FCC: Move to digital hasn't improved local news reporting

From the “The Feds Are The Last To Know Department”:

The Federal Communications Commission released a study today reporting that an “explosion of online news sources in recent years has not produced a corresponding increase in reporting, particularly quality local reporting …” The study, titled “Information Needs of Communities” takes a broad but somewhat shallow look at the media landscape. It reads as more of a history of how modern media arrived at its current state than as a clear, practical recipe for change.

The study — which looks at the local reporting performance of all media, not just that of newspapers — was undertaken by senior FCC adviser Steven Waldman, a former journalist for Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report. According to his study:

In many communities, we now face a shortage of local, professional, accountability reporting. The independent watchdog function that the Founding Fathers envisioned for journalism — going so far as to call it crucial to a healthy democracy — is in some cases at risk at the local level.

Well, duh. Continue reading

Yet another great and wonderful thing about the BBC

There’s lots to like about the BBC. They piss off the Conservatives now as much as they pissed off New Labour not too long ago. The still take seriously their mission to provide as broad a range of news, features, and entertainment to the entire country—and, through the World Service, much of the world. Their television and radio broadcasting are gold standard. They don’t produce everything that’s great about British television, but they do most of it. And the world of British radio is amazing—the BBC has lord knows how many radio stations, all serving different constituencies. It’s another great thing about being able to live in London. But, of course, the BBC is pretty much anywhere and everywhere in Britain. It comes to you. And anywhere in the world, it comes to you, in fact, through the miracle of the intertubes.

And then there’s BBC iPlayer. Which is simply the link on the BBC website, right along the bar at the top, that takes you here. And here we have a whole world. Continue reading

Nota Bene #113: Seth's Near-Death

“Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #105: The Illustrated Dick

“When all you are becomes defined as the amount of information traceable to you, what are we then? What have we become, in a world where there is no separation, no door, no filter beyond which we can say, ‘No. This is my personal space. Not yours. Here I am alone with my thoughts and free of any outside influence or control. This, you cannot have.’ I don’t know, but I don’t want to find out.” Who said it? Continue reading

How long can volunteers sustain community blogs?

Over the past nearly four years, nearly 2,600 posts have appeared on Scholars & Rogues, almost all researched and written by the 15 folks whose names appear on our writers’ bio page. S&R writers have devoted thousands of hours to the task of filling this space.

These are skilled people with diverse interests and even more diverse points of view. Three are college professors. Also writing for S&R have been or are an Hispanic activist from Texas; a foreign affairs writer who specializes in nuclear deproliferation issues and civilian casualties resulting from armed conflict; a gay staff cartoonist; a management consultant specializing in organizational behavior whose clients include 20 percent of the Fortune 500; an ex-pat South African economist; three experts in popular culture; a former director of the Berkeley Stage Company and statistical demographer for the U.S. Census Bureau; a professional stage actor; two stay-at-moms; a photographer; and occasional guest columnists.

However, we all share one trait: We are volunteers. We don’t get paid. We have other lives, other responsibilities, other people dependent on us to make a living. As business models go, ours sucks. Modest ad income and passing the hat means S&R remains a labor of love. But can love be a sustaining force for the online medium in the absence of profit?
Continue reading

How to deal with an Economic 9/11

by Djerrid

Let’s go back to one month after 9/11.  The country just suffered its worse terrorist attack in the nation’s history and was going through another.  Weaponized anthrax was being sent through the mail targeting politicians and the 4th estate. The intelligence agencies failed catastrophically and didn’t cooperate with each other. The nation panicked and didn’t know if it could protect itself.

The response? The USA PATRIOT Act. Continue reading

Nota Bene #26 Part 2 of 2

Got hot links if you want ’em!

