Our friend at the Niagara Falls Reporter, the Pulitzer-winning John Hanchette, today comments and expands on Denny’s analysis concerning the need for a new business model for news organizations. Denny’s post and Hanch’s follow-on, taken together, represent about as coherent a starting point for the discussion of the future of news as I’ve seen, and while I’m certain that no self-respecting media exec would be caught dead in the presence of this kind of lucid thinking, there’s no reason you shouldn’t give it a read.
According to the folks who run broadbandreports.com — the most informative site I’ve found yet on this subject (and one which also took note of the relevance of Adlai Stevenson’s famous quote) — this is because “we lack a comprehensive national broadband strategy of any kind.” Instead, we leave such decisions and initiatives to big corporations and utility companies, neither of whom the Dubya administration wants to offend.
Our actual national strategy, says broadbandreports.com, “consists of paying broadband lip service only during political campaigns, implementing flimsy policies aimed solely at protecting the revenues of the largest operators, then issuing reports that pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.”
There is evidence of this. When it comes to broadband access, the minions of President George W. Bush, in a strategy that might actually work in Iraq, tend to declare victory, pull out and go home. Even the bureaucracy that is supposed to administer the universal provision of broadband for Americans is obscure: the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, part of the Department of Commerce.
At the end of 2007, Dubya’s sidemen, rather than assess the dismal situation, simply issued a release that said Bush’s goal “to achieve universal broadband” has now been met.
“Today’s report shows the nation’s broadband success story,” burbled Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez. “The broadband policies put in place by the president have created a competitive environment to foster innovation and provide effective technologies.”
Dubya’s people officially claimed broadband access is now available in 99 percent of the nation’s zip codes — a boast much disputed by competent apolitical researchers and just about anybody I could find who posted blogs or “total crap” comments following this dubious claim. If it is, it can only be afforded by wealthy users in many of them.
Dr. Denny’s advice that news companies should urge Congress for government-assisted broadband access outside the big cities is certainly merited, and one that should be self-evident for publishers.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, as Hanchette revisits some important 20th Century policy debates that inform our current predicament in ways the Bushies, Big Telecom and the FCC (a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T) aren’t going anywhere near. Read the rest here.