learn about and engage in the realm of public policy that affects our profession.
 
There will be decisions made in just the next few years that will profoundly affect the way you do your work over the many decades of your careers. You really shouldn’t let them be made without us, collectively, in the room. The idea that journalists somehow sully themselves if they become active participants in shaping the future of our profession isn’t just silly--it’s dangerous, if you believe journalism is as vital to the health of free societies as I think we all do.
 
As young journalists, you are standing at the doorway to a new period in our profession, whose nature is still being determined. Journalists always get to witness history unfolding; that’s one of the great attractions of our profession. You will also get to witness the history of journalism unfolding, more dramatically than most of us sitting here on the stage have. Please, don’t let yourselves be on the receiving end of history. Be participants in it.
 

Posted in Ideas and Debates Information Needs of Communities
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FCC Future of Media Workshop Materials Now Available Online

Posted May 7th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

The FCC held its second Future of Media workshop on “Public and Other Noncommercial Media in the Digital Era” on April 30.  Throughout the day, five panels of experts and industry leaders tackled a wide array of issues confronting public and noncommercial media.

Visit the workshop page to view the archived video, presentations, statements from panelists, bios of the participants, and a complete transcript of the workshop .

Posted in Workshops Ideas and Debates
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How to Participate in FCC Future of Media Workshop on April 30

Posted April 28th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

 The FCC is holding its second Future of Media workshop on Friday, April 30 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the topic: “Public and Other Noncommercial Media in the Digital Era.”

The workshop will focus on several key issues, including:

-- The possibilities for greater collaboration among noncommercial media entities such as public broadcasters, PEG channels, noncommercial web-based outlets, and other new media entities;

-- The role of public and other noncommercial media in serving the information needs of the underserved, including minorities, children, the disabled, and the economically disadvantaged;

-- Evolving business and organizational structures of public and other noncommercial media entities and the ways these are impacted by government policy;

 -- Innovative uses of social media, gaming, Internet applications, citizen journalism, mobile technologies, and other technological and organizational innovations; 

-- The possibilities for new kinds of noncommercial media networks and associated funding models.

The workshop will be held in the Commission Meeting Room, Room TW-C305, at the FCC headquarters on 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC. The public is encouraged to attend.   You can also participate in the workshop by viewing the FCC Live web page at www.fcc.gov/live. Submit questions to the panelists via e-mail (futureofmedia@fcc.gov) or Twitter using #FOMwkshop.   View the press release and agenda (.pdf)

Posted in Workshops Ideas and Debates Information Needs of Communities Noncommercial and Public Media
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Steven Waldman, Senior Advisor to FCC Chairman, Delivers Speech on Future of Media

Posted April 19th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

 

Prepared Remarks by Steven Waldman, Senior Advisor to the Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, before the Free State Institute at the National Press Club
 
April 16, 2010
 
I’ve now attended many, many conferences on the future of journalism.  And I’m late to the game. There were, it seems, hundreds of conferences before I got into this field.   This makes me think there’s an obvious solution to the problems of journalism: Just charge a lot for participation in conferences about the future of journalism.  That’ll raise more than enough money.
 
As fool-proof as this idea seemed to me, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Julius Genachowki, asked that I go a bit further.  He asked me to run a project on “the future of media and the information needs of communities.”
 
The objective of this review is to assess whether all Americans have access to vibrant, diverse sources of news and information that will enable them to enrich their lives, their communities and our democracy.
 
Let’s first start with the question that seems to be most on your mind: is it even appropriate for the FCC to be looking at the future of media?  One analyst said that my inquiry itself would chill free speech.
 
Let me start with a pedestrian point.  What we’re working on  right now is  a report, not a rulemaking.  So our looking at topics like newspaper health in no way means we’ll be suggesting FCC regulating newspapers.  On the other hand, to do a report on the health of the news and information media and not mention newspapers would by like doing a study on baseball but refusing to look at pitchers.
 
Second, there’s an implicit premise that if the FCC were to look at the future of the media, that would represent a dramatic new role for the government.   In fact, the government already is very involved in the media industry.
 
