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Future of Mass Media

Timothy Karr lecture delivered at Rutgers Univ on the importance of public engagement to shape the future of U.S. media

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Future of Mass Media

  1. 1. Timothy Karr Campaign Director Free Press The Future of the Mass Media
  2. 2. The importance of U.S. media “ A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.” President James Madison, August 1822 “ I’m here to confront you because we need help from the media and they’re hurting us.” Jon Stewart, October 2004
  3. 3. 60,000 years ago <ul><li>People started to speak </li></ul>5,000 years ago <ul><li>People started to write </li></ul>600 years ago 110 years ago <ul><li>Radio was invented </li></ul>A brief history of communications 80 years ago 45 years ago <ul><li>The Internet was born </li></ul><ul><li>People started to publish </li></ul><ul><li>Television was invented </li></ul>
  4. 4. Why mass media matters to democracy We spend countless hours exposed to television, radio, CDs, books, newspapers and the Internet. These media inform our ideas and opinions, our values and our beliefs. They reflect and shape citizens’ understanding of social and political issues. <ul><li>The average American watches TV over 4 hours a day. </li></ul><ul><li>78% of American adults listen to radio every day. </li></ul><ul><li>88% of online Americans say the Internet plays a role in their daily routine. </li></ul><ul><li>The average American teenager will spend more hours per year watching TV than in school (1,023 for TV vs. 900 for school). </li></ul><ul><li>On average, an American child will view 40,000 commercials per year. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Why mass media matters to democracy <ul><li>acting as a rigorous watchdog of those in power and those who wish to be in power; </li></ul><ul><li>presenting a wide range of informed views on the most pressing issues of the day; </li></ul><ul><li>assuring that this media is accessible to the whole population. </li></ul>Our democratic system will not survive without “popular information or the means of acquiring it.” Our country’s founders understood that media and, in particular, journalism fulfilled this role by: <ul><li>exposing deception to permit the truth to rise to the top; and </li></ul>
  6. 6. The problems of the media <ul><li>The watchdog is more often a lapdog and huge expanses of power in our society go unexamined. (Enron, the war in Iraq) </li></ul><ul><li>Issues are ignored and the range of debate narrows. (Darfur) </li></ul><ul><li>Most of what we see and hear is sensationalism. (Brangelina) </li></ul><ul><li>Society is misrepresented. ( COPS ) </li></ul><ul><li>Commercialism is out of control. (video news releases) </li></ul>People on all sides of the political spectrum are concerned about the state of our media system. They complain that news media have drifted toward ‘infotainment,’ that local interests and standards aren’t adequately represented by local media.
  7. 7. The problems of the media <ul><li>Almost all the networks carried by most cable systems are owned by one of the major media conglomerates. </li></ul><ul><li>Two thirds of today’s newspaper markets are monopolies. </li></ul><ul><li>Those few significant alternatives that do survive, such as PBS and NPR, are under growing financial and political pressure to reduce critical news content and shift their focus in a “mainstream” direction </li></ul>By democratic standards, this is censorship of knowledge by monopolization of the means of information. A few huge corporations now dominate the media landscape in America. And as ownership gets more and more concentrated, fewer and fewer independent sources of information have survived in the marketplace.
  8. 8. How did this happen? What ever happened to the idea of the MASS media? Let’s review …
  9. 9. The technology to build newspapers could facilitate the construction of a press for about $10,000 in current money. In the early days, there were pamphleteers who produced arguments that they could spread broadly because the cost of access to that distribution was low. But that cost changed dramatically. By the time of the civil war, the cost of running a newspaper was about $2.5 million. Newspaper publishing and journalism professionalized and commercialized pushing aside broad public participation in popular print media. Newspapers?
