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Free Press

September 21, 2011 in Craft, Education, Policy, Resources

Free Press is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, quality journalism and universal access to communications.

Our Purpose

Media play a huge role in our lives. TV, radio, the Internet, movies, books and newspapers inform and influence our ideas, opinions, values and beliefs. They shape our understanding of the world and give us the information we need to hold our leaders accountable. But our media system is failing.

This failure isn’t natural. For far too long, corrupt media policy has been made behind closed doors in the public’s name but without our informed consent. If we want better media, we need better media policies. If we want better policies, we must engage more people in policy debates and demand better media.

That’s why Free Press was created. We’re working to make media reform a bona fide political issue in America. Powerful telecommunications, cable and broadcasting companies have plenty of lobbyists to do their bidding. We’re making sure the public has a seat at the table, and we’re building a movement to make sure the media serve the public interest.

Free Press believes that media reform is crucial not just for creating better news and entertainment, but to advancing every issue you care about. A vibrant, diverse and independent media is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy.” Source: Freepress.net

Free Press Campaigns:

Save the News

“SaveTheNews.org, a project of Free Press, is leading the search for new public policies to promote a robust free press in America.

SaveTheNews.org is a campaign to fight for better media in our communities. We are working to support innovative, quality journalism; to create a first-class public media system; to promote diverse and local media ownership that serves our communities; and to involve the American people in the process.

Journalism is a vital public good — not just another commodity. The Founders understood that an informed and engaged public was crucial to a healthy democracy; that’s why the press enjoys special protection in the First Amendment. However, the modern media culture bears only a faint resemblance to the vigorous and diligent press the Founders envisioned. The challenge before us is to identify the structures and policies that can help rebuild our media.” Source: SaveTheNews.org

 

Change the Channels

“Media consolidation is a dangerous problem, reducing the number of independent sources of news—that’s why there are rules to control it. But media companies have devised a way around those rules, and are pursuing profits at the expense of the communities they’re supposed to serve. “Covert consolidation” takes many forms, but the results are the same: Media companies pad their bottom line by sacrificing local journalism, competition and diversity. In many cases, one news team produces a single newscast for multiple stations. The result: less news about your community and fewer journalists holding our leaders accountable.

Worst of all, stations claim they don’t have to report these deals to anyone.

At changethechannels.org, you can join with others in your community to demand change at the local level. Help uncover these dirty deals; submit video and information to our national database; and take action to pressure local broadcasters. Together we’ll build a case against covert consolidation that the Federal Communications Commission won’t be able to ignore.” Source: SaveTheNews.org

 

Save the Internet

“The SavetheInternet.com Coalition is two million everyday people who have banded together with thousands of nonprofit organizations, businesses and bloggers to protect Internet freedom.

The Coalition believes that the Internet is a crucial engine for economic growth, civic engagement and free speech. We’re working together to preserve Net Neutrality, the First Amendment of the Internet, which ensures that the Internet remains open to new ideas, innovation and voices.

Because of Net Neutrality, the Internet has always been a level playing field. People everywhere can have their voices heard by thousands, even millions, of others online. The SavetheInternet.com Coalition wants our leaders in Washington to pass strong Net Neutrality protections. We’re calling on the president, Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to stand with the public and keep the Internet open.” Source: savetheinternet.com

Josh Stearns Talks Independent Voices in a Consolidating World

March 28, 2011 in Blog, Interview

Josh Stearns

Josh Stearns

An interview with Free Press’s Josh Stearns by JA’s Tram Whitehurst

The Federal Communications Commission in January approved the merger of Comcast, the nation’s largest cable and Internet provider, with NBC-Universal. Stearns argues that the merger will transform American media, consolidating more control over more platforms in the hands of fewer and fewer corporations.

There are three important considerations for news producers and consumers in the deal, Stearns said.

First, Comcast’s agreement to help form news partnerships at the local level is not likely to take shape, he said. In a December 2010 letter to the FCC chairman, Comcast agreed to support partnerships in five cities between local nonprofit news sites and television stations for up to three years. Comcast specifically highlighted the partnership between Voice of San Diego and KNSD, San Diego’s NBC station, as an example.

“This was a last ditch attempt to win approval from regulators,” Stearns said. “It was primarily a symbolic gesture.”

Stearns said Comcast made no promises it would use the content created by the partnerships, and that there are no real assurances that the partnerships will even emerge. He also thinks it’s naive for Comcast to assert that it will create these partnerships within the next year.

“Building collaborative work takes time,” Stearns said.

Stearns also thinks the merger will have a negative impact on independent producers.

