The Entire Future of Media

It’s not often that policymakers are willing to slow down and take a broad look at the decisions that they have made, the changes they’ve incurred and the direction we need to head toward. But the Federal Communications Commission’s “Future of Media” inquiry is doing just that. The agency is taking a holistic look at our media system -- public media, journalism, media ownership and Internet, and the policies that have shaped the system.

The “Future of Media” inquiry calls on citizens to report on the quality of their local media and imagine what a better media system might look like. This afternoon marks the first public workshop on the matter, and explores the idea of “public interest obligations in the digital age.”

In short, this is an opportunity to envision the media we want to see, not merely accept the media we currently have.

The conversation could not be more important or timely. As more media continues to shift from broadcast to broadband, we must ensure that people have access to the news and information necessary to make informed decisions and lead healthy lives. That tension between commercial and civic goals is front and center in today’s discussion. As Free Press Policy Director, Ben Scott, said this afternoon:

I would argue that as we think about evolving technologies, we need to think about evolving our public service principles right alongside. Set aside the dogma of the regulation vs. market fundamentalism debates that so often dominate the FCC’s dockets. Those arguments are simply inapt. The social contracts of mass media policy are not about whether public service principles should be applied upon the market. They are about how they will be applied.

The FCC wants to know what you think. You can participate in their online forums (all of which will become part of the public record on this inquiry and help inform their efforts going forward) by visiting the Future of Media’s web site. They want to know how the media are doing in your community.

You can participate in the online discussion via Twitter using the hashtag #FOMwkshop.

Editor's note: This post has been updated to correct a quotation mistakenly attributed to FCC senior advisor Steve Waldman.