A Promising First Step

O.K., it is only a modest first step, but it is still nice to see.

In keeping with that whole “use the internet and new technologies, government transparency, yadda yadda yadda” stuff from the campaign, Obama and his transition team have now set up a new website for the transition at change.gov.

The website includes many of the features that made the Obama campaign website so effective. It is also an unprecedented time to compliance with a campaign promise (even before taking office). More importantly, if you click on the technology agenda, you will observe that it is pretty much the same tech agenda as from the campaign website.

That may not seem like a big deal, until you notice the top items. Protect the Openness of the Internet and Encourage Diversity In Media top the list.

Yes, it is merely a continuation of his previous campaign commitments. Yes, simply saying protecting the openness of the internet is your top priority does not actually gaurantee you will do it. I am not some Kool-Aide drinking neophyte. But I am also not someone who thinks that cynicism substitutes for wisdom and can’t wait to rush to proclaim that all that progressive stuff was just campaign chin music. I find it pleasantly reassuring that (a) these guys continue to show the same level of discipline in planning and execution they did during the campaign, (b) they appear quite serious about the business of governing, and (c) they seem to be on track to take us in the right direction.

Not bad for Day 2 after the election . . . .

Stay tuned . . . .


  1. At the end of the item on media ownership diversity, we have: “clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation’s spectrum.”

    What are your thoughts on this? What sorts of programs will be disallowed? What sorts will be required? Why on earth would we want any regulator wasting its time with this?

  2. @Jess

    The broadcasters who occupy our public spectrum take a lot more than they give back. I could stand to see some more ‘public use’ in broadcast. Maybe even some real journalism.

    If there is -no- regulation in media, you’re going to see a lot more starbucks lattes on the news.

  3. I’m afraid the starbucks reference is lost on me. To your other points, you favor requiring more “public use” (I’ll use the same scare quotes because I don’t know what it means either) and news programs. This seems to swim against the tide. If we had to pick out the shabbiest, least-loved broadcasts of our time, the list would be full of these. The viewing public chooses to watch these programs less and less. Let’s stipulate that there are tiny-and-vocal constituencies for them, but even these are shrinking.

    In several important senses, we live in a better world than back when this sort of thing was important. Those who care about news are probably sated by CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC, BBC, etc. (Those who decry the sorry journalism provided by these outlets probably wouldn’t like that provided by a regulator any better. Any who would are welcome to hire some regulators for their podcast.) Those who care about particular local issues get better information from local blogs and alternative newspapers than they ever got from a local broadcast. Those who like bizarre late-night stuff are spoiled for choice on today’s internet. Certainly I’d be hard-pressed to find any mention of white spaces in any conceivable broadcast program, but I find that Mr. Feld more than fills that vacuum.

    The insidious nature of the public interest shibboleth is that it cements the giant importance of broadcast, at the exact moment we should be hastening its demise. It was tragic that public discourse was ever hostage to the broadcast oligopoly, which was a giant step back from the freewheeling broadsheets and papers of the 19th century. Broadcast regulation was a large cause of the institutionalized social control of the 20th century.

    In this century, we can route around that damage. Maybe this means that rustics with B&W TV sets will watch local-news-as-infomercial while the rest of us search out the information and entertainment we value. As long as it keeps captured regulators from dictating content, I can live with that.

  4. Starbucks: if you watch some early morning network news shows, you’ll discover that the anchors all have takeout coffee cups sitting in front of them — cups that are always 3/4 full, and are always perfectly positioned to show the logo.

    Could it be that all the anchors at each station favor one brand? That a local store is providing free coffee? No, nothing that simple. It’s paid placement, and the cups are neither styrofoam nor paper, nor do they contain coffee, or anything drinkable.

  5. Half empty, half full

    Now if that technology agenda would just get some semblance of balance on the intellectual property side too!
    Repeating ‘protect at home, protect abroad, throw more federal dollars toward servicing privately held rights’ mantra while touting a conspicuous ‘COPYRIGHT all rights reserved’ label (on a .gov website no less) doesn’t sound like a very progressive intellectual property policy. Your public interest friends at Public knowledge, KEI, EFF, etc. have a lot less to love in this, it looks like.

  6. Network Neutrality means fairness

    Hopefully Obama will protect the openness of the Internet by allowing my ISP to throttle back the bandwidth hogging kids on my block. Their illegal P2P downloads and uploads make the entire neighborhood’s Internet useless.

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