The FCC has released a Public Notice launching an initiative to examine the future of media and the information needs of communities in the digital age. Steve Waldman, a former journalist currently serving as a senior advisor to Chairman Julius Genachowski, will head the Future of Media Project, expected to culminate later this year in a report containing policy options and recommendations for the FCC and others, including government agencies.

Drawing on a report recently released by the Knight Commission on Information Needs of Communities, the FCC observes that recent economic trends have taken a toll on journalism. On the other hand, the agency notes, the digital age has created opportunity by facilitating more sources of information, and allowing new and existing media companies to develop innovative business models and delivery methods. While the Future of Media Project will examine the state of journalism, the Commission also will consider the health of various systems that provide a variety of news and/or information to consumers and communities. According to the FCC, its goal is to develop policy recommendations that facilitate a vibrant media and advance the public interest, without hindering innovation or running afoul of the agency's obligation under the First Amendment to protect free speech and an independent press.

The Public Notice includes a lengthy list of questions covering a broad range of issues. The agency is seeking input from "both citizens and media experts," and has launched a website for public discussion as part of its initiative, including a Future of Media blog. Comments are due by March 8, 2010. A link to the Public Notice is available here.

The FCC will hold a workshop on March 4, 2010 on commercial media titled "Serving the Public Interest in the Digital Era." The workshop will focus on:

  • A brief history and overview of policies involving "public interest" requirements for commercial media and telecommunications companies;
  • The state of local commercial broadcast TV and radio news and information; and
  • The impact of media convergence and the emergence of the Internet, mobile technologies and digital media on FCC media policy.