Plank of Democratic Platform Turns Spotlight on Media Ownership, Privacy, Net Neutrality

Aug 17, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The Democratic Party’s decision to include media ownership, TV programming and heightened privacy protections in its platform could increase the probability those issues will show up on the congressional and regulatory radar screen next year, some political observers and media association executives say.
Whether it will lead to any new support for action or reflects a likelihood that was already pretty certain was less clear.
“Is the era of deregulation over for broadcasters? The answer is yes,” said Dennis Wharton, executive VP of media relations for the National Association of Broadcasters. “However, it was already pretty clear that the environment will change whether Barack Obama or John McCain becomes president.”
“We will have to make an even stronger case that broadcasters are where Americans turn first for local news and information,” he added.
The ownership and programming language was part of the final draft of the platform released last week and due to be voted on by delegates to the Democratic National Convention, which begins Aug. 25 in Denver.
Called “A Connected America,” the media plank promises Democrats will work to boost the amount of minority-owned media, increase children’s programming, “clarify” broadcasters’ public-interest obligations and work to improve the controls parents have to determine what their kids watch on TV.
The platform plank also seems to put Democrats on record as supporting legislation or Federal Communications Commission action to ensure that Internet service providers don’t discriminate between content providers by offering some a faster path to consumers—so-called “net neutrality.”
“We will protect the Internet’s traditional openness and ensure that it remains a dynamic platform for free speech, innovation and creativity,” says the section.
Finally it suggests Democrats will work to impose some new privacy protections.
“We will strengthen privacy protections in the digital age and will harness the power of technology to hold government and business accountable for violations of personal privacy,” it says.
Dan Jaffe, executive VP of the Association of National Advertisers, said the language may show that marketers, media companies and Web sites need to better demonstrate the value of behavioral advertising, but the need for that was already obvious from recent congressional statements.
Several consumer group officials, who declined to be identified, cautioned that the party platforms can show interest, but past party platforms have included stands that were never pursued.
Mr. Wharton said the NAB agrees that minority ownership of broadcast stations should be increased and has endorsed a tax-incentive plan that would help. He said broadcasters are going to offer additional public service on their multicast digital channels and are hopeful that Congress or the FCC acts to require cable systems to carry them.


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