Posted by The Commish on July 10, 2009 at 13:41:33:
FCC Commissioner Circulates Document on 'The State of Media Journalism'
Thursday, July 09, 2009 By Matt Cover
CNSNews.com) -- Michael Copps, a commissioner with the Federal Communications Commission and its former acting chairman, has circulated an internal report examining the state of media journalism in America and discussing ways to address issues such as the rise of media conglomerates and the prevalence of opinion journalism.
The report, known as a Notification of Inquiry (NOI), is often the first step in the FCC's rule-making process. It examines traditional broadcast media as well as the rise of "new" media such as blogs and Internet news.
After the FCC makes the report public, it can then be used as the basis for instituting new rules governing broadcasting ownership, licensing and content.
According to an FCC official, who spoke with CNSNews.com on background because the report has yet to be made public, the document focuses on the availability of news and information to the American public.
The official said the report examines the decline of broadcast journalism over the past several years and tries to explain why traditional forms of journalism have declined while other, newer forms have been on the rise.
The report also examines the different business models used by different types of media outlets, comparing Internet and broadcast and print business models, the official said. The report looks at which business models seem to be succeeding and which ones are not.
The decline of traditional print and broadcast outlets is the primary focus of the report, which analyzes which new outlets are picking up the slack -- and why they might be eclipsing traditional news outlets.
Journalistic quality also is an issue, according to the official, who said the report would look at whether the Internet and other news sources have been able to fill the gap in journalism left by the declining print and broadcast outlets.
The second part of the report examines possible ideas for addressing these issues. Among the ideas discussed in the report are things like a potential government response to the decline of older media outlets.
Another idea examined in the report is whether the federal government could possibly use the tax code to aid struggling outlets, giving them tax breaks to help them survive.
A major issue the report details is the possibility of "behavioral rules" for broadcasters, according to the official. Behavioral rules might include guidelines that broadcasts serve the public interest.
Bringing back Cold War-era guidelines mandating that broadcasters do "non-entertainment" programming is another idea being examined, according to the official.
The official stressed that the report is not about drawing conclusions, only about gathering data and creating a record on the issue.
Media and journalism are personal issues for Copps, who has publicly lamented the rise of "infotainment," blogging, and the disappearance of "investigative" journalism.
"Reform is never on auto-pilot, and in spite of all the marvels of twenty-first century technology, there is no GPS system that can deliver us to a new, progressive promised land," Copps said on May 14 to the liberal group Free Press. "In communications, will 'old media' stalwarts like newspapers and broadcasting simply disappear -- or will they adapt and survive?
"How about journalism?" asked Copps. "Will anyone figure out a business model to support in-depth, investigative journalism -- or must we develop something completely new, perhaps based on philanthropy, non-profit models or public media?"
Copps blamed the Internet for what he saw as journalism's decline, adding that consolidation and "mindless" deregulation of media ownership was undermining democracy.
"We're not only losing journalists, we may be losing journalism," he said. "Some blame the Internet and bloggers, and that's certainly a part of the story. All that consolidation and mindless deregulation, rather than reviving the news business, condemned us to less real news, less serious political coverage, less diversity of opinion, less minority and female ownership, less investigative journalism and fewer jobs for journalists."
Engaging in a bit of possible foreshadowing, Copps compared what he called the "public interest standard" for media to an old theater in need of renovation.
"The public interest standard is like a grand old theater that has been badly neglected over the years," he said. "The structure is sound, and with a little imagination and a lot of hard work we can make it a showplace once again."
"Since we still need broadcasters to contribute to the democratic dialogue, we need clear standards that can be fairly but vigorously enforced," said Copps. "It is time to say 'Good-bye' to post-card renewal every eight years and 'Hello' to license renewals every three years with some public interest teeth."
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