Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy

Aspen Institute

Date Awarded
Grant Period
02/01/11 to 03/31/12
Focus Areas
Communities, Journalism, Media Innovation
Knight Library Initiative
Internet Access and Adoption, Universal Access

Project Links

Grantee Contact

  • Washington, DC

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Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

To analyze issues of Internet unity, governance and structure and propose strategies to increase global Internet freedom

The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy was a blue ribbon panel of seventeen media, policy and community leaders that met in 2008 and 2009. Its purpose was to assess the information needs of communities, and recommend measures to help Americans better meet those needs. Its Report, Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age, was the first major commission on media since the Hutchins Commission in the 1940’s and the Kerner and Carnegie Commissions of the 1960’s.

In the digital age, technological, economic and behavioral changes are dramatically altering how Americans communicate. Information is more fragmented. Communications systems no longer run along the same lines as local governance. The gap in access to digital tools and skills is wide and troubling. This new era poses major challenges to the flow of news and information people depend on to manage their complex lives.

The Commission’s aims are to maximize the availability and flow of credible local information; to enhance access and capacity to use the new tools of knowledge and exchange; and to encourage people to engage with information and each other within their geographic communities. Among its 15 recommendations the Commission argues for universal broadband, open networks, transparent government, a media and digitally literate populace, vibrant local journalism, public media reform, and local public engagement.

The Commission seeks to start a national discussion leading to real action. Please let us know what measures you believe will advance the cause of Information Healthy Communities.

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Project Team

Charles M. Firestone

Executive Director, Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program

Charlie Firestone joined C&S as executive director in 1989. Since then, the program has focused on the implications of communications and information technologies for leadership; the impact of new technologies on democratic, economic and social institutions; and the development of new communications policy models and options for the public interest. Charlie also served as the Institute's executive vice president for policy programs and international activities for three years. Previously, he was director of the Communications Law Program at UCLA, and president of the Los Angeles Board of Telecommunications Commissioners. Charlie has argued two Supreme Court cases, and has written numerous articles on communications law and policy. In the fall of 2003 he was a visiting professor of public policy at Duke University.

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