When I was growing up in Buffalo, we learned about current events from regulated media sources, including radio and television broadcasts.  These entities were regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an entity which was created by the federal Communications Act of 1934 which combined and organized federal regulation of telephone, telegraph, and radio communications.

One of the critical purposes of the Communications Act pertained to national security, law enforcement, and intelligence activities.

In my household, we also subscribed to morning and evening print newspapers which were privately owned, independently distributed by subscription only, yet still subject to some limited oversight and regulation by the FCC.

The Telecommunications Act of 1966 updated much of the Communications Act of 1934 to encompass technology changes to include broadcast television and cable stations which had not been subject to laws governing the public airwaves.

Today, the FCC regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

The FCC is an independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress which serves as the primary authority for U.S. communications law, regulation and technological innovation, and it continues to serve as a primary resource for national security, law enforcement, and intelligence activities.

No one could argue that technology has evolved exponentially since 1966, with digital technology transforming the business of news, including profound implications for information dissemination, publishing and operations.

The most dramatic impacts on operating models have been in production and distribution, transforming from a single product to a multi-products array of channels and formats, such as:

  • Desktop, tablet, mobile and watch sites/apps;
  • Channels, including on-platform owned products; and off-platform (email, Facebook, text); and
  • Third party, off-platform (Snapchat, Apple news, Yahoo) formats: Video, interactive graphics, messaging, podcasts, and many more.

This shift in distribution flows through to production, including the shift from a process geared around the “daily miracle” of a print newspaper to a 24/7 digital news cycle and the use of data & analytics to assess performance and make decisions on both content and delivery.

How can it be that the FCC has been unable to adapt to these rapidly evolving technology changes?  The FCC failed us by not identifying, encompassing and including new and emerging means of mass communication delivered on the internet, including such social media platforms as Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Virtually all of the dangers the FCC was intended to protect us from have been incubated and nurtured on the internet, including: (a) promotion and amplification of conspiracy theories; (b) empowerment of fringe groups; (c) foreign influences into American politics; (d) infusion of false narratives into current events; and (f) cyber-attacks on electric-grid and other crucial infrastructure which have been confirmed in the US, the Middle East, Germany, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.

Our national well-being depends not just on our confidence in our government but also on the integrity and reliability of private companies through which we lead our digital lives.

Recently, hundreds of armed, self-proclaimed militiamen converged on Gettysburg after a single Facebook page promoted the fake story that Antifa protesters planned to burn American flags there. Prior to the 2020 Presidential election, e-mails and videos which eventually were attributed to the Iranian government were sent to voters in Arizona, Florida, and Alaska, purporting to be from the Proud Boys urging recipients to “Vote for Trump or we will come after you.”

A physical wall along our southern border with Mexico is a great soundbite, but the 21st Century threats to our national security have little to do with migration of aggrieved and oppressed people who are clawing for survival and self-sufficiency.

The real threats to our national security are from conspiracy theorists; fringe groups; foreign influencers; religious extremists; the infusion of false narratives into current events; and cyber-attacks on infrastructure similar to those which have been confirmed in the US, the Middle East, Germany, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.

Our Congress needs to shift its primary priorities toward critical strategic issues (i.e. regulatory oversight of national security issues), and to put less critical – but still important – issues into a secondary status.

Twitter currently has almost 400 Million users, about half of whom use the platform on a daily basis.

The announcement that Elon Musk will acquire Twitter is a wakeup call to our Congress.

This is no reflection on Elon Musk:  No doubt his intentions are honest and pure.  But:  What if the next entity which steps in to acquire a virtually independent and unregulated key strategic asset in our emerging 21st century communications infrastructure is a foreign entity, perhaps a foreign oligarch?

When will our elected officials draw a line between focusing on false narratives and trivia, and focusing in on critical national security issues?

More On: Media Bashing

February 2, 2019

President Trump has helped to create a new and very dedicated genre of Americans – The Media Bashers.

The entry cost to become a Media Basher is quite low – just find a story you disagree with; invent some alternative facts; and share your opinions and manufactured reality loudly, vociferously and widely.

