The FCC’s Future of Media Initiative Is Waiting to Hear from You!

By Kathlin Sickel

There’s still time—but not a lot of it —to let the government know what you think about your local media. The Federal Communication Commission is seeking to understand how the digital age is affecting local media, and would like to hear your opinions on a host of media issues by May 7th.  It wants to know how your local news coverage has been affected by staff cuts, and if you see any successful business models working for internet and mobile-based news organization, and what role you think citizen journalism should play, and do you get any local news from public TV or radio?

That’s a lot of questions, but it’s only a small sample of the input the FCC is seeking at a website devoted to its Future of Media Intiative. Dozens of questions are asked under such headings as “Business Models and Financial Trends,” “Noncommercial and Public Media” and “Internet and Mobile.”

But don’t let the complexity of this study deter you! Any opinions at all that you are willing to share about the news media will be welcomed by the FCC.

The agency’s stated objective is to “assess whether all Americans have access to vibrant, diverse sources of news and information” and to issue a report that provides a clear picture of the nation’s media landscape. Comments and responses from citizen-news consumers and media experts alike, are what’s needed for the “detailed, fact-based understanding of what’s happening,” called for by Steve Waldman, who is the senior advisor to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

“We really need your help,” Waldman writes in the inaugural blog post at the site, on January 20, 2010.  “You and your families have a direct stake in this. We truly hope you will add your comments. . .”

One way to do that is to send a file using the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System;  that’s best if you have a long document, 3 pages or more. 

But a faster, simpler way to get your message across is available if you just want to make a few points. Go to the Future of Media website and comment at the blog. The specific blog posts that pose the questions about media can be accessed from the January archives.

And here’s another way to participate: leave your comments in the forum. Click on the link to “Share stories about media in your community,” or, if you prefer, respond to questions about how media companies should change their delivery of news, or what government policies might help.  Your comments about what is wrong with, or right about the media can be left anywhere on the blog or in the forums.

For the best comprehensive explanation of why the FCC is getting so involved with the “future of media,” visit the website for the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy. It has been six months since the commission issued its report, calling for a national discussion about the changes the internet has triggered in how we receive news and information. It is generating a robust stream of ideas, and the FCC acted quickly to be a part of this.

At the Knight Commission’s website you can read about the process and people that have created the commission, and download its report, Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age. The homepage has links to dozens of articles, columns, and blog posts that  relate to the ideas in the report.

Kathlin Sickel is a freelance writer living in Green Bay, currently writing online at, and is WisReader on Twitter.  She graduated from Marquette’s College of Journalism and worked for newspapers in Ohio before the digital age.

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