Ten Policy Debates Shaping Journalism Right Now

The wide-ranging debates and policy proceedings happening in DC right now regarding the future of media could have an enormous impact on journalism in America. Here’s a rundown of the key debates that will shape journalism in the coming years.

Journalism

  • Federal Communications Commission’s initiative on the “Future of Media and Information Needs of Communities in a Digital Age”: This is a wide-ranging investigation into the media needs of communities and a possible role for government in helping to meet those needs. The investigation will culminate in a report and recommendations for the FCC, Congress and other federal agencies on how to update and change the laws that shape our media. The deadline for participation is May 7. Find out more here: http://www.freepress.net/fccfutureofmedia
  • Federal Trade Commission’s investigation, “How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age”: This is another big picture exploration of the role of government in responding to the challenges facing journalism, although its focus is on traditional FTC issues like copyright, antitrust and advertising. The final result will be a report. To date, the commission has held two workshops. Find out more: http://www.ftc.gov/opp/workshops/news/index.shtml
  • The Newspaper Revitalization Act: Introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) in the Senate and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) in the House, this bill would allow metro-daily newspapers to convert to nonprofit status. Both bills have some key flaws that would limit their scope and impact, but they have sparked important debates on the Hill. Sen. Cardin’s staff has signaled an interest in revising the bill. At the moment, both versions of the bill are sitting in committee. Find out more: http://maloney.house.gov/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=1937&Itemid=61 and http://cardin.senate.gov/news/record.cfm?id=310392
  • The Shield Law: While there has been enormous progress made on the federal shield law, the debate still rages on. Sticking points include how best to define who receives the protections of the bill (i.e., who is a journalist) and how to balance national security with protections for journalists and their sources. Find out more: http://rcfp.org/newsitems/index.php?op=keyword&key=62 or http://www.spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

Media Ownership and Consolidation

  • FCC Quadrennial Media Ownership Review: Earlier this year, the FCC began its mandatory quarterly review of media ownership laws. Just as it was getting started, the D.C. Circuit Court lifted the stay that had been in place on rule changes that date back to 2007. The decision means that the Bush administration’s relaxation of the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule is now in effect. The FCC has the opportunity to reverse the court’s decision in its review. Find out more: http://www.reclaimthemedia.org/corporate_power/consolidation/court_lifts_stay_media_ownersh2312
  • Comcast/NBC Merger: Cable and Internet giant Comcast is preparing to take over NBC Universal, one of the nation’s largest production studios and newsrooms. Comcast already reaches close to 24 million homes in 39 states in the United States. Through this merger, Comcast would acquire NBC’s movie studios, broadcast networks, cable networks, a huge stake in the online video service Hulu.com, as well as 26 local broadcast stations that reach nearly one-third of U.S. households. Congress has held four hearings on the proposed merger, which is under investigation by the Department of Justice and the FCC. Find out more: http://www.freepress.net/comcast

Broadband and Internet Policy

  • The National Broadband Plan: In March, the FCC unveiled its plan to connect the entire nation to high-speed Internet. Roughly 30 percent of the U.S. population is stuck on dial-up or has no access at all. As more news and information moves online only and new online news organizations emerge, the future of the Internet is increasingly intertwined with the future of journalism. Find out more: http://www.broadband.gov/plan/
  • Net Neutrality: Net Neutrality is the founding principle of the Internet. It’s the idea that Internet providers can’t discriminate between different kinds of content and applications..Several companies have been caught meddling with users’ communications for political or anti-competitive reasons. Net Neutrality is our guarantee of free speech online, and will be vital to ensuring a level playing field for new voices and new models of journalism in the future. The FCC is considering enacting formal rules to protect Net Neutrality, but a recent court decision questioned the agency’s jurisdiction over the Internet. Find out more here: http://www.savetheinternet.com/blog/10/04/07/appeals-court-ruling-endangers-fccs-ability-protect-online-speech

Community Media

  • The Local Community Radio Act: This bill, which has passed the House and is close to passage in the Senate, would allow for the creation of hundreds and possibly thousands of new Low Power FM radio stations around the country. This could be a huge boon to local news efforts, giving emerging nonprofit news operations another platform to distribute content. Find out more: http://www.freepress.net/lpfm
  • Community Access Preservation Act of 2009: Introduced in the House, the CAP Act is designed to address a number of issues facing public, educational and government (PEG) channels. Across the country, PEG stations have suffered attacks from cable and phone companies that want to skirt their responsibility to support these vital community news and information centers. For more info: http://www.freepress.net/peg
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