Communications Rights

Will Seattle get a broadband 'public option?'

Jonathan Lawson, Reclaim the Media

Community activist Mike McGinn rode a wave of grassroots organizing energy to victory in Seattle's Mayoral race this month. The new mayor-elect's vision for affordable city-wide fiber broadband was not only a core concern for his campaign, but one of his clearest disagreements with challenger Joe Mallahan. Now that the campaign is won, what's the road ahead for McGinn's vision?

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This is independent media's moment

Marie Elliott and Steve Anderson, The Tyee

Today, Vancouver hosts Media Democracy Day 2009 at the Vancouver Public Library, Saturday, Nov. 7, 11am to 6pm. The event is one of several public forums being held in cities across Canada, marking the tenth consecutive year of Media Democracy Day (MDD). The conversation in MDD's interactive workshops and panels can help provide a path to a reinvigorated independent media sector in Canada.

According to SFU professor Robert Hackett, the initial drive of MDD was to "build a greater sense of community for those fighting for media democracy." In the past, these events have led to key collaborations between allied media projects. This year, we hope to see more collaboration and more pragmatic discussions focused on elevating, expanding and multiplying independent media in this country. There is a window of opportunity right now, and that window can and will close if we don't take this challenge seriously.

Considering the current crisis in big media, now is the time to take independent media to the next level.

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Obama trade negotiators collude with big business on copyright treaty

Kathy Gill, WiredPen

Back in March, Declan McCullagh reported that the Obama Administration cloaked its draft section of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) under “national security” wrappers — for the general public. At the same time, the document had supposedly already made the rounds of “corporate lobbyists in Europe, Japan, and the U.S.”

Today, someone has leaked information about the U.S.-authored draft chapter on internet “counterfeiting” — a document scheduled for discussion among participating nations in South Korea on Wednesday.

According to PC World, under the treaty Internet Service Providers would become liable for copyright infringement. This is like saying that the telephone company is liable if criminals (or terrorists!) use the company’s assets to plot a crime. How absurd. But don’t be lulled into thinking that absurd means “won’t happen.”

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Community radio federation joins international press freedom mission to Honduras


The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) announced today on its active participation on the International mission of observation of press freedom in Honduras from 2-7 November 2009. The mission, organized by International Media Support (IMS), Article 19, Reporters without Borders, the International Federation of Journalists, Free-Voice and other international organizations will verify the conditions and difficulties being confronted by press freedom, journalists, the media and community radios, following the coup d’etat of June 28th, 2009.

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Will the birthplace of democracy kill freedom on the Internet?

Hannah Miller, Media and Democracy Coalition

This is almost impossible to believe - but it's actually true.

About a month ago, the Obama administration announced its intent to write policy that would protect, by law, the freedom that has allowed the Internet to grow and flourish.

It's no joke that such protection is needed. Repression of the Internet by the corporations that control it has already started.

Last month, Apple told a healthcare reform group that they wouldn't carry a healthcare reform app on their AT&T network for 30 million iPhones because it was "politically charged"...

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Media giants and opposition fight new Argentinian media law

Marcela Valente, Inter Press Service

While civil society groups celebrated Argentina's new broadcasting law, media giants threatened to fight it with a wave of lawsuits, and opposition lawmakers pledged to revise it after the next Congress convenes in December.

In the new legislature, the result of June elections in which President Cristina Fernández's supporters lost their majority, the opposition will try to amend or overturn the law, which was approved by the Senate in a 44-24 vote early Saturday morning, after a nearly 20-hour debate. The president signed it into law later that day.

The bill, which stirred up a major controversy in Argentina, brought the centre-left Fernández into conflict with the leading media groups, as it curbs the concentration of media ownership.

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Argentinian Senate passes media reform bill

Kevin Gray, Reuters

Argentina's Senate passed President Cristina Fernandez's broadcast reform bill on Saturday, handing her a political victory that analysts say will do little to revive her sagging popularity.

The Senate approved the bill on a vote of 44 to 24 after 16 hours of debate that stretched from Friday into Saturday, and amid opposition charges that the government had placed heavy pressure on lawmakers. Last month, the lower house backed the bill in a highly charged session that saw more than 100 opposition lawmakers walk out in protest.

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Internet access is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity

Malkia Cyril and Amalia Deloney, Center for Media Justice

In February 2010, the FCC will put forward a national plan for broadband deployment and adoption. On everyone’s mind is the question of whether that plan will achieve President Obama’s stated vision to stimulate the economy, increase jobs, and address social problems. The Internet has become an increasingly vital tool in our society. More U.S. residents are going online to conduct day-to-day activities such as education, business, personal correspondence, research and information gathering, job searches or communicating with medical providers. Each year, being digitally connected becomes more critical to economic and educational advancement and democratic participation.

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Public interest groups urge lawmakers to craft a public-centered broadband plan

Reclaim the Media/WashPIRG

In Seattle, public interest groups Reclaim the Media and WashPIRG are releasing a new report, A Public Interest Internet Agenda, a guide for policymakers creating strategies to connect more urban and rural households to affordable, high-speed broadband Internet.
The report was prepared by member groups of the national Media and Democracy Coalition, including Reclaim the Media.

The report should provide immediate guidance to the Federal Communications Commission, which has been given a deadline of February 2010 for preparing a national broadband strategy. The FCC’s new Chairman, Julius Genachowski, has called for “a process that will be open, transparent and will allow public participation in ways that are unparalleled," and the FCC has begun to schedule public hearings to guide its work.

"The US has fallen behind in universal Internet access, in affordability and in speed, thanks to years of hands-off public policy," said Reclaim the Media executive director Jonathan Lawson. "We need a concerted national effort to get back on track, and policymakers specifically need to hear from the unserved and underserved sectors of our community, not just the telecommunications carriers who have let us fall so far behind. The community-generated recommendations in this report bring balance back to the discussion."

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Guess what texting costs your cell phone provider?

Eric Bender, Time

When my teenage son ignores me while tapping away furiously on his cell phone, I have the consolation of knowing that he has joined the quickest-growing form of two-way communication in human history.

A decade ago, just about no one in the U.S. sent these messages, known as Short Message Service (SMS) texts. This year, we will zing out 1.2 trillion of them, predicts market-intelligence firm IDC.

That translates to a barrage of messages from each user, especially teens, who seem to be receiving new text messages — a.k.a. "blowing up" — more than they take new breaths. The average U.S. mobile teen now sends or receives an average of 2,899 text messages per month, according to Nielsen Mobile. "With teens, the act of picking up a phone and calling someone is dropping away," notes Christopher Collins, a senior analyst with Yankee Group.

What's most amazing about the texting craze is just how inexpensive it is for mobile carriers to provide this wildly popular service. SMS messages are not only extremely short (maxing out at 160 characters), but they also cleverly exploit today's digital phone networks, leveraging transmission channels between phone and cell tower that were originally designed to coordinate voice calls. "They cost the mobile carriers so little that you could argue that they're free," says Collins.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey