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FCC comments by CSM fellow reveal how public media can spur broadband adoption

This week, Center for Social Media Fellow Ellen Goodman--a professor at Rutgers University School of Law in Camden--submitted the attached response to a request from the Federal Communications Commission for public comment on the development of a national broadband plan. Titled "Digital Public Media Networks to Advance Broadband And Enrich Connected Communities," Goodman's comments examine a variety of current public media projects that rely on high-speed connections to reach and engage users, and observe that universal broadband service is needed to support further innovation in this sector. What's more, she suggests that public media should be understood as a key asset to drive broadband adoption by a wide array of publics.

However, this can only happen "if public media systems become more diverse, open, networked, innovative, technologically sophisticated, and focused on a service mission to meet public needs where the market will not go." To this end, Goodman advises the FCC recommend that Congress amend the Public Broadcasting Act to more accurately reflect and support public media in the networked, participatory era. She describes a set of new characteristics for public media, summarized by the acronym "AMEND-IT":

The mission of public media – to engage publics with information relevant to improving lives in particular communities and shared polities--is of growing importance in a world where information is abundant, but does not always reach the people who need it, and where wisdom and knowledge remain hard won. Defining public media systems with reference to the following characteristics would support and strengthen this mission:

  • Accessible--optimized to include as many voices, to make available as much information, and to engage as many people as possible, where and how they can best be engaged, with media and information that matters to them.
  • Modular--structured so that noncommercial entities (such as broadcast stations, public access stations, independent producers, community media centers, museums and libraries) are able and encouraged to specialize in particular subject matter verticals (e.g., science, health, environment, labor), particular services (e.g., educational production, journalism, archiving, training), and particular technical competencies (e.g., applications, games, interfaces, platforms). These specialties can then be shared through digital networks, over common platforms, with others and tailored for local needs.
  • Engaging--intentionally designed to put engagement at the core of what public media does, developing content and curation strategies from the start to reach out to individuals, communities, and, where desired, schools and other institutions to engage people in information and narratives, to turn information into knowledge and wisdom, to provide tools for acting upon information, and to encourage members of the public to themselves contribute information and knowledge back through the networks.
  • Networked--self-organized in virtual networks based on platforms and standards sufficiently open to foster economies of scale in the production of materials, innovative partnerships among different kinds of institutions, and ad hoc innovation based on access to materials and tools.
  • Diverse--intentionally constructed to solicit contributions from an ethnically, economically, and geographically diverse population, to be a platform for diverse voices, and to focus especially on the needs of those with insufficient access to relevant information.
  • Innovative--hospitable to daring experiments in journalism, story-telling, information gathering and presentation, public engagement, trans-media learning, business models, metrics, and technology.
  • Transparent--meaningfully open with respect to the flow of public resources, the process of reporting and story-creation, the criteria for publicly funded grants, the projects and partnerships undertaken, impact measurements, and diversity.

Goodman's comments both draw and build upon the reasearch we have been doing in our Future of Public Media project. In the coming months, she will continue to examine the intersection of public media and public policy; watch this space for more details.

Read Goodman's comments here.