FCC Commissioning New Study on Information Needs of Public

The FCC is commissioning a study of how the
current communications marketplace meets the critical information needs of the
American public with an eye toward collecting evidence to support boosting
media participation, including by lowering entry barriers, to entrepreneurs and
small businesses, including those run by minorities and women.

request for quotation (RFQ) is being launched in conjunction with the FCC's
Communications Act charter of identifying those barriers.

the Office of Communications Business Opportunities (OCBO) and the Media Bureau
(Bureau), which issued the request, they want to know: "How Americans meet
their critical information needs; how the media ecosystem operates to address
critical information needs; and What barriers exist in providing content and
services to address critical information needs. "

rather than commissioning new research, the FCC said it was looking for a
review of the relevant studies already done, with one goal being coming up with
a definition of "critical information needs."

order to assess whether government action is needed to ensure that the
information needs of all Americans, including women and minorities, are being
addressed, to determine the relationship, if any, between meeting critical
information needs, and the available opportunities for all Americans to
participate in the communications industries, it is first necessary to examine
what prior research has been conducted with regard to how the public acquires
critical information, how the media ecosystem operates to provide critical
information, and what barriers exist to participation," the FCC said.

Chairman Julius Genachowski has been arguing that one of the ways the FCC needs
to meet those needs is freeing up more spectrum, including broadcast spectrum,
for wireless broadband.

commission has also been instructed by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in
its remand of ownership rules to better buttress whatever diversity initiatives
it undertakes.

is not clear whether the FCC's own report will be included in the analysis of
existing studies. The FCC issued a report on the information needs of
communities last year, but that primarily provided a state of the news industry
recap and recommended, among other things, that the FCC should terminate its
localism proceeding, replace enhanced disclosure of TV station's public service
programming with a more streamlined, online version, and encourage the
government to move its billion of dollars of mostly national advertising buys
to local media like TV stations. More broadly, the report found a generally
vibrant media landscape with a troubling gap in providing community news about
schools and local government that has yet to be filled by the disruptive
explosion of web news content.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said she was extremely pleased with the
announcement of the new study. She has been pushing for better data to support
FCC actions on boosting minority and female ownership, data that will be
necessary to buttress any affirmative action measures in court.

directed by Congress, under Section 257 of the Communications Act of 1934, the
Commission must identify and eliminate market entry barriers for small
businesses and promote policies favoring 'a diversity of media voices, vigorous
economic competition, technological advancement, and promotion of the public
interest, convenience and necessity,'" she said. "We are in need of
more detail in describing how the Commission's actions have fulfilled those
purposes, and set forth, where appropriate, specific examples and data that
support the conclusions found in past FCC reports."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.