As everyone not living under a rock has heard, the spirit of change is now sweeping through Washington like a broom enchanted by a lazy animated mouse. Who are we at Media Access Project to resist change? Heck, we bloody well lead change, we make change. We are change agents. We — well, you get the idea.
So what changes will happen at MAP?
1) After 10 years, I will leave Media Access Project, effective January 31, 2009.
2) After more than 30 years as President and CEO, Andrew Jay Schwartzman will become Legal and Policy Director. Andy will handle policy, and MAP will hire a new CEO to handle administrative and fundraising duties.
3) Associate Director Parul Desai will have an enhanced role in the organization going forward.
Why? Because, bluntly, we need to prepare for a very different world. Make no mistake, the telecom policy world still needs MAP — perhaps now more than ever. As I repeatedly stress, anyone who thinks that we can just elect the right people and go home needs to think again. The new Administration, despite what I believe is a very real and strong ideological affinity for our issues and a reasonable skepticism for the blandishments of incumbents, will need a powerful progressive movement to keep it moving in the right direction. MAP will continue to sit at the tip of the spear on media and telecom reform, pushing against media gatekeepers and fighting for an electronic media that lives up to its potential for Free Speech and innovation.
But we can’t do that by staying the way we’ve always stayed. We need to take a deep look at ourselves and ask some hard questions about how we avoid the trap of fighting battles that no longer matter, in ways that no longer work. We have spent the last 8 years in opposition, fighting to hold back some really wretched policies and swimming uphill to create new opportunities for independent voices. Whatever the Obama Administration brings, I gaurantee it will not be anything like the Bush or Clinton years.
Which is why I have decided to move on, or at least give up my job at MAP. I still love this field, and strongly believe in the Progressive movement (including my belief that it is a movement and not a mob). But the time has come for me to move on to something else, although I have no idea what that something else will be (anyone with any thoughts on the subject, don’t hesitate to write). I have a book contract with Ig Publishing for a book on building the modern progressive movement and developing an alternative to the Gods of the Marketplace (I like to think of it as what Naiomi Klein forgot to write about in The Shock Doctrine, the part where people figure out how to get a better system in place). that, of course, will not pay the bills (especially as it will not actually get published until the fall of 2010), so I expect to do some consulting for awhile until I figure out what else to do. I’ll add that if anyone can figure out a way to make this bloging stuff pay, I would love to know it.
In answer to the inevitable question — yes, I’d love to work for the Obama Administration or do something worthwhile on the Hill. And like every other Democratic policy wonk, I’ve filled out the form at change.gov, so they will know where to find me if they decide they can use me.
But even without a job waiting for me, and despite my general satisfaction with my job at MAP, I feel the time has come for me to move on. Cliche as it sounds, I need a change and I cannot think of a better time for one (other than this pesky recession), given how the policy wonk world is undergoing one of its rare ferment moments when the possibility of sweeping away the established order of things seems breathtakingly real if we have the courage to sieze it and dare to do something utterly different.
I may regret it. But I think not. I like to think I’ve done a lot of good doing what I’ve been doing for the last ten years. I also like to think I’ll find other ways to do good and interesting things as well. This feels right, and I would be false to myself if I refused to take the risk.
So how about that mid-term election? Of course, even before the dust settled, folks have scrambled to opine what changes and what happens next.
Unsurprisingly, most of the guesswork in media and telecom focuses on what we know right now – we know how Burns and Allen used to vote. We know (at least somewhat) about the priorities of likely House Commerce Chair Dingell, likely (unless he takes something else) House Telecom Subcom Chair Markey, Likely Senate Commerce Chair Inouye (who may or may not reconstitute the Telecom Subcommittee), and likely leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi (and other existing shakers and movers).
But guessing how the new Congress will tackle these issues presents a lot more complicated guessing – particularly without knowing who serves on what Committees.
My guesses, and what activists need to do to drive the agenda, below. . . .
I found this item on Techdirt interesting. The article links to several techno-libertarians finding themselves in the uncomfortable position of evaluating the reality that (a) countries such as South Korea, Japan, Estonia, France (and more!) are now zooming ahead of us in just about every measure in broadband deployment and adoption; (b) these countries rocketed past us after they adopted intrusive regulatory regimes and market-warping government incentives; and, (c) our supposedly superior, libertarian, deregulatory approach has not produced the competitive and productive nirvana the theoretical literature promised.
So why do “free market” arguments keep working, so much so that just about every piece of state or federal telecom reform legislation introduced right now assumes that competition happens as a result of deregulation? Why, despite all evidence to the contrary, do Democrats and Republicans alike still rush to deregulate with the religious zeal usually associated with someone who just spotted a burning bush in their back yard? As the Techdirt piece shows, this can’t be explained by the usual cynical response that Congress and the FCC are wholly owned subsidiaries of the Bells or cable cos.
So my buddy Greg Rose and I have written a paper explaining why the same arguments keep working time and again for the 34th Telecommunications Policy Research Conference (you can see a rough draft here). As an aside (in the final version, not yet posted), I explain why Lakoff and his buddies should perhaps spend a little less time on the linguistics of framing and a little more time worrying about the structure of media. To paraphrase McCluen, “whoever owns the media frames the message.” In a world where the mass media can trigger riots by showing a picture of the Pope and pulling a single line out of an academic speech delivered to an academic audience, it’s optomistic to the point of delusional to believe you can frame a message just by picking the right words.
Nothing like a fresh new year! State legislators return to their respective capitals to once again do the work of the people. Or, in the case of Indiana State Senator Brandt Hershman, the work of AT&T (formerly SBC). The eager Mr. Hershman has already introduced a bill, SB 245, that deregulates the phone industry,eliminates local franchising, etc., etc.