The Federal Communications Commission has launched an examination into the Future of Media and Information Needs of Communities in a Digital Age with a public notice that calls for public input through March 8, 2010 May 7, 2010 (new date announced 2/22/10). In its announcement, the FCC cited the report of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy which has been influential in helping to structure the FCC’s inquiry.
Steven Waldman, who is leading the Future of Media project as senior advisor to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, explained in an interview with Broadcasting & Cable’s John Eggerton that the goal is to produce a report that looks at the state of news and information media and then makes policy recommendations for the FCC and possibly other policy players both in and out of government. Again citing the Knight Commission, he noted that the inquiry will be broader than an examination of journalism and will address the “information needs of communities.”
The FCC’s notice contains 42 preliminary questions, covering a variety of issues, that the FCC will consider as part of the inquiry. At the top of the list, question #1 is this: What are the information needs of citizens and communities?
This is exactly the right way to frame the inquiry into the future of media. Placing citizens, not media, at the center of this inquiry will lead to a broader view of the issues that will need to be addressed and steps taken if the media are to meet the communication and information needs of Americans in the modern era.
Universal broadband, open access to networks, digital and media literacy skills, changing roles for public service media, local journalism provided by a new cadre of individuals, institutions and partnerships, and greater transparency and openness in government – all of these issues factor into the ability of citizens to get and use the information they need to manage their lives. All of these issues are addressed in the Knight Commission’s report, Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age.
Since the Knight Commission entered the debate over the future of media, it has sought to not only inform the debate, but reframe it, and then encourage actions that will give every citizen the opportunity to live in a healthy information community. Now is the time to add your voice to the debate by submitting your comments to the FCC by March 8th May 7th. There are multiple ways to do this. Comments may be submitted via the Future of Media website, www.fcc.gov/futureofmedia, as comments in the website forums or on the Future of Media blog. Comments may also be filed using the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/ecfs.