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John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Lawmaker Weighs Government Intervention In The Media

in Broadband's Impact by

WASHINGTON, December 2, 2009 – A senior lawmaker on Wednesday weighed in on government intervention in the media at a Federal Trade Commission forum convened to consider an alleged decreasing amount of original reporting taking place, as media outlets shut down or layoff journalists in the face of falling revenues.

The widespread availability of broadband technology plays an important role both in the alleged problem – competition to traditional print media revenue streams – and in the proposed solution: widespread availability of online content funded through a variety of means.

“In 1967, Congress made the judgment that public funding for radio and television was important because it would ensure the provision of content deemed valuable in the public interest to serve large societal goals – content that the market would be unable to produce without some government support,” said House Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., speaking before the Federal Trade Commission.

“Some argue that this model, applied to media publishers, could preserve and maintain key functions of modern journalism – investigative reporting, foreign news bureaus, wide-ranging coverage of the arts, culture, science and social trends – by cushioning the economic squeeze publishers are facing,” said Waxman. “Others have raised red flags about the dangers of government support of the press. I have an open mind on all the above proposals.”

“In the face of continuing closures of mastheads across the country, I see every reason to discuss them,” Waxman continued, in remarks he delivered during the second day of a “new media” workshop at the FTC.

Waxman suggested the media industry and related parties come up with a consensus on a proposal that is in the public interest.

“Congress can’t impose a solution to this issue. It needs to emerge from a consensus-building process involving the industry and the larger public,” he said. Waxman said these “initiatives require bipartisan support” and “those advocating for public funding need to address … the scope of such support, in terms of the activities to be supported and the dollars required.”

He added that public funding advocates also need to “respond to the concern that government support of journalism would lead to government control of content” and explain the source of revenues, and raised the issue of a “market failure” in the media.

The lawmaker raised a number of ideas that have been circulated to improve the state of the media industry including the establishment of new legal or tax structures for publishers, more philanthropic support for media outlets, a reexamination of antitrust laws, a review of media ownership restrictions, the exploration of new sources of journalism, and the prospect of public funding for quality journalism.

Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, supported Waxman. “Government has played an important role in news and journalism since its earliest days. As the media landscape evolves, policymakers have a responsibility to the public to create policies that can support better journalism and newsgathering in the Internet age,” he said.

In the past, others have noted the importance of having as much separation as possible between the government and media in a democracy.

During the FTC conference Wednesday, a report from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Aspen Institute Communications & Society Program on information needs in a democracy was highlighted.

The Knight-Aspen study puts forth a number of recommendations, including increasing support for public service media ventures aimed at meeting community information needs, funding public libraries and other community institutions to serve as centers of digital and media training, and making sure that every local community has at least one high-quality online hub.

The report calls for supporting the “activities of information providers to reach local audiences with quality content through all appropriate media, such as mobile phones, radio, public access cable, and new platforms.”

It recommends that standards be set for nationwide broadband availability and public policies be adopted to encourage consumer demand for broadband services. The Knight-Aspen report also calls for “a national commitment to open networks as a core objective of internet policy.”

Knight Center of Digital Excellence in Ohio is Closed

in Broadband Updates/Broadband's Impact by

The Akron-based Knight Center of Digital Excellence was closed effective immediately on Thursday, according to OneCommunity, a Cleveland-based nonprofit that created the center two years ago through funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

“The purpose of the center was to consult with community organizations across the nation with the goal of creating affordable broadband access for all,” according to the release announcing the center’s death.

Meanwhile, on the jobless front:

  • AOL will cut about a third of its workforce, or 2,500 jobs, to reduce costs as it prepares to be spun off from its parent company, Time Warner, according to news reports Thursday. AOL said it will ask for volunteers to accept a buyout package first and will then resort to layoffs if it fails to get enough takers.
  • The News Media Guild announced Thursday that at least 71 workers for the Associated Press were let go this week. “The terminations Wednesday involved nine newspersons, three editorial assistants, one photographer, and one office assistant. The notice appears to state that correspondencies in Dayton, Ohio; Roanoke, Va.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Jacksonville, Fla., are being closed. In addition, the Guild is aware of layoffs among U.S. managers and overseas staff,” according to the group.
  • Earlier this month, Microsoft said it would lay off 800 workers in addition to the 5,000 it had already announced this year, according to news reports.