In his New York Times column, “Bits, Bands and Books,” Paul Krugman compares publishing to music, in which downloading has forced musicians to make their money touring and selling ancillary products: “Indeed, if e-books become the norm, the publishing industry as we know it may wither away. Books may end up serving mainly as promotional material for authors’ other activities, such as live readings with paid admission. Well, if it was good enough for Charles Dickens, I guess it’s good enough for me.” Paying good money to hear authors read in the digital age? Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. Continue reading

A newspaper's leap into the Internet pond: Will it sink or swim?

Long ago, in the beginning, a newspaper developed a Web site. Hundreds followed that lead. Now, one newspaper has only a Web site. In the end, what will there be? And what will be the consequences for readers?

A Wisconsin daily newspaper, whose readers have been increasingly shedding it, has now shed a significant expense — newsprint. The Capital Times of Madison, whose circulation has fallen from more than 40,000 to 18,000, said “-30-” to its printing press. It has become an online information enterprise around the Madison.com portal.

The 90-year-old newspaper — one of two serving Madison under a joint operating agreement — will only publish a tabloid-sized edition twice per week carrying some news, opinion and a weekly arts, entertainment and culture section. It will be distributed in its home-delivered partner paper, the Wisconsin State Journal.

It’s a dicey move, but critics like me have said for years that the Web-only newspaper will see its day come (which does not mean we have argued that online-only is a good idea). So what does this end-of-print mean for Madison and beyond?
Continue reading

Don't let the future be compressed–fight for a free Internet

By Martin Bosworth

Last week AT&T exec Jim Cicconi did his part to spread FUD by claiming that the Internet will reach the limits of its capacity by 2010, bolstering this doomsday notion with absurd claims that three households could conceivably consume as much bandwidth as the entire existing Internet, or that the entirety of existing networks built today came from private-sector innovation, a claim I’m sure everyone from Vint Cerf to Al Gore can dispute. 😉 Continue reading

An REA model for 21st Century broadband?

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.” Continue reading

Nota Bene #18 Part 2 of 2

With the downturn in the economy, the welfare reform Bill Clinton enacted during his presidency might not seem as politically prescient as it once did. In his New York Times article, “From Welfare Shift in ’96, a Reminder for Clinton,” Peter S. Goodman reports on Peter Edelman, who quit his post as assistant secretary of social services at the Department of Health and Human Services in protest after Mr. Clinton signed the measure. Not only Bill, but Hillary, doesn’t “‘acknowledge the number of people who were hurt,’ Mr. Edelman said. ‘It’s just not in their lens.'”

Once Hillary was in the Senate, Goodman reports, “When the overhaul bill came up for reauthorization, Sandra Chapin, a former welfare recipient affiliated with a coalition called Welfare Made a Difference, lobbied Congress to allow more women to attend college while they received aid. Mrs. Clinton ‘wouldn’t have anything to do with it,’ Ms. Chapin said.” Continue reading

Say what? A new business model for news should begin with … profit?

It’s the new conventional wisdom: The news biz is dying. Declining circulation. Abandonment by advertisers. Falling revenues. Cuts in staffing to reduce costs. The news biz needs a new business model, the critical harpies proclaim.

But what should a new business model for an industry whose principal product is journalism look like?

It would have to recognize several new — and old — realities.

• Any new business model must generate profit.

There’s no way around this. Journalism is best sustained within a for-profit frame. A company that engages in newspaper journalism as a product is not supported by government (unlike public television) nor should it be. The same holds for commercial broadcast journalism as well. To provide news, the company must make a profit to attract investors and secure the resources to collect, report and transmit that news. A non-profit model cannot immediately match the breadth and depth of news reporting that a healthy democracy of more than 300 million citizens requires.
Continue reading

Comcast blocks public from FCC hearing

By Martin Bosworth

If you haven’t already heard about it, Comcast doesn’t just block subscribers from using BitTorrent, it also blocks the public from even complaining about it in public:

Comcast’s spokespersons admitted it paid people to do the same for a hearing on the company’s actions regarding its interference with peer-to-peer file-sharing services such as BitTorrent. The placeholders not only held spots in line, but also crowded into the hearing itself, preventing more than 100 attendees — many of whom had come to speak against Comcast — from getting inside. Continue reading

Comcast to customers: We control the horizontal, the vertical, and your Internets…but we can't admit it

By Martin Bosworth

The Save The Internet coalition alerted me to Comcast’s quietly rolling out new terms of service that codify what has been common knowledge for some time–that the company does, indeed, interfere with traffic on its network, and reserves the right to do so, any time it wishes.

