FCC Releases 'Future Of Media' Report
Repeal Of Fairness Doctrine, Move To Online Disclosure Info Suggested
June 10, 2011 at 3:45 AM (PT)
In JANUARY 2010 (NET NEWS 1/21/2010), The FCC launched an initiative on the future of media and the information needs of communities in the digital age. The initiative, headed by Sr. Advisor STEVEN WALDMAN, was set to include an examination of marketplace changes, analysis of future technologies and services, and recommendations on policy.
"We are at a critical juncture in the evolution of American media," said FCC Chairman JULIUS GENACHOWSKI at that time. "Rapid technological change in the media marketplace has created opportunities for tremendous innovation. It has also caused financial turmoil for traditional media, calling into question whether these media outlets will continue to play their historic role in providing local communities with essential news and civic information. With this crucial initiative, the FCC commits to fully understanding the fundamental changes underway in the media marketplace and examining what impact such changes may have for Commission policies, while vigorously protecting the First Amendment."
That report has now been made available, with the FCC writing, "In culmination of its work over the last year, the FCC Working Group on the Information Needs of Communities today delivered a report addressing the rapidly changing media landscape in a broadband age. In 2009, a bipartisan Knight Commission found that while the broadband age is enabling an information and communications renaissance, local communities, in particular, are being unevenly served with critical information about local issues. In JANUARY 2010, the FCC initiated a staff-level working group to identify trends and make recommendations on how all the information needs of communities can be met in a broadband world. The working group included journalists, entrepreneurs, scholars, and government officials. The group, led by STEVEN WALDMAN (former reporter and CEO of BELIEFNET.COM), interviewed more than 600 individuals groups and organizations, collected over one thousand public comments, reviewed existing research, held multiple hearings and made site visits to newsrooms across the country."
* Fueled primarily by broadband-enabled innovation, the news and information landscape is more vibrant than ever before. Digital technology is creating a world of opportunity to keep the public informed in ways unimaginable just a few short years ago.
* The disruptive impact of the Internet has enabled an unprecedented free exchange of ideas and information. Breakthroughs in hyperlocal news and citizen journalism are on the rise, empowering individuals with a wealth of new information to better inform decisionmaking and engender more accountable government.
* Local news continues to play a vital role, with some stations seizing multiplatform opportunities. Newspapers & TV stations have emerged as the largest providers of local news online.
* An abundance of media outlets does not necessarily translate into an abundance of reporting. In many communities, there are now more outlets, but less local accountability reporting. Where there are gaps, less quality local reporting can lead to less government accountability, worse schools, wasted taxpayer dollars, greater corruption and other problems.
* Commercial and nonprofit media are now finding it increasingly advantageous to collaborate rather than compete. Synergies between sectors are growing.
* The nonprofit media sector has become more varied, and important, than ever before. Most of the players neither receive, nor seek, government funds.
Key Recommendations Include
* Accelerate move from paper to online disclosure. Disclosure information required by the FCC should be moved online from filing cabinets to the Internet so the public can more easily gain access to valuable information. FCC should eliminate burdensome rules and streamline disclosures about local programming by moving files online.
* Remove barriers to innovation and online entrepreneurship by pushing for universal broadband deployment and adoption. Achieving this goal would remove cost barriers, strengthen online business models, expand consumer pools and ensure that the news and information landscape serves communities to the maximum possible benefit of citizens.
* Target existing federal spending at local media. Existing government advertising spending, such military recruiting and public health ads, should be targeted toward local media whenever possible. Each year, the federal government spends roughly $1 billion in advertising without maximizing potential benefits to local media.
* Repeal Fairness Doctrine, terminate localism proceeding and replace "enhanced disclosure" with a new streamlined system of online disclosure. Broadcasters would disclose amount of programming about the community and other important information.
* Discourage "pay-for-play" arrangements -- in which TV stations allow advertisers to dictate on-air content without disclosing to viewers -- by requiring online disclosure of such arrangements.
* Re-assess whether the satellite TV’s set-aside for educational programming and cable TV leased access systems are working; put satellite disclosure online.
* There should be state-based C-SPAN in every state. Cable and satellite operators, public broadcasters and PEG channels should work toward that goal, and policymakers should consider offering incentives for those media organizations that take such steps, or to those that provide support for local cable news operations.
* Re-establish tax certificate program for small businesses including minorities and women.
* Policymakers should consider clarifications or changes in tax rules that would make it easier for nonprofit news operations to develop sustainable business models.
* Focus on historically underserved when policymakers craft strategies and rules.