Event: International Broadcasting and Public Media

Checkout this event of potential value at the New America Foundation, “International Broadcasting and Public Media.” The event’s description is promising, as are the panelists (described as ‘participants’ but surely the audience will be allowed to participate as well, right?).

In an increasingly digital media landscape, people across the globe are relating to their news outlets in new ways. The missions of media producers are changing, as technological innovations reshape news networks into communities. The assumption is that U.S. public media institutions and international broadcasters are also transforming themselves to serve the emerging public interests in media. How should these institutions be changing to meet the needs of audiences that expect to engage in news and information, not just passively receive it? Even amid the explosion of information, there are information gaps. If foreign coverage one of them, how best is it produced and by whom?

I will not be there, unfortunately, but below are questions off the top of my head I’d like asked and discussed (are there really ‘answers’?).

  • Where does public media draw the line in surrendering its coverage of events to ‘citizen journalists’? In particular, I’m referring to commercial media’s increasing reliance on the individual at the ‘scene’ with a camera phone or a twitter account (which means the individual may not even be in the same time zone) to fill air time, a move that is related to the pursuit of advertising dollars and reduced expenses on what used to be called journalism.
  • Where does public media sit on allowing US Government non-military broadcasters, in other words the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which ‘participant’ Dana Perino is a member of, to disseminate public media’s coverage of events and topics? There is a long historical precedent here that seems to have been largely lost – in large part because the Associated Press in 1946 viewed VOA as competition. (The AP labeled VOA as ‘government propaganda’ and claimed the AP must distance itself from USG to avoid being painted as a government tool. At the same time, however, it continued to sell to foreign government media, including TASS, a point US commercial media and editors, as well as the State Department, frequently mentioned when highlighting the transparency of the AP’s actions).
  • Where does public media sit on allowing public media to rebroadcast BBG coverage? There is long precedent for this. It was the intent of the 79th Congress, which introduced what became known as the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, and the 80th Congress which passed the Act, for US commercial media to be the gatekeeper, censor if you will, of media produced by the State Department, and later USIA. This was part of the so-called ‘Second Mandate’ of State, and later the USIA, of informing the American public. In today’s environment of constrained resources, shrinking number of foreign desks, should public media be allowed to disseminate taxpayer funded news coverage to the American public, especially when that coverage is in areas others denied to or unprofitable for commercial media? The alternative is often no coverage, creating a vacuum that is increasingly filled by other, perhaps adversarial, interests, and misinformation.
  • Today’s “Now Media” environment requires a reevaluation of both the information and human landscape. The roles of consumer and producer of news are becoming blurred as traditional boundaries to communication – geography, time, language, culture, costs, technology, and even accountability, trust, and credibility – evaporate or dramatically evolve. Newsmakers, and wannabe newsmakers, are less dependent on the media as a result of these shifts. How is this affecting public media’s role in gathering, analyzing and distributing news?

What questions would you like discussed?

To attend the event, visit the event’s website and signup.

Date / Time / Location:

December 8, 2010 (Wednesday)
1:00pm – 4:15pm

New American Foundation
1899 L Street NW Suite 400
Washington, DC, 20036

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