I’m not talking about Ben Franklin getting postal subsidies for the Pennsylvania Gazette 200 years ago – though it is true that the Founders supported massive public subsidies for the newspaper business and it’s also true that the government still spends hundreds of millions of dollars on postal subsidies for periodicals to this day. I’m talking about a large pile of communication policies that has grown over the years, often with bipartisan support.
 
Among the ways the government affects media are:
 
·       The government in effect restricts how many TV stations a company can own in the country and within a particular market, and whether a company can own a newspaper and a TV or radio station in the same town
 
·       The government decided that some of the public’s spectrum should be used to serve local communities, and that in exchange for the right to use its channel, each station must operate in the “public interest” by airing programming that treats the needs and issues of its community.
 
·       It decides how spectrum is auctioned for wireless carriers.
 
·       It required satellite operators to set aside channels for educational or informational programming and allowed municipalities to require that cable TV operators do the same.
... Read More.

Posted in About the Project Ideas and Debates Information Needs of Communities
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The Case Against Increasing Government’s Role in Sustaining Journalism

Posted April 6th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

With the news media struggling to survive in the Internet age, questions are being raised as to who will pay for quality journalism. In an essay written by Adam Thierer and Berin Szoka of the Progress and Freedom Foundation, the authors critique proposals that increase the government role in sustaining journalism or promoting more “public interest” content.

 In their first essay, the authors argue why taxing media devices or distribution systems to fund media content does not work. They believe such financial redistribution is “fundamentally inconsistent with American press traditions, highly problematic under the First Amendment, difficult to implement in a world of media abundance and platform convergence, and likely to cause serious negative side effects.”
 
In the second essay, Thierer discusses why proposals to tax broadcast spectrum licenses to transfer money to public media projects or “public interest” content is unfair to broadcasters, who are also trying to survive in the midst of marketplace turmoil. Further, he argues that such a tax “is unnecessary in light of the many other sources of ‘public interest’ programming available today” and that the government should not force media choices upon consumers.
 
What do you think?

Posted in Ideas and Debates Commercial TV and Radio Internet and Mobile
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Is there a Difference between Pay Walls for Web Sites and Mobile Media?

Posted March 24th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

Some media executives, like Slate chairman Jacob Weisberg, believe media companies should require readers to pay for content when delivered in a “specific, convenient, dedicated form” such as the iPhone or Kindle, but keep Web sites free.

In a piece in today’s New York Observer, Weisberg noted his first hand experience with putting online content behind a pay wall and called it “the worst year at Slate. Luckily it’s 12 years in the past now; we got it out of our system early.” He recalled that the year of having the pay wall was a “tough year for the writers, because they went from having a growing audience and starting to feel like the web was working in terms of reaching to people you wanted to reach to suddenly feeling like you’re writing for a very small group of people.”
Do you buy Weisberg’s distinction of media companies charging for newer mobile technologies that deliver content in a dedicated form versus Web sites that should remain free? Do you believe consumers will buy the difference?

Posted in Internet and Mobile Newspapers and Magazines
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Project for Excellence in Journalism Releases Important "State of the Media" Report

Posted March 16th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released their very important State of the Media report yesterday.  

Here’s the report.
http://www.stateofthemedia.org/2010/

Here’s a good summary from the Columbia Journalism Review:
 
Top two items from CJR:

1) To put all those tiny little papercuts into perspective; each round of newspaper layoffs, here and there, equals one big gushing head wound:
“We estimate that the newspaper industry has lost $1.6 billion in annual reporting and editing capacity since 2000, or roughly 30 percent, which leaves an extra $4.4 billion remaining. Even if the economy improves, we predict more cuts in 2010.”

2) Today’s brave new media ventures are rowboats struggling against the rushing tide of lost journalistic capital. The following statistic only underscores how important it is to critically examine the short- and long-term prospects of many new media ventures funded by foundations and individual donors. How long will their charity be sustainable?
“$141 million of nonprofit money has flowed into new media efforts over the last four years (not including public broadcasting). That is less than one-tenth of the losses in newspaper resources alone.”

 

Posted in Ideas and Debates Information Needs of Communities Newspapers and Magazines
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