Of course, the company hasn’t actually come out and said it so plainly, any more than they’ll admit they cancel customer accounts for hitting undisclosed bandwith caps. Instead, as Mike Masnick notes, they’re using “weasel language” that implies their intent without being so precise as to be caught. Continue reading

Shadow war: AT&T versus Verizon for control of American communications

By Martin Bosworth

Right now the Senate is embroiled in debate over whether or not to grant the major telecom companies (chiefly AT&T and Verizon) retroactive immunity for their participation in the NSA’s illegal surveillance program, in addition to legitimizing vast new surveillance powers over Americans with almost no oversight. You already know my feelings about that, so I won’t belabor the point.

On this issue, as with many others (such as their opposition to net neutrality), the two giants of the telecom industry have been largely buddy-buddy. Both of them stand to lose millions in damages from lawsuits brought against them for their actions, before even getting into the bad publicity the case has already caused. It’s easy to forget that these two companies are (at least in a technical sense) competitors, and don’t always pursue the same goals in the same way.

Case in point: Continue reading

Internet freedom means net neutrality, not "pay-as-you-go" broadband

By Martin Bosworth

Last week the news broke (via a leaked memo found by Broadband Reports) that Time Warner Cable was instituting a “tiered pricing” structure for broadband, where heavy bandwith users would have to pay more, rather than the customary “all you can eat” model of supposedly unlimited usage for a flat price. My article covers the issue in more detail, but the gist is that while tiered pricing structures are better than being kicked off your service for violating invisible bandwith caps, it’s still no substitute for building out new networks with more capacity.

This leads me to the excellent paper authored by Sascha Meinrath on how the concept of net neutrality needs to be incorporated and expanded into a larger vision of Internet freedom. Continue reading

CNet quizzes presidential candidates on technology

By Martin Bosworth

With the war in Iraq, the faltering economy, and health care dominating the issues front for the candidates, it’s no wonder technology issues have largely been back-burnered in the mainstream political debate. But that doesn’t make them any less relevant or important–or less requiring of coverage.

CNet’s Declan McCullagh and Anne Broache sent 10 technology-oriented questions to the candidates, discussing net neutrality, Internet taxation, REAL ID, wiretapping, and other issues, and CNet has published the answers as part of their Technology Voter’s Guide. After the jump, we’ll take a closer look at who answered (and who didn’t), and what they said. Continue reading

Broadband is everywhere in Taiwan–why not the U.S.?

By Martin Bosworth

GigaOm’s Om Malik points to a story detailing how broadband access is available for practically every city and community in Taiwan. This is a tremendous accomplishment for any country and one to be proud of, but it also draws more attention to the fact that the United States–supposedly the technological leader and innovator of the free world–is falling further and further behind in its adoption of broadband Internet services nationwide. Continue reading

Bush and the FCC want corporate control of all media–and Congress isn't playing along

By Martin Bosworth

Earlier this week the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to relax rules against cross-ownership of different media outlets in the same region. Basically, this means that a media conglomerate can own all the outlets for information in an area–a TV station, radio station, and newspaper–without any competition.

It’s been fairly widely known that this was a goal of current FCC chair Kevin Martin for some time–a corporatist who has been generally laissez-faire towards every aspect of consolidation of media (except for the cable industry), Martin never met a merger or buyout he didn’t like. What was not widely known, but should come as no surprise, is that the FCC vote had the full support of the Bush regime. Continue reading