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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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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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FCC Launches Examination of Future of Media and Information Needs of Communities In a Digital Age (Full Public Notice)

Posted January 22nd, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

FCC LAUNCHES EXAMINATION OF THE FUTURE OF MEDIA AND
INFORMATION NEEDS OF COMMUNITIES IN A DIGITAL AGE
 
COMMENT SOUGHT
GN Docket No. 10-25
 
            As the nation’s expert agency involved in media and communications policies, the FCC has begun an examination of the future of media and the information needs of communities in a digital age. 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.
 
            The Future of Media project will produce a report providing a clear, precise assessment of the current media landscape, analyze policy options and, as appropriate, make policy recommendations to the FCC, other government entities, and other parties.
 
***
 
            The bipartisan Knight Commission on Information Needs of Communities recently declared:
 
America is at a critical juncture in the history of communications.  Information technology is changing our lives in ways that we cannot easily foresee. 
 
The digital age is creating an information and communications renaissance.  But it is not serving all Americans and their local communities equally. It is not yet serving democracy fully. How we react, individually and collectively, to this democratic shortfall will affect the quality of our lives and the very nature of our communities.[1]
 
The layoffs of thousands of journalists have prompted concern from a wide variety of independent analysts and groups that we may end up with fewer “informed communities.” Last year, a consortium of non-profit media groups issued “The Pocantico Declaration,” which concluded, “There is an urgent need to nourish and sustain the emerging investigative journalism ecosystem to better serve the public.”[2] The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism recently stated that business trends in the media were “chilling,”[3]and a 2009 report from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism observed that “accountability journalism, particularly local accountability journalism, is especially threatened by the economic troubles that diminished so many newspapers.”[4]
 
These trends could have dire consequences for our democracy and the health of communities, hindering citizens’ ability to hold their leaders and institutions accountable.
 
On the other hand, while this moment carries great risk, it also presents significant opportunity. The digital age is creating an exciting variety of new sources, business models and delivery methods for news and information. Citizens act increasingly not only as information consumers, but also as information providers. Small start-ups, Internet giants and traditional media companies have accelerated the pace of innovation. In some parts of the media, consumers have more choices than ever and it’s not hard to see how the digital revolution will positively affect news gathering, journalism and information dissemination in many ways.
 
In sorting through these trends, the starting point is the First Amendment. Any time the government reviews the structure of the news media, it must do so with great sensitivity to the paramount need to protect free speech and an independent press. Moreover, the Future of Media project starts with the assumption that many of the challenges encountered in today’s media environment will be addressed by the private for-profit and non-profit sectors, without government intervention. We will remain mindful of the Hippocratic Oath of physicians, “First, do no harm.”
... Read More.

Posted in Public Notices
4 Comments

Comment on: Information Needs of Communities and Citizens

Posted January 20th, 2010 by William Freedman - Associate Bureau Chief, Media Bureau

The Future of Media project encourages comments and suggestions on the key questions about the changing media landscape.  This post includes broad questions about the information needs of consumers and citizens.  (The full public notice can be found here.)

 

1.    What are the information needs of citizens and communities?  Do citizens and communities have all the information they want and need?  How has the situation changed during the past few years?  In what ways has the situation improved?  Gotten worse?  Consider these categories:

 

·        media platforms (e.g., broadcast, cable, satellite, print, Internet, mobile, gaming);

·        media formats (e.g.,  video, audio, print, email, short message formats);

·        geographic focus (e.g., international, national, state, regional, local, neighborhood, personal);

·        media affiliation (e.g., independent, affiliated with an advocacy organization or movement, academic, governmental);

·        organization type (e.g., commercial media, non-profits, public broadcasting, cultural/educational institutions);

·        types of journalism (e.g., breaking news, investigative, analysis, commentary, beat reporting, objective reporting, advocacy, specialized, general interest, citizen generated, collaborative); and

·        topics (e.g., politics, crime, schools, health, disasters, national news, foreign news, children’s programming).

 

2.    How have the changes in the media landscape affected the delivery of critical information in times of natural disasters, extreme weather, or public health emergencies?  From where do people get their information in such situations?  What, if anything, should the Commission do to ensure that communities receive such often life-saving information widely and quickly?

 

3.    How do young people receive educational and informational media content?  How do they consider and process the news and information provided to them?  How should these patterns affect government policy toward the future of the media? 

 

4.    Are media consumption patterns different in minority communities?  How would those differences affect business models for various media platforms?  What are the implications for the availability of news and information in minority communities?  How should such business models and their implications affect government policy?

 

5.    What roles should libraries and schools play in supporting community information flow?  How can communities best make use of citizens’ talents and interests in the creation, analysis, curating, and sharing of information? 