  10. 10. In the 1920s radio was a COMMON technology, in the sense that an extraordinary range of people could gain access to a new and relatively cheap technology — broadcasting — to send messages to one another over the air. But once people began to think that they could begin to make commercial radio function through advertising the Federal Communications Commission began to implement a very different idea about how radio would function. Working with business, government allocated the spectrum in a way that made it so only a few could get access to the airwaves. By the mid 1930s NBC and CBS were responsible for an astounding 97% of nighttime broadcasting. The number of radio station owners has plummeted by 34% since the 1996 Telecommunications Act. That year, the biggest radio owners controlled fewer than 65 stations. Today, Clear Channel Communications — one company — owns more than 1,200 stations. Radio?
  11. 11. Television suffered much the same fate in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Through well-financed lobbyists, television broadcasters gained overwhelming influence in Washington. Broadcasters spent $222 million to lobby government officials from 1998 to 2004. including millions on entertainment and travel, taking FCC regulators on 2,500 all-expense-paid trips. As a result television broadcasting policy was shaped in closed-door meetings with policymakers. So, even though the public owned the airwaves, special interests decided how this influential media was created, financed, and distributed. There developed an interdependence between those who held political power (and needed access to the airwaves) and those who controlled the airwaves (and needed access to political power). Television?
  12. 12. What happened to the Mass Media… It's gotten so bad that today, Instead of nurturing and extending democracy and free speech, broadcasting threatens to distort it. The media industry and their lobbyists in Washington worked hand in hand with policymakers to shape a system that hands control of mass media over to a few corporations. In all of these cases what were describing is a dramatic technological change that initially sparks an explosion of democratic participation. But this explosion threatens the status quo. And those threatened react. Their reaction is to take a culture that had been unlocked by technological change and to re-lock it.
  13. 13. What happened to stifle openness and limit access to publishing and broadcasting could very well happen with the public Internet right now. … could happen to the Internet A handful of phone and cable companies are promising to build a new network of Internet services. But they want something in return. They want control. Not just over the copper wires, and fiber optics cables but control over the Internet itself. They’re pushing a law that would abandon the Internet's First Amendment — this principle called Network Neutrality — which prevents companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast from deciding which Web sites work best for you based on what site pays them the most.
  14. 14. In the 1960s, a U.S. defense research project created a linked network that shared information across computers. <ul><li>It was called ARPANET and it relayed data from one computer to the next next using packet switching technology. </li></ul><ul><li>It was the first network. </li></ul>The Internet
  15. 15. The World Wide Web 17 years ago <ul><li>It was an open platform of standards where anyone could create a Web site on the Internet. </li></ul><ul><li>Opening up the platform for everyone was the catalyst for explosive growth. </li></ul><ul><li>The Internet grew like an embryonic brain to become one of the largest structures ever assembled by humans. </li></ul><ul><li>Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web </li></ul>
  16. 16. The Internet… The Internet became a network of networks, constantly expanding and accelerating in all dimensions. <ul><li>Now, at least 10 million Web pages are added to the Net every day. </li></ul><ul><li>Web pages were not invented until Tim Berners-Lee came along in 1989. But in little over 17 years. the number of Web pages has zoomed to nearly 60 billion. </li></ul>exploded
  17. 17. It exploded in all directions <ul><li>The best estimate for the numbers of computers now connected to the Internet ranges over 700 million. </li></ul><ul><li>To put this number in context, there were about two hundred computers connected to the Internet in 1981 </li></ul>
  18. 18. … and included everyone <ul><li>In 1995 there were an estimated 16 million &quot;active Internet users&quot; worldwide representing only 0.4 % of the world's population </li></ul><ul><li>The Computer Industry Almanac projects this number to grow to more than 1.35 billion by the end of 2007 </li></ul>
  19. 19. The Internet is changing … Soon all the information you ever encountered in your life will be linked together in this system across countries, across continents. <ul><li>All languages </li></ul><ul><li>Every library </li></ul><ul><li>Every song </li></ul><ul><li>Every movie </li></ul><ul><li>Every television show, sports game, news broadcast and book will be found somewhere on the World Wide Web </li></ul>
  20. 20. <ul><li>The Internet is changing how we interact with the world. As we interact with the Internet, it reshapes us in ways that we have yet to fully comprehend. </li></ul><ul><li>The Internet age is a major historical shift. Like the industrial revolution, it is changing nearly every aspect of life — including political systems, economic power, gender roles, and where and how we live. </li></ul><ul><li>And the most important part about the Internet: It was all built on a level playing field called Net Neutrality . </li></ul>The Internet is changing how we live
  21. 21. Welcome to the revolution Net Neutrality is this: <ul><li>Net Neutrality is the guiding principle that preserves the free and open Internet. </li></ul><ul><li>It ensures that all users can access the content or run the applications and devices of their choice. </li></ul><ul><li>Under Net Neutrality, the network's only job is to move data — not choose which data to privilege with higher quality service. </li></ul>
  22. 22. Here’s how it works <ul><li>The Web flows into your computer through pipes owned by telephone and cable companies. </li></ul><ul><li>They charge fees to anyone who wants to use them </li></ul><ul><li>But they're not allowed to mess with what's inside those pipes. </li></ul><ul><li>Net Neutrality ensures that everyone’s Web sites gets treated the same. </li></ul>
  23. 23. Net Neutrality is about Internet choice <ul><li>I can browse to my cousin's blog just as easily as I can to </li></ul><ul><li>I can can download music from an indy band’s site just as easily as I can from Sony’s Web site. </li></ul>Changing this system would give unfair advantage to deep-pocketed content providers, while start-ups, small businesses, artists, musicians and others who can't pay will be sidelined. Since the Internet's inception, every site, every packet of data, regardless of its size, has been given equal — neutral — treatment by providers; its content is transmitted at equal speed.
  24. 24. Net Neutrality is about innovation The neutral network has become a wonderland for entrepreneurs. It’s important to remember that the Internet’s name brands of today were just a good idea in a garage a decade ago. <ul><li>College kids working out of their garage created Google. </li></ul><ul><li>A hobbyist conceived the idea for eBay. </li></ul><ul><li>An Israeli teenager wrote the code for Instant Messaging. </li></ul><ul><li>The most popular sites on the Internet today— MySpace, FaceBook, and YouTube—didn’t exist three years ago. </li></ul>This technological revolution keeps turning as long as the Internet remains an unrestricted marketplace of ideas where innovators rise and fall on their merits.
  25. 25. Net Neutrality is the Internet … This fundamental notion of an open and level playing field is NOW under siege by powerful industries who seek to tilt the field to their advantage. ... and it’s under threat Net Neutrality is the reason that the Internet has been an explosion of online economic innovation, democratic participation, and free speech.
  26. 26. The threat to an open internet isn't just speculation — we've seen what happens when the gatekeepers get too much control over radio and television. Phone and cable companies are now hatching plans to discriminate online. William L. Smith, chief technology officer for Atlanta-based BellSouth Corp., told the Washington Post that an Internet service provider such as his firm should be able, for example, to charge Yahoo Inc. for the opportunity to have its search site load faster than that of Google Inc. Ed Whitacre of AT&T told BusinessWeek that he was no longer going to let people &quot;use his pipes for free ... there's going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they're using.&quot; The threat is real
  27. 27. Google users —Another search engine could pay dominant Internet providers like AT&T to guarantee the competing search engine opens faster than Google on your computer. Ipod listeners —A company like Comcast could slow access to iTunes, steering you to a higher-priced music service that it owned. Political groups —Political organizing could be slowed by a handful of dominant Internet providers who ask advocacy groups to pay &quot;protection money&quot; for their websites and online features to work correctly. Online purchasers —Companies could pay Internet providers to guarantee their online sales process faster than competitors with lower prices—distorting your choice as a consumer. Small businesses and tele-commuters —When Internet companies like AT&T favor their own services, you won't be able to choose more affordable providers for online video, teleconferencing, Internet phone calls, and software that connects your home computer to your office. Bloggers —Costs will skyrocket to post and share video and audio clips—silencing citizen journalists and putting more power in the hands of a few corporate-owned media outlets. How would this affect you
  28. 28. In order to do this the phone and cable companies need to change the laws. And they're spending money in Washington to get it done. In the past 10 years, they have spent more than half a billion dollars on campaign contributions, political action committees, PR firms and high-spending lobbyists to push through self-interested policies. On the issue of Net Neutrality alone, companies like AT&T, Verizon, BellSouth and Comcast have spent more than $100 million to push Congress to remove this longstanding nondiscrimination rule. As with radio and television, the industry lobby is outspending all others to set the policy agenda and write new laws that will hand them control over the public Internet. Changing the law But they didn't anticipate one thing....
