Today in Washington, the FCC is unveiling a new report that offers practical ways public policy can improve the environment for local accountability journalism, which has suffered significant cutbacks in recent years as traditional media struggle to make the transition to the digital age.
We’re proud that the FCC’s effort was inspired by the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, which in 2009 set out a vision for promoting informed, healthy communities into the future. The Commission offered 15 recommendations to help Americans meet their local information needs, including: setting new standards for universal broadband, strengthening public media and ensuring that governments are transparent.
The Knight Commission was a bipartisan project: it included politically diverse members such as former FCC chairmen Reed Hundt and Michael Powell. Unlike previous industry-centric studies of media, the Knight Commission focused on community information needs as its starting point.
"Of the areas considered by the Knight Commission, our nation has made real progress on only one: universal broadband access,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation. “As satisfying as that is, it is also completely unacceptable – and unAmerican -- that a significant number of people are still 'second-class citizens,' without the broadband access needed to participate in digital life and commerce. We're hopeful that the FCC's Information Needs of Communities report will move us from debate to action.”
Tomorrow, Knight Foundation President and CEO Alberto Ibargüen will discuss the report at Columbia University with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Columbia Journalism School Dean Nicholas Lemann at 8:45 a.m. EDT. Watch the livestream of that event here.
The most comprehensive national look at media policy in a generation, the FCC’s report offers recommendations around six principles that closely echo those of the Knight Commission:
- Information required by FCC policy to be disclosed to the public should, over time, be made available online.
- Greater government transparency will enable both citizens and reporters to more effectively monitor powerful institutions and benefit from public services.
- Existing government advertising spending should be targeted more toward local media. · Nonprofit media need to develop more sustainable business models, especially through private donations.
- Universal broadband and an open Internet are essential prerequisites for ensuring that the new media landscape serves communities well.
- Policymakers should take historically underserved communities into account when crafting strategies and rules.
Among its recommendations are that philanthropy take on a greater role in helping nonprofit journalism survive and thrive, a priority of Knight Foundation, which is devoted to “informed and engaged communities.”
Through its Knight Community Information Challenge, the foundation has matched the journalism and media grant-making of dozens of community and place-based foundations. In addition, many other national foundations, such as Gates, Ford, Carnegie, Macarthur, McCormick and Ethics and Excellence in Journalism have made significant new investments in nonprofit media, public media, journalism education and technology that help engage citizens.
The FCC report quotes Ibargüen saying: “The flow of local news is as important as the flow of jobs, or the flow of traffic, or electricity.”
Check out Knight Foundation’s news release at http://www.knightfoundation.org/press-room/press-release/fccs-information-needs-communities-report-offers-n/.