 

6.    What are the best examples of Federal, state and local governments using new media to provide information to the public in a transparent, easy-to-use manner?  When has this public information been provided directly to consumers and when has it been used as the basis for lower-cost reporting?  In what formats should such data be provided?  Should the laws on government provision of information to the public be changed?

... Read More.

Posted in Public Notices Ideas and Debates Information Needs of Communities
4 Comments

Comment on: Business Models and Financial Trends

Posted January 20th, 2010 by William Freedman - Associate Bureau Chief, Media Bureau

The Future of Media project encourages comments and suggestions on the key questions about the changing media landscape.  This post includes questions about business models and financial trends in media.  (The full public notice can be found here.)

 

12)  In general, what categories of journalism are most in jeopardy in the digital era?  What categories are likely to flourish?  While much is still to be determined as media companies test various business models and payment approaches in the coming years, based on what is known now, are there news and information needs that commercial market mechanisms alone are unlikely to serve adequately? 

 

13)  Many media companies are struggling, but others are reporting healthy profits.  What explains the differences in performance?  What roles are played by debt levels, consolidation patterns, government policies, geography, diversity of and/or decline in revenue streams, technological innovation, cost reductions, and audience growth?

 

14)  How do trends in advertising affect the viability of different models? Will the abundance of advertising inventory prevent web advertising rates from rising to a level that could support more online content models?  Or will demographic or locational targeting or other technologies raise advertising rates?  What effect will such advertising trends have on consumer privacy?

 

15)  Does the efficiency and specialization of the Internet make it less likely to support the cross-subsidies that existed for many decades within newspapers (in which, for example, popular human interest content effectively cross-subsidized news reporting)?

 

16)  In the aggregate, how much money do Americans spend on news and information media and how has that changed over time?  Which companies and industries have benefited from these shifts and which have suffered?

 

Please weigh in on any of these questions, or offer your own.

Posted in Public Notices Ideas and Debates Business Models and Financial Trends
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Comment on: Commercial Broadcast TV and Radio, Cable and Satellite

Posted January 20th, 2010 by William Freedman - Associate Bureau Chief, Media Bureau

The Future of Media project encourages comments and suggestions on the key questions about the changing media landscape.  This post includes questions about commercial TV and radio.  (The full public notice can be found here.)

 

17)  With regard to national commercial television and radio, what have been the trends, and what is the current state of affairs, regarding news staffing (for network, cable and satellite) and coverage (international, national and local)?  What types of coverage or programming have been changed, and in what manner? Over what time period?

 

18)  For local commercial broadcast television and radio stations, what have been the trends for staffing, the amount of local news and information aired, the audience ratings for such programming and local station profitability?  What have been the roles of station debt, advertising revenue declines, government policies, efficiency improvements, and ownership consolidation (including combining the news staffs of commonly owned or operated stations)? What has been the impact of competition for audience from the Internet or other information sources?  How are these broadcasters using the Internet, mobile applications, their multicast channels/additional program streams, or other new technologies to provide local news and information?  How have these changes affected the availability of educational programming for children?

 

19)  Broadcasters have certain public interest obligations, including that they provide programming responsive to the needs and issues of their communities and comply with the Commission’s children’s programming requirements.  Cable and satellite operators have their own responsibilities (some of which are discussed below). Should these or other existing obligations be strengthened, relaxed, or otherwise re-conceptualized in this digital era?  Should such obligations be applied to a broader range of media or technology companies, or be limited in scope?  What should be the nature of those obligations, and what would be the most effective mechanisms for ensuring the availability of news and information?  Have the FCC’s past regulatory or deregulatory approaches (e.g., public interest guidelines, disclosure requirements, expedited license renewal procedures) been effective, and if not, why not? 

 

20)  When determining whether the public’s needs are being met, should policymakers assess the adequacy of community information by looking primarily at particular media delivery systems (e.g., broadcast, cable, satellite), by focusing on general media types (e.g., television, radio, print), or by looking at information availability within a community as a whole (e.g., neighborhood, city/town, state)? 

  

Please weigh in on any of these questions, or offer your own.

Posted in Public Notices Ideas and Debates Commercial TV and Radio
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Comment on: Noncommercial and Public Media

Posted January 20th, 2010 by William Freedman - Associate Bureau Chief, Media Bureau

The Future of Media project encourages comments and suggestions on the key questions about the changing media landscape.  This post includes questions about non-commercial media, including non-profit websites, public TV and radio.  (The full public notice can be found here.) 
 
21.   With regard to nationally-oriented noncommercial television and radio (including public broadcasting stations), what have been the trends and what is the current state of affairs regarding news staffing and coverage (international, national, and local)? 
 
