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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.
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Posted in About the Project Ideas and Debates Information Needs of Communities
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Public Notice Comment Deadline Extended to May 7

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

FCC finds that a limited extension of time will further the public interest by allowing all commenters additional time to file studies, analyses and other submissions in response to the Public Notice, facilitating the compilation of a more complete record. The deadline is therefore extended to Friday, May 7, 2010.

 

 

Posted in About the Project Public Notices Information Needs of Communities
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Steve Waldman Named To Lead Commission Effort on Future of Media

Posted January 20th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

WASHINGTON -- Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski announced today the appointment of Steven Waldman, a highly respected Internet entrepreneur and journalist, to lead an agency-wide initiative to assess the state of media in these challenging economic times and make recommendations designed to ensure a vibrant media landscape.

Earlier this month, the bipartisan Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy called for “new thinking” to “ensure the information opportunities of America’s people and the information vitality of our democracy” and proposed FCC action. The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism has highlighted the dire circumstances for newspapers, and both the Knight report and a recent study from Columbia Graduate School of Journalism called for a full reassessment of the media marketplace both inside and outside of government, including at the FCC.    
 
Waldman is the Co-Founder, President, and Editor-in-Chief of Beliefnet.com, the largest multi-faith Web site for religion and inspiration, and served as its CEO from 2002 until 2007, when it was acquired by News Corporation. Under his leadership, Beliefnet won the top editorial awards on the Internet, including the General Excellence Award from the Online News Association and the National Magazine Award for General Excellence Online.
 
Waldman, who will join the Office of Strategic Planning and serve as Senior Advisor to the Chairman, will work with the relevant FCC bureaus and lead an open, fact-finding process to craft recommendations to meet the traditional goals of serving the public interest and making sure that all Americans receive the information, educational content, and news they seek. He will step down from Beliefnet and News Corporation and discontinue his blog and the regular column he writes for Wall Street Journal Online.
 
“A strong consensus has developed that we’re at a pivotal moment in the history of the media and communications, because of game-changing new technologies as well as the economic downturn,” said Genachowski. “Highly respected entities have called on the FCC to assess these issues. At such a moment, it is important to ensure that our policies promote a vibrant media landscape that furthers long-standing goals of serving the information needs of communities. The initiative is intended to identify the best ideas for achieving those goal, while recognizing that government must be scrupulous in abiding by the First Amendment and never dictating or controlling the content of the news or other communications protected by the First Amendment.”
 
 
“Steve Waldman is uniquely qualified to look at this shifting terrain and make sure we meet this moment wisely,” Genachowski said. “He was an award-winning journalist in traditional media and then became an Internet pioneer -- launching, running, and bringing to profitability one of the great content success stories. He’s also known for his even-handedness and has garnered respect from people of widely different ideologies and approaches.”
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How to Use the Site

Posted January 20th, 2010 by Steve Waldman - Senior Advisor to the Chairman

This site currently has two basic sections:
 
1. Our Blog – The future of media blog is called, cleverly, “The Future of Media Blog.” This is where FCC staff or Commissioners will post information of interest about this topic. It may be something practical or procedural, like the date of a new workshop. Or it may be a message from a FCC Commissioner, a list of resources on the topic, or an idea or article we came across that we thought you might find interesting. There’s an incredible amount of creative thinking going on around this issue, and we’ll try to share that with you.

2.  Your Views – There are three ways to contribute your views.

  • Forums: You can post in our forums area, called, “YOUR VIEWS.” There, you can offer your analysis on a number of issues and tell us about the media in your own community.
  • Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS): If you have a long comment or a document you want to submit (perhaps a paper you wrote or a study you found useful), use the government’s Electronic Federal Comment System. Be sure to reference GN Docket Number 10-25.
  • Blog: You can comment on any blog post.

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Statement from Steven Waldman

Posted January 20th, 2010 by Steve Waldman - Senior Advisor to the Chairman

 

 

Transcript:

Hi. My name is Steven Waldman. I’m a senior advisor to the chairman of the FCC. I want to tell you about a new project at the FCC about the future of media and the information needs of communities. 

          As you know, the media landscape is changing rapidly. We’re really at a critical juncture in communications history. Why? Two major things are going on simultaneously. On the one hand, we’re seeing tremendous innovation – exciting changes -- in the media world. Primarily due to the Internet, consumers are exposed to more voices and viewpoints than ever before.  And they have more ways to connect with each other and make their voices heard.

          On the other hand, traditional media business models are struggling or collapsing.  Newspapers and TV stations have been laying off thousands of professional journalists.  This has raised strong bipartisan concerns about whether our media will remain strong and independent enough to protect consumers and hold leaders accountable.  That’s potentially a huge problem for our democracy.

          That’s why FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski decided to launch a major new agency-wide project to make sure that citizens and communities end up with vibrant, diverse sources of news and information –  information that enables them to enrich their lives, their communities and their democracy. These have always been key goals for the FCC and America’s communications policy. But we must make sure those historic goals are met in this new, digital era. 

          By the way, in a digital era, when we talk about “news and information,” we’re not only referring to journalism.  It’s also about making sure consumers get the information they need from government and other sources about schools, crime, public health, natural disasters or other issues that affect them dearly.

          The starting point for this effort, of course, is the First Amendment.  A free press, independent of government control, is a foundational principle of our democracy. Any time the government even looks at the media, we have to be very careful. Keeping that principle in mind always, the experts here working on these issues will work first to gain a detailed, fact-based understanding of what’s happening in the media world. Then, we will make recommendations, including possibly suggestions for government policy changes.

          But we really need your help. You and your families have a direct stake in this.  We truly hope you will come to this arena and add your comments about the information needs of your community and how the media can meet those needs.  Thank you.

 

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