Tecnologie e Società


Research Report: Communication-Information Policy
Geert Lovink


Research analyzing role of citizens'groups in shaping communication and information policy released.

Communication and information policy (CIP) has taken its place alongside the environment as one of the main preoccupations of lawmakers, according to a new report by Syracuse University professor Milton Mueller. The report is titled "Reinventing Media Activism: Public Interest Advocacy in the Making of U.S. Communication-Information Policy."

The full report is available at The report's data on congressional testimony and public interest organizations will be downloadable from the project's Web site.

The report traces the evolution of U.S. citizen advocacy from the broadcast licensing challenges of the late 1960s and 1970s through the telecommunication regulation reforms of the 1980s, the battles over privacy and Internet censorship of the 1990s and the conflicts over digital intellectual property and media concentration in the early

"There are many parallels between the emerging citizens'activism around communication-information policy in the late 1990s and the emergence of the environmental movement during the 1960s," says Mueller.

The report compiles data on how many public interest organizations are involved in CIP and how that population has changed over the past four decades. It also analyzes how many commercial and professional interest organizations are involved in CIP.

Key empirical findings of the study show how CIP has grown in importance:

* During the late 1990s and early 2000s, CIP replaced the environment as the policy domain of greatest congressional activity, as measured by number of hearings.

* From 1997-2001, the annual number of congressional hearings devoted to CIP surged to approximately 100 per year.

* The number of public interest advocacy organizations focused on CIP has not changed much since the 1980s, but the rise of the Internet in the mid-1990s brought a major change in the nature of those organizations. Organizations focused on criticizing or regulating mass media content declined in the late 1990s; the new organizations that formed in the 1990s and 2000s tend to be
focused on rights-oriented advocacy related to digital technology, such as privacy rights, First Amendment rights and rights to fair use of intellectual property.

* In its measurement of congressional testimony by public interest groups, the study found that during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) dominated representation of public interest perspectives, accounting for 20 percent of all testimony by public interest groups on CIP topics. In the second half of the
1990s, however, organizations such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the Consumers Union and Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) reached parity with the ACLU.

* The population of public interest advocacy organizations focused on CIP is overwhelmingly liberal in ideological orientation. Advocacy organizations classified as liberal made up 68 percent of the total population in the 2000s, up from 48 percent in the 1980s; the conservative share has declined from 21 percent in the 1980s to 13 percent today.

The research was supported by the Ford Foundation's Knowledge, Creativity and Freedom Program.

The Convergence Center at SU supports research on and experimentation with media convergence. The Center is a joint effort of the School of Information Studies and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Its mission is to understand the future of digital
media and to engage students and faculty in the process of defining and shaping that future.

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