Meanwhile, our Mainstream Media is under assault from multiple directions.  Too many platforms; too many sources on each platform; extraordinary economic threats to the established and venerable sources; individual participants who use the label “journalist” very loosely; and, probably, an overall ‘dumbing down’ of those who consume information from media sources.

OK, you’ve got me.  I do have an agenda, and it’s not particularly favorable to those media sources I have come to rely on for information that helps make me an engaged and informed citizen.

The mainstream media has wasted the past several days covering a possible 35 year old transgression by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.

Why is our mainstream media laser-focused on a potential event on one day in a man’s life that — if true — occurred 35 years ago? What will the media say and/or do once the situation is fully investigated and the truth is revealed – whether guilty or innocent?

During this same time period, we’ve heard, read and watched – ad infinitum – about Roger Stone, and about U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.

What we haven’t heard about is Congressman Will Hurd (R, TX), who represents much of far West Texas. Hurd’s congressional district encompasses the longest stretch of U.S. border — some 800 miles.

Hurd introduced a bill aimed at using technology in order to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, and it is simply and concisely explained by Michelle Mark (https://www.businessinsider.com/fiber-optic-sensing-technology-vs-border-wall-2019-2)

Hurd introduced this legislation in 2017, and he has consistently championed it since then. Why has Congress taken no action on this?

With clear and undeniable evidence that fiber optic cable and other new technologies are the most effective and efficient ways to secure our border, why are so many U.S. elected officials squandering time and precious resources arguing about a physical border wall?

Why is our mainstream media essentially silent in covering this breakthrough opportunity to use technology to augment manpower and improve overall outcomes?

Concurrently, our mainstream media has given generous coverage to President Trump telling the world that our southern border is a primary threat to national security, that drugs are “pouring in” and that there are “people dying all over the country because of people like Nancy Pelosi who don’t want to give proper border security for political reasons” that Speaker Pelosi is engaging in “very bad politics” in hopes of scoring “a political point.”

I wish I had a magic solution to this dilemma – and I don’t.

I do believe that when more of my friends and neighbors are able to take a few minutes to reflect on this opportunity, magic solutions will miraculously appear.

I’m counting on you!

We Rely on Journalists

April 17, 2018

As a nation, we rely on Journalists to provide us with well-researched, unbiased and true information.

Until recently, I included Journalists in the same realm as Lawyers, Doctors, Accountants, Nurses, Plumbers, Electricians, Welders, Financial Planners, etc. — assuming that Journalists were professionals who received appropriate training; passed standard professional exams; and subscribed to a high standard of ethics.

Now, I’ve learned that those who identify as Journalists are often self-certified.

Alex Jones is a self-identified Journalist.  He is the host of “The Alex Jones Show” (infowars.com) which is now syndicated on over 160 AM, FM, and shortwave radio stations across the United States.

Alex Jones rose to national prominence as a result of his position that the 2012 massacre in Sandy Hook which took the lives of 26 innocent children and educators was “a giant hoax”.

Jones used his self-identified position as a Journalist to discredit the parents of the dead children.  He fixated on his mission to convince the public of a giant hoax, a conspirancy staged by the federal government, which hired professional actors for the purposes of undermining Second Amendment rights.

Jones seems to be the father of a dangerous tribe of Conspiracy Theorists who continue to twist the truth and who cloud the continuing plague of mass murders in schools and public places across the U.S.

I’ve now learned there is no standard professional exam for Journalists. And, apparently, no standards exist in the public sector regarding ethical behavior by Journalists — perhaps driven by those who rely on the 1st Amendment guaranty of the right of free speech?

I try to be a discerning consumer of information I receive from various media sources, and I admire those Journalists who consistently provide well-researched, unbiased and true information.

Question is: Given the importance of Real Facts, why is there no official credential (“license”) which can be earned by Real Journalists to help separate the Real Journalists from the Pretenders?

No threat to Free Speech:  just a ‘check and balance’ which separates those commentators who have their own agenda from true journalists who seek the truth.

Although I don’t approve of Alex Jones and his behaviors, I acknowledge his right to free speech.  However, I don’t acknowledge his right to self-identify as a Journalist.