The merger will squeeze out already struggling independent, diverse voices,” Stearns said. “We’ve shown over and over that media consolidation decreases diversity in the media, hurts jobs and consumers and leads to more junk news, sensationalism and celebrity gossip — rather than real news and debate we need in our communities.”

Finally, Stearns said the merger relates to net neutrality and the future of the Internet. He said the FCC has little power to enforce net neutrality, calling last year’s regulations “toothless.”

Who controls the Internet is of vital importance,” Stearns said. “Comcast now has a huge reason to promote NBC content.”

What’s at Stake? Public Access to News and Information

March 17, 2011 in Policy, Resources

A brief overview of the issue by JA’s Tram Whitehurst

On February 16, several Republican Senators introduce a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to repeal net neutrality regulations adopted by the Federal Communications Commission last year.

The following day, the House of Representatives voted to prevent the FCC from implementing the controversial new rules that would govern the flow of traffic over the Internet. The rules, known as network neutrality, would affect such companies as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast, because they own the networks over which the Internet often flows.

The net neutrality law meant they would be barred from discriminating as to what content flows over the Web.

The House also recently voted to pass the federal budget bill for 2011, which included an amendment defunding any attempt by the Federal Communications Commission to regulate Internet Service Providers.

Politicians, ISPs, and net neutrality advocates have all made arguments on one side or the other:

“Three primary arguments are made by the champions of the free market and deregulation. First, they say, it is expensive to run a large Internet backbone, and new technologies such as YouTube are dramatically increasing pipeline requirements. Second, some data traffic is more important or time-sensitive, and ISPs, not government regulators, are best positioned to assign priorities to data traffic. Third, the government cannot be trusted to regulate the Internet, and any government regulation could lead down a slippery slope of government censorship and control.” – Truthdig

“Congress today has taken an important step toward rolling back onerous regulations adopted by the FCC that destroys the ‘hands off’ approach that has allowed the Internet to grow and flourish. It is vital that we take a stand to overturn the FCC’s action, which will make our nation less competitive because countries in Europe and Asia are choosing not to inhibit their broadband networks with such restrictions.  I encourage all my colleagues in the Senate and House to support this crucial piece of legislation.” – Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

“This arcane proceeding under the “Congressional Review Act” would strip the Federal Communications Commission of its authority to speak freely online… at a time when phone and cable giants are already restricting our ability to connect with others and share information. The resolution is moving quickly through the House. If their resolution passes, the FCC would not just be barred from enforcing its already weak Net Neutrality rule, but also from acting in any way to protect Internet users against corporate abuses by AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. This is not a symbolic congressional exercise — it’s a scorched-earth campaign that leaves Americans at the mercy of a corporate cartel.” – Tim Karr, Save the Internet

The implications of a world without net neutrality for online news Web sites and consumers are immense.

As Free Press has noted, “The biggest cable and telephone companies would like to charge money for smooth access to Web sites, speed to run applications, and permission to plug in devices. These network giants believe they should be able to charge Web site operators, application providers and device manufacturers for the right to use the network.  Those who don’t make a deal and pay up will experience discrimination: Their sites won’t load as quickly, and their applications and devices won’t work as well. Without legal protection, consumers could find that a network operator has blocked the Web site of a competitor, or slowed it down so much that it’s unusable…What does that mean? It means we could be headed toward a pay-per-view Internet where Web sites have fees. It means we may have to pay a network tax to run voice-over-the-Internet phones, use an advanced search engine, or chat via Instant Messenger. The next generation of inventions will be shut out of the top-tier service level. Meanwhile, the network owners will rake in even greater profits.”

This ‘tollbooth’ approach to Internet access would tend to favor larger companies, which could better afford to pay the bills for access.

For giant media companies such as NBC/Comcast, it would make it easier to dominate smaller Internet startups. MSNBC and Fox News could afford to pay extra for the rapid delivery of rich, interactive media. Most newspapers could not, forcing them to choose between deeper debt and a worse user experience. Citizen journalists and exciting nonprofit experiments would also be muted by ISPs.

“As more and more news and information moves online, we need to ensure that the flow of information on the Internet is free and unencumbered. With Net Neutrality we can support newspapers’ transition to the digital era, and at the same time foster a new cadre of voices online. Net Neutrality ensures that innovative local news websites and nonprofit reporting projects can be accessed just as easily as legacy media sites. Net Neutrality encourages journalists to pioneer new tools and modes of reporting and lowers the bar for citizens to participate. It is about creating a level playing field for all voices.” – Josh Stearns, Free Press