Sunday, 9 May 2021

television and the public interest

The titular speech given on this day in 1961 by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair Newton N. Minow (previously) to a convention of the trade and lobby group the National Association of Broadcasters, compared to the Golden Age of TV in the 1950s, contemporary programming of violence, cartoons, Westerns, commercials and game shows was assuredly a “vast wasteland.” Acknowledging that when television is good, nothing—not theatre nor any other forms of media—is can surpass it in terms of quality and potential to engage, Minow went on to advise his audience that “television and all who participate in it are jointly accountable to the American public for respect for the special needs of children, for community responsibility, for the advancement of education and culture, for the acceptability of the programme materials chosen, for decency and decorum in production—and for propriety in advertising. This responsibility cannot be discharged by any given group of programmes, but rather only through the highest standards of respect for the American home and applied to every moment of every programme presented. Programme materials should enlarge the horizons of the viewer, provide him with wholesome entertainment, afford helpful stimulation and remind him of the responsibilities which the citizen has towards his society.” Reforms brought about in reaction to the address led to the creation of US Public Television and National Public Radio.

Monday, 3 May 2021

information as a public good

The annual observance focused on the above theme, World Press Freedom Day was enshrined by the United Nations in 1998 as a time for reflection and remediation for governments to uphold their commitment to freedom of expression and an adversarial press and encourage journalists and media professionals to recount their struggles and pledge to truth and ethics in pursuit of reporting. The day falls on the anniversary of the forerunning Windhoek Declaration of 1991 when a consortium of newspaper reporters from all across Africa met in the Namibian capital resolved to promote an independent and pluralistic press for the continent. The Press Freedom Index is also updated at this time, ranking the ability for journalists to cover candidly government and corporate behaviour.