DC progressive think-tank strategist warns PEG-access TV operators of “uber” radio spectrum policy battles

Posted by Bill Densmore

PITTSBURGH, Penn. — Cable public-access station operators were given a strong dose of media policy on Thursday at their annual convention as a Washington, D.C. think-tank leader urged them to join an “urber” political battle playing out among telecommunications companies, regulators and public advocates.

Corporations are working to control the public airwaves and radio spectrum so no one else can have access to it, said Sascha Meinrath, who heads the open-technology initiative of the New America Foundation, a DC think tank. The telecoms would like to have all radio spectrum usage rights auctioned to the highest bidder, Meinrath said, a view that he said is being embraced by the Obama administration.

The problem with that approach, Meinrath told members of the Alliance for Community Media at their annual convention in Pittsburgh, is that it doesn’t mean the limited radio spectrum — used by wireless, radio, TV, public safety, Internet broadband, military and other purposes — is allocated in the public interest. “Auctioning to the highest bidder doesn’t take into effect network effect, or the externalities or the opportunity cost,” said Meinrath. “And it leaves out non-profit community and participatory media.”

He said when spectrum is auctioned, the government “gets a quick influx of money and then a long period of pain,” Meinrath told some 250 directors of “PEG access” operations, adding: “We need to acknowledge the systematic problem of spectrum availability.”

 By one measure, the United States, he said, is 15th among developed nations in broadband penetration, down from No. 1 about 10 years ago. By another measure the U.S. is in 28th place. He said the United States is 40th out of 40 nations in progress toward building a knowledge-based information economy. “We are struggling to deliver 10 megabits (Internet access speed),” he said. “Hong Kong is about to offer 1 gigabits for about $26 a month.”

Meinrath said U.S. “ineptness and stagnation” in media policy today offers opportunity for tomorrow. He cited four initiatives that bear watching:

 First, the e-rate service should be restructured so that lines requisitioned can then be split and shared by the purchaser. The telecom industry wants every purchase to be unsharable.

Second, he said the $10 billion to $15 billion telephone universal service fund can’t now be legally used to build out broadband (rather than legacy phone) infrastructure. He says that should be changed.

Third, the FCC should adopt regulations opening up the low-frequency TV band (superior because low frequencies pass through buildings and over terrain better than the current wireless spectrum), for public use.

Finally, PEG access operators and others should help mobilize grass-routes support for telecom initiatives favored by Meinrath and others, to counteract hundreds of telecom lobbyists on Capitol Hill.

Corporations are “encapsulating” new media, Meinrath said, by developing propreitary approaches. “This is reverberating on the hardware, software, infrastructure side of things.” There is no check and balance on that, he said.  “The Internet is a commons that we all benefit from,” said Meinrath, and it should be viewed like other “commons” developed by public-sphere institutions such as the Tennessee Valley Authority and rivers, or universal telephone service in rural America, or our system of government-financed highways. “And we have nothing of the sort when it comes to broadband media.”

ACM’s meeting in Pittsburgh includes a track on how PEG access stations — largely supported by fees levied by government on cable companies — can begins to foster and build citizen journalism operations. Other general themes including how to fundraise, social media, moving beyond television to Internet programming, and details on the national broadband planning process underway in Washington.



The ASCAP example: How news organizations could liberate content, skip negotiations, and still get paid » Nieman Journalism Lab


Did the New York Times Just Declare War on News Aggregators?

It looks like the New York Times, Apple and the handiwork of some Stanford students, the Pulse News reader, are in the midst of moving around the copyright bar. A bit.

At stake — just how much use can you make of an RSS feed before it becomes a copyright violation? Or is that a nonsequitor, i.e., if you put up an RSS feed will common law emerge that says you are, in effect, granting blanket usage rights to what’s in the feed? NYTimes is saying no, apparently, because they have terms of use barring commercial use of their RSS feeds.

See these two accounts, noted by CircLabs’ Joe Bergeron and Martin Langeveld:

SEE: http://gigaom.com/2010/06/08/did-the-new-york-times-just-declare-war-on-news-aggregators


June 23-25 “congress” gathering aims to establish trust, identity, commerce services for news

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Three U.S. newspaper trade groups and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute are teaming up to seed ideas and a possible solution to how news and other information can be managed and sold online.  “From Blueprint to Building: Making the Market for Digital Information,” is being billed as a three-day “action congress” to discuss issues of trust, identity and Internet information commerce.

 The June 23-25 event at the University of Missouri-based research center will include unveiling of a 148-page business plan for a proposed news-industry collaborative, according to Bill Monroe, director of the Multistate Digital Task Force, an ad-hoc group formed by state press associations in Missouri, Kansas and Iowa with support from several other state trade groups.

 Details of the public event, and links to participant registration, are at http://www.infotrust.org .

 “This is not a conference, or a summit,” says Bill Densmore, a consulting researcher to the Reynolds Journalism Institute. “ It’s a public congress of news and information service providers — organized by U.S. state press associations. The intention is to move beyond talk, and to launch one or more enterprises or collaboratives.” Reynolds is an ideas-experiments-research center affiliated with the nation’s oldest journalism school, at the University of Missouri.

