Steve Waldman’s report on the state of journalism in the era of the internet is more vibrant than we may have been led to believe; that there were still gaping holes in the development of a vibrant business model for journalism; and that although the constitution provides only for a limited government role in the process, that there are some things that might be done. Although at the end of the day, all Waldman and his colleagues produced was a report with no force of any kind, it did have enough force to spark debate.
Here’s what some are saying:
* Kathleen Kirby, Partner, Wiley Rein LLP: “Among the headlines for broadcast journalists, the report does not suggest a new raft of FCC regulations for radio and television stations.” Good things for broadcasters – getting rid of Fairness Doctrine, and ending localism and enhanced disclosure proceeding. Notes shift of public file to the internet, and worries about implications of comments on advertisers dictating the news. Kirby says more thorough analysis is coming.
* Minority Media and Telecommunications Council highlighted several recommendations it supports: (1) That Congress reinstate the tax certificate policy, whereby companies selling media and telecommunications properties to minorities could defer capital gains tax on the sale – a policy that quintupled minority broadcast ownership in 17 years; (2) Exploring the potential to use TV Channels 5 and 6 to expand radio ownership opportunities to new small businesses, including minority- and women-owned businesses – as MMTC has long recommended; (3) Resolving long-outstanding confidentiality issues to restore EEO personnel reporting, which would provide reliable, transparent data on minority and women’s participation in the media industries; (4) Terminating the localism proceeding and avoiding rules that would impose a substantial burden or divert critical resources away from newsgathering; (5) Encouraging foundation efforts to assist historically Black colleges and universities’ journalism programs.
* Craig Aaron, Free Press: “The biggest take away from the agency’s report is that there is still a crisis in quality, local news. However, oddly, the FCC report seems to embrace policies that would make this problem even worse. We are especially disappointed that the Commission is abandoning enhanced disclosure that requires broadcasters to report how much – or how little – local news and programming they air. In essence, this hides the problem this report was intended to help resolve by making it harder to find evidence of the problem.”
* Time Warner Cable: “Time Warner Cable is pleased that the FCC’s staff report, “Information Needs of Communities: The Changing Media Landscape in a Broadband Age,” recognizes the valuable contribution that our 24/7 cable news channels are making in local communities across the country. We are also encouraged that the Report recommends a review of the leased access statute and rules for those operators that provide local news. We hope that this review is done expeditiously and leads to relief from outdated carriage requirements in this era of vibrant video competition.”