The FCC today launched a proceeding on the Future of Media in the digital age and put out a call for comments on a variety of issues. The goal of the Future of Media project, in the Commission's own words, is to produce a report to provide "a clear, precise assessment of the current media landscape, analyze policy options and, as appropriate, make policy recommendations to the FCC, other government entities, and other parties." The effort is being spearheaded by Steven Waldman, a former journalist and Internet entrepreneur, who is serving as a senior advisor to FCC Chairman Genachowski, as we wrote earlier. According to the Public Notice issued today, the FCC's initiative seeks to respond to the rapid technological changes in the media marketplace, financial turmoil in the traditional media, and questions about the role that traditional media will play in the future. While the FCC intends to draw from its ongoing proceedings regarding media ownership, universal broadband, children's issues, etc., to gather info for its report, it also intends to draw on studies, comments, workshops and hearings, interviews, and outside research.

To that end, the Public Notice seeks comment on a wide variety of issues in order to build a record for its final report, which will be issued later this year. The current state and future of traditional journalism is one of the issues the FCC has raised, but is not the sole focus of the project. Among the topics the FCC has identified for discussion and comment are: the state of TV, radio, newspaper, and Internet news and information services; the effectiveness and nature of public interest obligations in a digital era; the role of public media and private sector foundations; and many others. Not unlike the Broadband project that has consummed the Commission in recent months, by this Future of Media project, the FCC is seeking to tackle many big picture items. In doing so, it is starting at the very beginning by asking questions as broad as: "What are the information needs of citizens and communities and are those needs being met?" In all, today's Public Notice contains 42 detailed questions covering six pages, which inquire about business models and financial trends; the information needs of communities and citizens; commercial media (broadcast TV, Radio, Cable, and Satellite); noncommercial and public media; Internet and mobile platforms and applications; and print media.

Given the enormous scope of the project, its nascent stage, and the continually evolving nature of the media and technology landscape it is impossible to know what recommendations the Commission might ultimately make. But any parties interested in informing the Commission's conclusions and future recommendations should consider participating in the proceeding. The deadline for comments is March 8th, and interested parties can submit comments electronically through ECFS, or via the new Web site established for the project, which the FCC hopes will serve as an arena for public discussion on the future of media and any public policy recommendations. The Future of Media web site also contains a blog to provide additional information about the project on an ongoing basis.