 Densmore said the gathering has two intentions:

  •  Consider establishing a non-profit collaborative that will specify standards, platforms and protocols for a digital information marketplace; supporting investment and partnering with operating companies and,
  • Define and start raising money for an operating company or association that answers to, and primarily serves and benefits, all America’s newspapers — and is focused on profitably sharing, protecting and managing their digital content. Monroe, who is working from the Iowa Press Association in Des Moines, said the working name for the new entity is the American Newspaper Digital Access Corp.

“Newspapers are working to make the transition from a product-based culture — the daily paper — to a service-based one — helping people manage their privacy, identity and information needs in a web and mobile ecosystem awash with more information than we can intelligently assess,” says Densmore. “News organizations need to become our trusted  information valets  rather than our information gatekeepers.”

“From Blueprint to Build,” is an outgrowth of a December, 2008, summit also convened by the Reynolds Journalism Institute as part of a fellowship undertaken by Densmore called the Information Valet Project.

Trust, identity, commerce: Inseparable building blocks of a free market for digital information

Trust, identity and commerce –they’re inseparable building blocks of a free market for digital information. The Journalism (or Information) Trust Association proposal brings together three vital threads. Unless they are woven together, the Internet will fail to embody the best — or at least most useful — relationships of the physical world. READ MORE.

Midwest newspapers anti-up $30K to eye for-profit collaborative to monetize Internet content

Three Midwest newspaper associations — Kansas, Missouri and Iowa — met Nov. 20 and formed a coordinated effort to manage monetization of their content on the web, raising in minutes an initial $30,000 to start planning. They’ve asked a retiring executive of the Iowa Press Association, Bill Monroe, to look into the idea. A key part of the idea is a for-profit corporation, owned by the nation’s newspapers, to coordinate the effort.

Original oganizers of the task force were Doug Anstaett, executive director of the Kansas Press Association; Bill Monroe, deputy executive director of the Iowa Newspaper Association; and Doug Crews, executive director of the Missouri Press Association.

At Friday’s meeting, says Monroe, publishers present pledged “about $30,000 in 90 seconds” to help the project get through the next phase — talking to key media people nationwide and creating an inventory of all possible approaches to how to get paid for online content.

READ MORE: http://www.newshare.com/wiki/index.php/Jta-associations

Indiana-Purdue researcher finds relevancy, customizability most important to young news consumers

(Summarized by Bill Densmore    )

An academic researcher’s detailed inquiry of the media habits and desires of 16-to-30-year-old news consumers finds relevancy and customizability are the most important things youth news consumers want.

Dr. Edgar Huang’s research involved extremely detailed surveys of a total of 28 high-school and college students. Huang is in the School of Informatics at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. Entitled: “The Causes of Youths’ Low News Consumption and Strategies for Making Youths Happy News Consumers,” the study was published in the International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, (Vol. 15, No. 1, 105-122, c. 2009, Sage Publications).

Some excerpts:

— Only 7% of the same gets their news from print newspapers. Overwhelmingly, the are getting it from the web and television.

— Nine-out-of-10 of the students had a broadband internet connection at home and they found news almost exclusively via their desktop or lap — NOT with their phone or PDA.

— Only 1 out of the 28 students uses RSS feeds to find news.

— Wrote Dr. Huang: “For these youth who have grown in the digital era, accessing news online is becoming their native culture.”

When asked to propose solutions to how they should interact with news, Huang wrote that: “The two major solutions the respondents proposed were relevancy and customizability.”


The Indiana researcher said they wanted three kinds of relevancy — they wanted relevant news that had an effect on their lives, they wanted news that was relevant to their time-starved lives — great headlines and stories short and to the point; and they wanted “media relevancy.”


Media relevancy was defined by Dr. Huang’s the respondents as “news delivered in a media format they are comfortable with — easy to navigate, interactive, searchable, filterable, containing graphics and videos, and providing much more information than newspapers for optional in-depth reading, hading for those who were near a computer often, enabling viewing from various digital devices and allowing time shifting.”


Eight of the 28 study respondents said that online users “should be allowed to customize their preferences for news so that the news they liked to see could be fed to them either on a customizable news website or social networking sites . . . so that they did not have to spend time searching for such news. However, they would like to be able to scan all the to stories to see if anything else would interest them.”


One of the respondents specifically envisioned that “a news website will learn and calculate how many times I hit on specific news. The web site will remember my interests in news and then rearrange the front page with the kind of news that I enjoyed whenever I visit the site.”

Said a second respondent to the 28-student survey by Dr. Edgar Huang of Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis: “I would like a personalized website that had all the news that I feel is relevant to me.”

Edgar Huang, Ph.D., MFA
Associate Professor, School of Informatics
Adjunct Professor, School of Journalism
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
535 W. Michigan Street, Suite IT 481
Indianapolis, IN 46202-3103
Email: ehuang@iupui.edu
Phone: (317) 278-4108
Fax: (317) 278-7669