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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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Recap of March 4 Workshop

Posted March 5th, 2010 by Christopher Clark - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

Yesterday the Future of Media project hosted a workshop on Serving the Public Interest in the Digital Era to address how the new media environment necessitates policy changes in the FCC’s approach to enforcing the public interest obligation.  The day-long session featured panelists discussing the history of media policy, the state of traditional media sources, and how the digital media revolution is changing the way people consume and participate in media. We will be posting the panelists' statements and an archived video of the workshop on the workshops page soon. In the meantime, you can view the workshop here.

Posted in Workshops Ideas and Debates Commercial TV and Radio
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How to Participate in FCC Workshop on March 4

Posted March 3rd, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

The FCC is holding a workshop entitled “Serving the Public Interest in the Digital Era” on March 4, 2010 from 10:30 am to 5 pm.

The workshop will focus on:

  • A brief history and overview of policies involving “public interest” requirements for commercial media and telecommunications companies;
  • The state of local commercial broadcast TV and radio news and information; and
  • The impact of media convergence and the emergence of the Internet, mobile technologies, and digital media on media policy.
 
You can participate in the workshop by viewing the livestream on FCC.gov/live and by posing questions or comments to the panelists.
 
You may submit your questions and comments to the panelists through:
 

 

Posted in Workshops Ideas and Debates Commercial TV and Radio Information Needs of Communities
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Wallpaper, Hidden Gems, and Water-Coolers

Posted March 1st, 2010 by Dana Scherer - Senior Policy Analyst, Media Bureau

 

After they lost their radio jobs, deejay Mike O’Meara, sidekicks Robb Spewak, Oscar Zeballos, and “news guy” Michael Elston opted to take their show to the Internet.  Zeballos argues that listening to traditional radio programs and advertising is like watching wallpaper:  you know it’s there, but you don’t pay much attention to it.  In contrast, he says, podcast listeners actively seek out programs, making them far more likely to be engaged in the accompanying commercials.  (See Mike Musgrove, “With this Radio Gig, Who Needs FM?,” Washington Post, Feb. 21, 2010 at G1.) 

 

Paul Camp writes in a Future of Media comment that readers who self-select news and information online miss out on the serendipity factor.  When you listen to the radio or thumb through a newspaper, you may encounter a hidden gem of a story that you otherwise might have missed.  Paul calls this an “unsung beauty” that neither advertisers nor consumers have fully valued.

 

Another facet of online-offline media dynamics is the “Water-Cooler Effect.”  Brian Stelter in the New York Times discusses how the Internet can enable television viewers to alert each other to and engage in national conversations about politics, sports, and entertainment.  While consumer split their time between computer and television screens, the two screens reinforce, rather than compete with each other.  (See Brian Stelter, “Water –Cooler Effect:  Internet Can be TV’s Friend,” New York Times, Feb. 24, 2010 at A1.) 

 

Do you think these forms of gathering news and information will co-exist in the long term, or do you expect one will dominate?  What do you think are the public interest costs and benefits of each? How do you think advertisers will react?

Posted in Ideas and Debates Business Models and Financial Trends Commercial TV and Radio Internet and Mobile Newspapers and Magazines
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Could the Library Serve as an Aggregator of Local News?

Posted February 2nd, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

We have an area where citizens can describe their local media. For example, Rick Livingston writes:
 
Columbus still has a strong, locally owned daily paper (The Dispatch), functioning as the main channel for local news and statehouse reporting. It also owns the major TV station. Other print publications are mostly puffery, catering to the college-age music-and-drinking crowd (or post-graduate, young-professional versions thereof). We have three (count 'em) NPR stations, mostly overlapping programming larded with a little local coverage; the rest of the radio dial is hopelessly canned. One excellent website I know (Columbus Underground), and several partisan blogsites. Some civic issues are getting publicized through Facebook, thanks primarily to a few civic-minded individuals: the medium is not conducive to discussion, however, so much as mutual encouragement. Good if you agree already. We lost one important voice for fair-minded debate this year, when Fred Andrle, a gifted local talk-show host, retired.

I know we're lucky still to have a hometown newspaper, but the range of discussion and information is distinctly limited. The Dispatch has invested heavily in a particular version of urban development and definitely shapes the options we're offered. The only civic institution with a comparable citywide reach is the library system: could it develop a presence as an aggregator of local news and a forum for discussion?
 
What are your thoughts? Could the library “develop a presence as an aggregator of local news and a forum for discussion”? Could Facebook (or other social networking websites) be used to facilitate discussion of civic issues? Feel free to comment and don’t forget to tell us about your community and its media by posting here.

Posted in Ideas and Debates Commercial TV and Radio Internet and Mobile Newspapers and Magazines
1 Comment

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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