  29. 29. In 2006, a grassroots coalition of more than 850 groups including educators, not-for-profits, consumer rights groups, small business and public advocates — banded together to protect Internet freedom. They were joined by 1.5 million people who signed a petition urging Congress to maintain the free and open Internet. More than 6,000 bloggers linked to the coalition's site,, many of them posting homemade videos to counteract the phone companies’ misinformation campaign. Online social networks formed around the issue at MySpace, FaceBook and YouTube. We all joined together to protest phone and cable company efforts in Washington to kill Net Neutrality. The public
  30. 30. <ul><li>Signed a petition to Congress. </li></ul><ul><li>Called our Senators. </li></ul><ul><li>Wrote letters to our hometown newspapers. </li></ul><ul><li>Downloaded, printed and distributed flyers. </li></ul><ul><li>Made our own protest videos. </li></ul><ul><li>Promoted SavetheInternet on our Blog and Web sites. </li></ul><ul><li>Delivered petitions and spoke out publicly in front of our senators’ offices. </li></ul><ul><li>And told our friends to join the fight for Internet freedom. </li></ul>We took action
  31. 31. We came out in the streets <ul><li>… and 20 other cities across the country. </li></ul><ul><li>In Denver </li></ul><ul><li>Albuquerque </li></ul><ul><li>New York </li></ul><ul><li>Seattle </li></ul><ul><li>Detroit </li></ul><ul><li>Boston </li></ul><ul><li>Madison </li></ul><ul><li>Providence, Washington, Montpelier … </li></ul>
  32. 32. This grassroots campaign lifted the crucial issue of Net Neutrality from obscurity, throwing a wrench in the phone and cable giants’ plan to overhaul our telecommunications laws behind closed doors. Mass public opposition stalled efforts by Congress and the phone and cable lobby to pass legislation that would have effectively killed Net Neutrality. Whereas before, the phone companies had been confident that Congress would simply sign-off on industry-written legislation, today no member of Congress can vote with the telecom cartel without feeling the full heat of public scrutiny. And we won
  33. 33. Near the top of the Congress’ new agenda will be restoring Net Neutrality. Many in Congress came to this realization after receiving 1.5 million letters and tens of thousands of phone calls from concerned citizens urging them to maintain a free and open Internet. The plan for 2007 and beyond is to continue to organize people across the country to ensure that Congress writes Net Neutrality into law. But That’s Not All … What’s ahead
  34. 34. As the Internet becomes our public square and economic marketplace, Internet access must be regarded as a civil right for all Americans. The attempt by some to act as Internet gatekeepers imperils the social and economic promise that the Internet holds for our future. Congress and other public officials have a vital role to play in preserving Internet freedom and ensuring that America's communications infrastructure benefits the common good. The Internet Freedom Declaration
  35. 35. This is what we want: <ul><li>Universal and Affordable Access </li></ul><ul><li>An open and Neutral Network </li></ul><ul><li>World Class Quality and Choice </li></ul>The Internet is our last best hope for a truly participatory democracy. That is why we need not just to fight to save the Internet we have today, but also to organize in support of the Internet that we hope to have in the future. The Internet Freedom Declaration
  36. 36. <ul><li>Sign the Petition at </li></ul><ul><li>Call your members of Congress and ask them to support the declaration </li></ul><ul><li>Write a letter to your hometown newspaper </li></ul><ul><li>Tell all your friends to join the fight for Internet freedom </li></ul>Use the Internet to Save the Internet You are the future of mass media