Commission sets initiative to study technology, needs

The FCC launched an initiative on Thursday to probe the future of media and how technology could be harnessed to best serve the public’s information needs.

The crystal ball exercise will scrutinize the full scope of digital-age advances on the horizon, along with changes under way in the media marketplace. Its public notice posed an array of big-picture questions aimed at generating a wide-ranging discussion about tomorrow’s media landscape.

We are at a critical juncture in the evolution of American media,” noted FCC chairman Julius Genachowski in unveiling the initiative. He said technological change in the media marketplace has created opportunities for tremendous innovation but is also creating “financial turmoil” for traditional media.

The proceeding will have its own website to help generate discussion (www.fcc.gov/futureofmedia) and to allow the public to file comments. The commission may hold public workshops or hearings to elicit feedback.

It asks how changes in the media landscape are affecting the delivery of critical information in times of natural disasters or public-health emergencies. It also wants to know about the changing information needs of citizens and communities and invited discussions of the topics as they relate to politics, crime, schools, health, national and foreign news.

The agency pledged to focus on the First Amendment when sorting through the many trends. It said that whenever the government reviews the structure of the news media, “It must do so with great sensitivity to the paramount need to protect free speech and an independent press.”

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