We’ve got a new Think Again here. It’s called “Cable News Blues.” My Nation column, comparing Jon Stewart with yes, Edward R. Murrow, is here, and I did a post about Obama’s press conference for The Daily Beast, here. Oh and I did an interview with TPMTV about the Israel Lobby here. Oh, and if you didn’t make it into the Nation column, here is the key line:
PS: Don’t tell my publisher, but Why We’re Liberals: A Handbook for Restoring America’s Most Important Ideals is out in paperback.
Internet issues continue to take the spotlight in Washington. The $7.2 billion in stimulus that was directed towards broadband buildout has produced an incredibly complex and rushed process to close the gap for the more-than-40-percent of Americans who still do not have broadband at home. The three agencies charged with allocating the funds have to do so in a short timeframe–within 18 months–and with inadequate staff to manage the process. This is a scenario that could easily result in poorly allocated funds to the largest incumbent phone and cable companies, so we are spending huge amounts of time bird-dogging the process. Last week, two of our staff testified at official roundtables, and we just released a broadband stimulus grant scorecard to help agencies determine whether projects are in the public interest.
Also on the Internet front, we put out a white paper exposing a dangerous technology known as “Deep Packet Inspection,” (DPI) which allows phone and cable companies to spy on their customers’ Web activities and block any application or content they want. For many years, Internet service providers have been clear about their desire to violate Net Neutrality–DPI is the technology that makes that possible. Many Internet service providers already have DPI technology installed in their network, and all they have to do is flip a switch, and the open Internet as we know it will be a thing of the past. We’re raising awareness about the dangers of DPI, and pushing for more government oversight.
With the demise of commercial journalism, public broadcasting–or public media–becomes an increasingly critical piece of the long-term reform puzzle. There is simply no way that philanthropists and innovative commercial media alone can provide the news and information that an informed electorate requires. There’s good news and bad news on this front. The bad news is that current funding levels are absurdly low–roughly $1.35 per capita–compared to over $100 in some European nations. And the system is dangerously politicized because of a faulty system for appointing board members to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)–the agency that distributes public monies to noncommercial media.The good news is that the current leadership at PBS, NPR and CPB is stronger than we’ve seen in a long time. Recently, they have made a commitment to producing more enterprise journalism, more educational and local programming. This is a huge change from the Bush era, when journalism was a swear word of sorts for public broadcasters. In the short term, while public broadcasters’ stimulus requests did not gain traction, they are pushing for $300 million in supplemental funding this year and we are supporting the effort. However, their long-term success requires the kind of policy changes in Congress that Free Press must lead: creating a new funding mechanism that moves away from the highly-politicized annual congressional appropriation; reforming governance nationally and locally; and broadening the definition of public media to include more independent media producers.