Deadline on future of media now further into the future


Time for commentary on the FCC’s examination of the future of media, which encompasses “…a range of issues regarding whether Americans have access to vibrant, diverse sources of news and information that enable them to enrich their lives, their communities and the democracy,” has been extended two months.

The Commission is honoring the joint request for more time that came from the Association of Public Television Stations, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio, and the Public Broadcasting Service.

Originally, the deadline was 3/8/10, and has now been extended to 5/7/10.

The project is under the auspices of Steve Waldman, and it received immediate comment from two sitting commissioners, Michael Copps and Robert McDowell. Observers will not be surprised that Copps leans towards a hands-on approach to the problem, and McDowell towards hands-off.

“I want to express my personal gratitude to Steve Waldman for the work he’s doing to examine the present state of journalism and its future,” wrote Copps. “This is an issue that is not only near and dear to my heart, but one that goes to the very heart of our democracy. At its best, journalism asks the right questions and knows where and how to find the answers. It holds the powerful accountable by providing citizens an accounting.  It is democracy’s watchdog. As we move forward in this work, it is only fitting that we have someone here at the FCC with the mission of asking the difficult and encompassing questions and reaching out to stakeholders all across the land to develop some answers. The country is in serious need of a robust national dialogue about what we expect of our journalism media going forward in this era of great technology and economic change.”

He continued, “I can think of few, if any, challenges more central to the future of our country.  In fact, I can think of none.  You’ve heard me talk many times before about where the past three decades of media consolidation by the private sector, aided and abetted by this Commission’s wholesale decimation of public interest oversight, have left us in terms of actual news.  Watchdog journalism is a shell of its former self.  It’s dying in traditional media and unable to find oxygen in the new.   The road we’re traveling is inflicting irreparable harm not just on our media, but on the citizenry that media has an obligation to inform and enlighten. So I am grateful that we are at long last, after a sojourn of many years in a strange ideological wilderness, asking how well the public interest is being served currently by traditional media, and equally appreciative that we are beginning to examine how the public interest can be served in the new digital era.”

McDowell wrote, “Many of the questions teed up in this proceeding are directly relevant to our statutory authority – most notably, our obligation to review the continuing need for our media ownership obligations every four years. I support all Commission efforts to probe for pertinent data that can help us understand the current competitive landscape in which the regulated media struggle to survive and adapt. And because I am sensitive to many media companies’ financial challenges today, I also am pleased that the Public Notice that launched this examination makes clear that the Commission will consider filings already submitted in related dockets without commenters having to take further steps. The last thing we need to impose on the people and companies affected by our actions is yet another government filing burden.”

McDowell went on, “And that leads to threshold questions that I hope will be at the center of this discussion: Should government have any role at all in any effort to preserve or change journalism? Furthermore, what are the constitutional, legal and policy implications of such efforts?  How would the freedom of the American people be affected by any government action beyond the solicitation of comment? Taking a step or two further down this analytical road, I fundamentally disagree with certain opinions that some may bring to this ongoing conversation. As the son of two journalists, I certainly recognize that the business models which supported professional journalists throughout the 20th Century are in the midst of great upheaval. But as a student of history, I don’t equate today’s transition period, as uncertain as it may be, with the imminent death of American journalism or a lessening of the media’s ability to support the functioning of our democracy.”

RBR-TVBR observation: We believe that any government action involving journalism must be hands-off – way off. It is the job of responsible journalists to monitor the government. On the flip side, government-run journalism is as unreliable as journalism gets. Proceed with caution.