BroadbandCensus.com Applies for Knight News Challenge Grant to Enhance Data, Build Out Wiki and Offer Video

in Press Releases by

Blog Entries

WASHINGTON, November 1 – BroadbandCensus.com applied on Saturday for a News Challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The application, which can be viewed online at the newschallenge.org web site, lays out a plan of action for the future work of this web site.

Here’s the text of the application:

Project Title:

BroadbandCensus.com is Crowdsourcing Internet Access Community-by-Community: It’s the Building Block

Requested amount from Knight News Challenge:

$900,000

Expected amount of time to complete project:

1 [year]

Total cost of project including all sources of funding:

$1,100,000

Describe your project:

You are probably reading this on a computing device. You probably have either a wired or a wireless internet connection. You probably have broadband access. What else do you know about your broadband connection? How well does your connection work? Is your carrier limiting your bandwidth? Do your neighbors have the broadband speeds and services that they need to connect to you?

BroadbandCensus.com wants you to know everything about your broadband options. We want communities to know. The internet is international, but all broadband is local. BroadbandCensus.com understands this. We are building the knowledge base about broadband – through data, news and now through video. Just as the market for real estate relies upon public land records, the market for local broadband needs the public records of the Broadband Census.

BroadbandCensus.com allows you to find out about and monitor your local carrier, to see how your neighbors rate your carrier, and take a speed test and offer comments. We’re using crowdsourcing on the internet to share and compare knowledge about the internet. This free data about actual speed results becomes the foundation for our news and reporting about broadband issues. BroadbandCensus.com is currently rolling out a wiki with entries for every state, county, city and broadband carrier. Our reporters are writing about broadband deployments on a state and city level. We’re building communities of individuals who see the need to map out local and state broadband facilities. We’re finding the stories and crunching the data the show communities whether they have universal broadband. Working with other strategic partners in non-profit, educational and local communities, we plan to showcase and share videos helping communities pursue their digital destinies.

How will your project improve the way news and information are delivered to geographic communities?

The internet is the knowledge-pipe of today. Given the vital role that fiber, copper and wireless play in our day-to-day lives, the means of transmission must be opened up and inspected. BroadbandCensus.com does this, improving the operation of the internet marketplace one person and one community at a time.

Local communities are involved in all three of our projects: our data-gathering component, our news-stream/broadband wiki, and the video showcase we plan to release. BroadbandCensus.com displays data and news nation-wide, but our site incorporates Broadband Census Indiana and others, offering state-wide and city-wide views of the broadband marketplace. We’re also building a community through our Broadband Census for America conferences.

How is your idea innovative? (new or different from what already exists)

Commercial broadband providers know where they offer service, and where they don’t. BroadbandCensus.com wants to equalize knowledge. We provide internet end-users with data, information and video resources about the providers. As communities consider their internet options, they want the most complete information about broadband – and they want to learn and share knowledge from other communities that have offered citizens internet access. BroadbandCensus.com is the platform to freely and openly share news and data about broadband communities and about carriers. Particularly as Bells and cable operators begin to meter out bitstreams, citizen-users of their network will use BroadbandCensus.com as the neutral third party to monitor carriers.

What experience do you or your organization have to successfully develop this project?

Drew Clark is one of the toughest and most comprehensive telecom, media and technology journalists in the United States. He is widely respected for his fairness and insight in covering Washington-based internet issues. As the Editor and Executive Director of BroadbandCensus.com, which he created in December 2007 to provide the public with an objective measure of where broadband is available and which carriers offer it, Clark sees the company as an ally and partner of local communities, cities, counties and states on the all-important issue of building good internet access block-by-block.

Prior to launching BroadbandCensus.com, Clark led the “Well Connected” Project at the Center for Public Integrity. As Senior Fellow and Project Manager there, he directed all aspects of this investigative journalism venture monitoring the political influence of the communications industries. He was responsible for the five million-record Media Tracker database, the most comprehensive collection of information about media ownership. Seeing broadband as the next key battleground, he initiated the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for local internet data at the Federal Communications Commission.

From 1998 to 2006, Clark was Senior Writer at the National Journal Group, where he was editor, writer, columnist, commentator, moderator and host of technology coverage, leading comprehensive reporting of telecommunications, privacy, antitrust, free speech and intellectual property. Clark brings the journalistic expertise, the management capacity, and the passion to stand up to incumbent interests.

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