A Ten-Point Plan for Media Democracy
5. Community Broadband
Municipal wireless systems represent the most promising alternative to the two-fisted stranglehold that cable and telephone companies currently have over the broadband Internet. Fourteen states, acting at the behest of the cable and telco lobbies, have passed laws limiting these efforts, and others are considering such restrictions.
Action: Urge your Representatives to support federal legislation (e.g., the municipal broadband provision in the otherwise objectionable Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement [COPE] Act) that will restore the right of cities to undertake their own broadband projects. See Free Press's Community Internet page (www.freepress.net/communityinternet/=US).
As the recent furor over NSA access to millions of private telephone records makes clear, we need to update privacy protections for the digital age. Such protections should extend into the commercial arena too, where new data-collection and -mining technologies, coupled with personalized marketing campaigns, represent a new threat to our personal privacy.
Action: Call for a thorough overhaul of existing privacy regulations, beginning with a requirement for "affirmative consent" before personal data can be collected, and covering the latest developments in digital data collection and analysis. See the EPIC website (www.epic.org).
7. Intellectual Property
Just as privacy protection must move from the analog to the digital domain, so must copyright law reflect the reality of networked computers and other personal devices. Congress's initial effort in this regard, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, went way overboard in its desire to protect content owners (namely, the entertainment industry), and the principle of "fair use" suffered accordingly.
Action: Urge your Representative to reject the Bush-backed Intellectual Property Protection Act (which compounds the DMCA's excesses) in favor of legislation that preserves fair use. See www.publicknowledge.org.
8. Universal Digital Service
Millions of Americans still lack basic Internet, let alone broadband. We need new approaches to achieving "universal service," the policy that sought to make telephone service affordable for low-income and rural Americans.
Action: Call for Congress to expand the Universal Service Fund in the digital era, and support efforts to bridge the digital divide through municipal Wi-Fi and community networking projects.
9. Diverse Broadband Content
The phone industry is building a new system that will deliver interactive TV programming and broadband content (e.g., Verizon's FiOS and AT&T's Project Lightspeed). Cable is also expanding its network offerings. Progressive media must make sure their content is on these networks. We must also build and expand new media services, including digital TV programming channels, broadband websites and mobile networks.
Action: Urge phone and cable companies to open their system to progressive, alternative and diversely owned content. Funders must support an independent digital infrastructure.
10. Minority Ownership
African-Americans, Hispanics and others have fared poorly in the media business, owning only a handful of radio and TV stations. Most of the cable outlets aimed at minorities are owned by corporate giants (e.g., Viacom now owns BET and Comcast controls the new TV One service for African-Americans).
Action: Civil rights groups need to take a more adversarial approach to the media monopoly--seeking minority ownership of local and national broadband outlets.