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Looks like the FCC is trying to juggle two markets that involve media

I just finished reading Commissioner Mignon Clyburn’s statement on the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed rule making for media ownership. Ms. Clyburn expressed that she felt “hope, fear, frustration, expectation, and exasperation” regarding the tasks of pursuing diversity in media ownership while ensuring that the information market spoke to the needs of the information consumer.

The conflicting emotions are understandable when you see that the FCC must address not one, but two information related markets at the same time. One I term as the “media market.” In this market buyers and sellers of media platforms such as radio, television, newspapers, and online media properties meet and exchange these properties for a price.

The second market is the “information market.” This is where the news watchers and readers come and consume content in exchange for paying subscription fees or at least clicking on ads.

It’s probably best that the FCC delineate the two markets, at least for the purpose of coming up with actions to address each one. Both are related which drives the confusion. The player that connects the two markets is the buyer of media platforms. Once the buyer enters the media market and negotiates the purchase of radio and television stations, they are in a position to add to the diversity of viewpoints the FCC wants to promote.

The buyers enter the media market in response to final demand from consumers in the information market. It’s a chain derivative that requires you complete the work on one relationship before moving to the next. That approach should help alleviate the frustration.

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Time to abandon our history of making the wrong technology popular

Last September, I attended the annual National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB) conference in Washington, DC. The keynote speaker at the luncheon was Neil Golden, senior vice-president and chief marketing officer for McDonald’s USA. During his speech, he shared an important observation. McDonald’s had determined in its marketing research that minority consumers enjoyed games of chance while white consumers enjoyed games of strategy. Mr. Golden’s point in sharing this information was to explain the success of some of its urban promotions including its popular scratch off games.

I think this view can be applied, to a very limited extent, to how we as minorities view the use of technology. From computers to cell phones, to high speed connections, these technologies were introduced to make work more efficient and profitable. Their entertainment value would come later as they were offered to the masses. While I wouldn’t describe technology’s use by the mass consumer market as chance, the early use was strategic.

I’m also suspect of a recent description of minorities as the demographic that makes technology popular. This was the premise of a recent article in NewsOne by Johan Thomas. Mr. Thomas set out to describe why blacks make technology popular. His rationale was that we adopted technology such as pagers as social tools, turning them into fashion accessories, and experimented with them while innovating their use and looks.

I believe that we popularize new technology that is affordable; I’d dare say technology that supports cheap entertainment. We won’t take a chance on broadband because, while it can be used to deliver entertainment, that delivery system is far from cheap. Yet we see all around us the application of broadband technology to productive use.

Just look at your online media companies in which I would include Facebook and Google. Look at how other going concerns use broadband for research and transmitting data. We have to ask ourselves are we taking a chance missing out on profit and employment by not being strategic in how we get broadband into more hands and how we become more effective with it.

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From broadband access to digital efficacy

My mom got her first computer a few weeks ago. She sent her first e-mail a couple days ago. Yes, at 68 she is now a pedestrian in cyberspace.

I descend from a line of merchants, with my very first memory having been in my great aunt’s store in the Irishtown section of Basseterre, St. Kitts. My mother worked in that store as well. From time to time the old merchant in her will spring an idea as to how best to put her capital to work. I have no doubt that she will eventually go through the same thought process as she learns how to use her lap top.

My nine-year old son is following his ancestors’ footsteps. The word “career” flows out of his mouth easily and probably more often than most teenage and twenty-something knuckleheads I see running around these days. With a “low on minutes” cell phone to their ear and pants low on their waists, young people today appear to be carrying on the same silly, consumer centric behavior of their parents and grandparents, only this time in digital form.

When I think about the level of unemployment we minorities face in this country and the poor performance of our gross domestic product, all I can conclude is that we have to pursue a different mindset. We are, in the words of my sister, addicted to a narrative that we just can’t seem to shake.

Writing for the MMTC’s Broadband and Social Justice blog, Ava Parker posted a piece that highlights the fork in the road consumers of digital technology now face. Do we continue with a mindset focused primarily on consuming communications and entertainment, or do we start turning our mobile information access terminals into productive capital and use this capital to create another source of equity; equity that allows us to weather the next financial or economic crisis.

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Do we want the FCC busting up joint ventures too?

Posted December 25th, 2011 in cable television, spectrum, Verizon, wireless communications and tagged , , , , by Alton Drew

The editorial board at The New York Times is having issues with a non-issue. A joint venture between Verizon and a number of cable companies, including Comcast and Time Warner, has the national paper of record in a slight tizzy. Less than two weeks after tasting victory from AT&T’s withdrawal of its bid to buy T-Mobile USA, The Times is questioning the impact the Verizon joint venture would have on wireless competition.

Verizon bought some spectrum, the nectar of all that is wireless, from Comcast and Time Warner. Comcast and Time Warner will also offer bundled packages of video and Verizon wireless services and Verizon will offer its subscribers calling packages that include cable service. Not bad if you believe in convergence and bundling.

The New York Times, on the other hand, wants more Federal Communications Commission oversight to ensure wireless competition. The New York Times, as a newspaper is representative of a losing business model, is instructing the wireless market on competition? Wow.

What Verizon and the cable companies have proposed is merely good business. Both represent access channels to consumers. They are already inside the homes of consumers who may need the others services. Why continue building out to homes when your competitor agrees to help sell your prime product over his channel in exchange for you doing the same for him?

Can anyone say that they are ready to see government try to substitute its “business judgment” for that of Verizon’s?

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The FCC should stay out of the message market

Posted December 24th, 2011 in broadcasters, cable television, FCC, Government Regulation, Internet and tagged , , by Alton Drew

There shouldn’t be a problem with a “publisher” or “messenger” combining various media platforms to push their message out. This is the real issue the Supreme Court should be addressing.

Let’s be honest. Publishers have competing messages they want to sell in order to meet consumer demand for those messages. The right mix of platforms helps to control the costs of getting the message out to the most people in the market.

There are over 300 million potential message publishers here in America alone. Let the entrepreneurial will of each messenger and the market determine the number of commercial voices serving a market. This is an area that the FCC needs to extract itself from.