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
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.
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.” The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism recently stated that business trends in the media were “chilling,”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.”
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.”