WASHINGTON, December 15, 2009 - "I am not a Czar," Federal Communications Commission Chief Diversity Officer Mark Lloyd declared on Monday, while delivering the keynote at a Media Access Project event on the impact of new media, net neutrality and journalism's future.
Lloyd, an attorney based out of the commission's Office of General Counsel, devoted a great deal of his speech to rebutting criticism and accusations regarding his role at the FCC, which began when some right-wing oriented blogs and commentators, including Glenn Beck, began critically examining his prior academic writings on media ownership and diversity of expression.
That led some members of Congress to question FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski over Lloyd's role at the commission. "I am not at the FCC to restore the Fairness Doctrine through the front door or the back door," Lloyd said in response to one common concern.
The "right wing smear campaign" that Lloyd described escalated to threats upon his life, he said. But the hate mail and death threats are "the price we pay for freedom of speech," he said. "And I do support free speech.”
Lloyd said that his experience was a powerful example of the developing relationship between traditional media and new online social media tools. "Anyone who suggests that...newspapers or radio or television no longer matters has not yet fully experienced the impact of old media," he said.
But Facebook and YouTube are not the answer to the problems of old media, he said, adding that anyone who thought so "has not been confronted by a smear campaign using these social media tools."
Making broadband available to all Americans will give them access to information that will let them sort through similar smear campaigns and allow true journalism to continue to flourish, Lloyd said. "[B]y making communication service available to all Americans, it will become easier to expose falsehood...this is where journalism comes in."
Even the most careful journalists are inherently subject to some form of bias, he said. This is why diversity in media – even if it leads to "newsroom battles" – is so needed, Lloyd said.
"It is important for citizens to check not only the Wall Street Journal, but also the New York Times; not only the Washington Times, but also the Washington Post. This is the great value of independent journalism."
The hope that social media provides, Lloyd said, is the possibility for a forum where citizens can have a place to contribute to the record "and have a real voice in determining what is important for the entire community to consider."
Within these new media environs, "honest journalism will show us the truth."
Lloyd told reporters after his keynote that his speech was not about criticizing those who have attacked him, but about setting the record straight. "I am criticizing being called a communist," he said. Even as a lawyer for the commission, Lloyd said he still believes he has the right to speak out on his own behalf and that shouldn't be confused with attacking anyone. "I'm speaking up for myself," he said.
Despite the uproar over his writing, Lloyd has "no thought of leaving the FCC," he told reporters. "I've got work in front me," he said.