22.   For local noncommercial television and radio stations, what have been the trends for staffing, the amount of local news and information aired, audience ratings for such programming and local station financial health? If there have been news staff contractions, what type of programming has been cut back or changed? What have been the trends in funding from governmental, private sources and viewer/listener donations? What has been the role of government regulation? What has been the impact of competition for audience from the Internet or other information sources? How are public broadcasters using the Internet, mobile applications, their multicast channels/additional program streams, or other new technologies to provide local news and information? How are they collaborating with non-broadcasters? How have these changes affected the availability of informational and educational programming for children and other informational and educational material?
 
23.   In general, how, if at all, should noncommercial television and radio licensees change to meet the challenges and opportunities of the digital era? How does the role of public media differ from that of commercial media? If there is a greater role for public media in meeting the information needs of local communities, how should that be financed? What role, if any, should government subsidies play? Should legal requirements regarding underwriting and advertising be changed?
 
24.   Should the Public Broadcasting Act be amended to restructure and augment investments in noncommercial media? Are the experiences of other countries instructive on this question?   
 
25.    What should be the role of non-profit media that are not noncommercial broadcast licensees (for instance, non-profit websites, news services, mobile applications, or reporting-oriented organizations)? What public policy changes (including changes to the tax law, corporate law, or rules about advertising) could improve the viability of non-profit models? How should noncommercial television and radio licensees work with independent non-profit media entities to improve efficiency and content quality? What changes in law or practice could encourage better collaboration among non-profit media?
... Read More.

Posted in Public Notices Ideas and Debates Noncommercial and Public Media
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Comment on: Internet and Mobile

Posted January 20th, 2010 by William Freedman - Associate Bureau Chief, Media Bureau

The Future of Media project encourages comments and suggestions on the key questions about the changing media landscape.  This post includes questions about the Internet and mobile media.  (The full public notice can be found here.)

31)  With regard to the Internet and mobile-based applications, which news or information operations are successful, and why?  How should we define success?  Do they tend toward a particular type of information or format (e.g., news, commentary, independent, government-generated, user-generated, advocacy-oriented programming)?  What are the most successful business models (e.g., for-profit, non-profit, subscription, micro-payments, advertising-based)? 

 

32)  What role will and should user-generated journalism play?  In what ways can it improve upon traditional journalism, and in what ways can it not substitute for traditional journalism? How can the quality and effectiveness of citizen journalism be further improved?

 

33)  What have been the trends for online advertising in general and specifically advertising supporting news and information parts of websites, both nationally and locally?  How about on mobile platforms?

 

34)  What might be the role of popular technolgies heretofore associated with entertainment or social interaction, such as gaming systems or social media? 

 

35)  How would policies related to “open Internet” or “universal broadband” or other FCC policies about communications infrastructure affect the likelihood that the Internet will meet the information needs of communities?  Are there search engine practices that might positively or negatively affect web-based efforts to provide news or information?

 

36)  Do minority-owned media or media targeted to minority communities use broadband tools differently than other media?

 

37)  What kinds of digital and media literacy programs are appropriate to help people both use new information and communication technologies effectively and to analyze and evaluate the news and information they are receiving?

 

38)  With regard to mobile devices, what role will mobile communications services and devices play in meeting the news and information needs of communities during the next five to ten years?  What is the impact of those trends for consumers, businesses and policymakers?  Should that role be reflected in the Commission’s regulation of the industries involved? 

 

Please weigh in on any of these questions, or offer your own.

Posted in Public Notices Ideas and Debates Internet and Mobile
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Comment on: Newspaper and Magazines

Posted January 20th, 2010 by William Freedman - Associate Bureau Chief, Media Bureau

The Future of Media project encourages comments and suggestions on the key questions about the changing media landscape.  This post includes questions about newspapers and magazines.  (The full public notice can be found here.)

39)  What are the trends in staffing and coverage at newspapers?  Where staffs have been cut, what kinds of staff have been reduced, and what kinds of news coverage have been affected?  What impact, if any, do such cuts and reductions have on the ability of broadcast radio and television, cable, satellite and other electronic media to serve communities’ news and information needs?  What characteristics distinguish newspapers that are relatively healthy from those in less sound financial condition (e.g., size, debt levels, cost structure, circulation patterns, advertising rates, taxes, ownership structure, location, technological innovation, Internet operation, Internet competition)?

40)  What are the trends in staffing and coverage at print magazines specializing in news and information?

Please weigh in on any of these questions, or offer your own.

Posted in Public Notices Ideas and Debates Newspapers and Magazines
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