Former Democratic FCC chairs William Kennard and Reed Hundt are holding a $2,300 a plate fundraiser for Senator Barack Obama, reports both the WSJ and NYT [reg. or sub. may be required]. Both Kennard and Hundt have deep relationships with corporate media interests that would unlikely support the kind of public interest agenda for the U.S. digital era that is required [Senator Clinton recently was given a Los Angeles fundraiser by Haim Saban, of “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” infamy]. The role which big, special interest media and telecom money plays in shaping what will ultimately become the communications policy agenda for the next presidential administration must be addressed–and neutralized–now. Regardless of whether the next president is a Republican or Democrat, media connected money in the campaign will provide people and their ideas not only “access,” but a defining role. With so much at stake, it’s now time to press the candidates to support an all-encompassing public interest digital agenda. Think of local Web 2.0 services extending the power of community media; digital programming operations diversely owned, including by low income groups, women, people of color; a series of independent, well-resourced and competing news organizations; readily addressing the digital divide; assuring funding and distribution for a cornucopia of educational, children’s, cultural and non-commercial content; election reforms requiring “free time” for all digital platforms; and meaningful privacy protections and safeguards related to interactive advertising. Of course, they must agree they will support–and sign–a bill requiring non-discrimination, or neutrality, for U.S. broadband. Media advocates should not wait before they press candidates to reveal their agenda–or lack of–for the U.S. telecom future. Otherwise, as in the past, special interest media, technology, and telecom money will make sure nothing truly meaningful comes to pass.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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