Dec 2, 2009

Pubcasting reform workshopped by FTC panel

As the Federal Trade Commission convened its two-day workshop on how journalism can survive and thrive during the shift to web-based media distribution, Future of Public Media project Director Jessica Clark called for policymakers to look beyond proposals to provide the taxpayer support needed for public broadcasting to expand its role in journalism. "[S]erious policy proposals need to go further," Clark writes for PBS's MediaShift blog. "Simply producing additional news doesn't address the demand side of the issue." Clark calls for policy changes promoting public engagement with media. "This means more than just handing out yet another serving of information to a surfeited audience; it's about engaging users at every phase--planning, funding, production, distribution, conversation, curation, and mobilization--to make sure that all stakeholders' voices are included." She points to a proposal by Rutgers University professor Ellen Goodman on public broadcasting's transition to digital public media as well as Free Press's agenda to reform public broadcasting.

During this morning's FTC panel on nonprofit journalism, Free Press Executive Director Josh Silver called for three structural changes to be sought through reauthorization of the Public Broadcasting Act. "Abandon the appropriations process," Silver said, referring to congressional appropriations to CPB. Free Press advocates an independent funding mechanism for public media, such as spectrum auction proceeds or taxes on electronic devices. "Change the way the CPB Board is appointed," he said. The current process of presidential appointees is "too political." Silver also called for a stronger role for ombudsmen at CPB and other pubcasting news organizations.

Speaking on the same panel, CPB's Joaquin Alvarado said any reauthorization has to provide adequate funding to the field. "We have to address, 'How much funding? To do what?'" Alvarado said. He envisions a scenario in which traditional public broadcasters and the innovative new media start-ups backed by the Knight Foundation and others could come together and support each other's work. Professional journalists, he said, are like an endangered species of condor. "We need mating pairs."

The first afternoon panel at the FTC has just resumed. You can stream it here or follow the #FTCnews twitter feed. Wall Street Journal's coverage of yesterday's panels, featuring fireworks between Rupert Murdoch and Arianna Huffington, is here.

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