Experts Discuss Government's Role Regarding Challenged Media Landscape
WASHINGTON D.C. — The Progress & Freedom Foundation today released the transcript from its event, "Can Government Help Save the Press?" featuring the panel discussion of First Amendment experts: Ellen P. Goodman, Federal Communication Commission's Future of Media team; Charlie Firestone, Aspen Institute; Kurt Wimmer, Covington & Burling; Andrew Jay Schwartzman, Media Access Project; Craig L. Parshall, National Religious Broadcasters; Robert Corn-Revere, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP; and Adam Thierer, PFF.
The event was held at the Ronald Reagan Center on May 20th, and focused on the FCC's "Future of Media" proceeding, which is currently examining how government can and should help struggling media survive in the digital era.
Highlighted excerpts from the panel discussions include:
- Ellen Goodman (on the need for more data): "Interestingly, despite all this activity about the journalism crisis, there's a lot of information we don't have. Really simple questions like how many PEG channels are there and what do they do? Where are the online news startups that we're hearing so much about? How might we map them? And what are they producing? What factors lead to the most productive public media ventures and why do so many falter? So what the Future of Media Project is doing is trying to take a blue sky approach to these questions. We're gathering information, generating new ideas. And another thing that's notable about the project is that it crosses the silos that usually exist at the FCC. Silos that I think most of us would agree make no sense in today's converged world."
- Charlie Firestone(on the need for business model experimentation): "[Y]ou can get advertising, subscriptions, fees, sales of information, micro-payments, barter, or cooperative system of some sort, corporate underwriting, philanthropic gifts, voluntary contributions, tip jars, endowments, and government. Those are all potential sources [of income]. My suggestion is… what I call, 'pixelizing.' There will be different sources of income for different functions. And that there's going to be this period of experimentation and that we have to really watch this experimentation play out."
- Kurt Wimmer (on the need for media deregulation): "You have to concede that the reality is the government is knee-deep in the media. We're regulated in what we can own. We're regulated in what can say. It's not meant to be content regulation. It's not meant to be deep regulation, but clearly it has an impact on how the media will succeed in the future."
- Craig Parshall (on the dangers of government subsidies for media): "The idea of creating a super-funding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting or some other mechanism to insure that we have the news covered in an adequate way, I think would be anathema to our Founding Fathers. At best, it smacks of not a horizontal relationship but a vertical relationship with the press, is up there with the federal government, above the people, not among the people. And of course, at worst, it really does, in my way of thinking, create a specter of a 21st Century version of Pravda."
- Andy Schwartzman (arguing for swift government action): "I think it is dangerous to assume that there's no problem and wait until local journalism and this important function disappears and then try to fix it. I think we need to be working on it now. So, I welcome the FCC's examination of the problem. I hope everybody will approach this with a view towards finding content neutral means of assuring that this important function in a democratic society is preserved."
- Robert Corn-Revere (arguing for new regulatory paradigms): "This would be a good time for the Commission to step up and say, 'We've taken a look at the media ecosystem'—I'll use that word. 'There really is no way to apply 20th-century rationales, or, in fact, 19th-century rationales when you get down to the public interest standard, to a 21st-century medium that is fully converged and that is only going to change and become more complex in the future.' This really would be an opportune way for the Commission to make a bold statement about how the media marketplace has completely changed."
- Adam Thierer (quoting a piece by Ellen Goodman): "'Consumers equipped with digital selection and filtering tools are likely to avoid content they do not demand no matter what the regulatory efforts to force exposure.' And that really succinctly explains, I think, the problem I have with a lot of the policies being considered today… How do we get people to 'eat their greens,' if you will? How do we even measure what the greens are with communities?"
The transcript of the event can be obtained here. Please contact Mike Wendy at email@example.com for more information.
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.