How The Web Can Change Education July 18, 2011Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Essays, News, Reviews, Trends.
Tags: e-learning, Education, eG8, Lessig, Murdoch
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by Joanne KY Teoh
The Web has freed people from the “tyranny of time and distance” and is now poised to create a culture for learning innovation, expanding classroom walls to bring the best learning resources for kids of the world.
No surprise Rupert Murdoch of News Corp has been enthusing about the commercial potential of eLearning, using the e-G8 Forum “The Internet: Accelerating Growth” in Paris to talk up the Web’s power to transform education in his presentation.
Of course, Murdoch lauds commercial educational initiatives and products while ignoring Open Access resources like MIT OpenCourseWare, and many others. While one should beware ruthless tycoons peddling their wares, the point is that even Murdoch sees the future of education, and his words are accurate in many respects.
If schools today have not changed much, and the classroom is still defined by a teacher with a book and a blackboard, what should change? Computers aren’t enough. Software that engage students are also critical. If possible, equip students with tablets to let them become more interactive in their learning.
Digital technology allows for personalized or individualized learning. Students can work at their own pace with online tutors and videos featuring, for example, master teachers from anywhere in the world to monitor each student’s performance.
What does it look like when the Web positively impacts the daily practice of a learning community through communication and collaboration? Some schools have shifted their thinking to transform best practices, utilize project-based learning activities, and implement school communication initiatives that involve blogging, wikis, and social networking tools.
Education and creativity expert, Sir Ken Robinson also criticized outdated schools in his classical 2008 A Change of Paradigms lecture at the Royal Society of Art. But he addressed technology from the viewpoint of its effect on cognition and culture, and how educational politics should take this into account. Certainly a more fruitful and far-sighted approach than Murdoch’s promotion of exclusively commercial tech solutions.
Animation: Changing Education Paradigms by Sir Ken Robinson
While Murdoch advocates for less government in education as a software seller, Lawrence Lessig advocates socially ethical “less government.” Below is a video of his e-G8 keynote which focuses on his slides.
We should say to modern democratic government, you need to beware of incumbents bearing policy fixes. Because their job, the job of the incumbents, is not the same as your job, the job of the public policy maker.
Their job is profit for them. Your job is the public good. And it is completely fair, for us to say, that until this addiction is solved, we should insist on minimalism in what government does.
The kind of minimalism Jeff Jarvis spoke off when he spoke of “do no harm”. An Internet that embraces principles of open and free access, a neutral network to guarantee this open access, to protect the outsider.
But here is the one thing we know about this meeting, and its relationship to the future of the internet. The future of the internet is not Twitter, it is not Facebook, it is not Google, it is not even Rupert Murdoch.
The future of the internet is not here. It wasn’t invited, it does not even know how to be invited, because it doesn’t yet focus on policies and fora like this. The least we can do is to preserve the architecture of this network that protects this future that is not here.
Lawrence Lessig, Professor, Harvard Law School
Journalism Meets Virtual Reality May 1, 2008Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Convergence, Essays, Journalism, News, Trends.
Tags: Digital Natives, Gaming, Serious Games, Virtual World
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The first wired generation raised in the virtual realm is coming of age and recreating the world in their image. Digital natives are deserting traditional sources of information for an emerging journalism of interactive multimedia experiences informed by the timeless dynamics of story.
This was the theme of my talk this week at a conference in Singapore on computer games and multimedia. I spoke about how news organizations are experimenting with storytelling in virtual worlds and the need to re-imagine journalism in a game environment.
Serious games and their potential for interactive, player-directed storytelling are great at illustrating complex situations. The concept is not far-fetched. Journalists must re-imagine story narratives and experiment with computer simulations to help digital natives learn about news events and trends.
Such an approach envisions new narrative forms as sophisticated play to engage a tribe of gamers who demand stimulating complex systems. The medium of games has matured along with the digital natives who grew up with it. In a galaxy not too far away, this generation will be learning about politics – not by reading or watching the news – but by playing games with peers in virtual worlds.
For example, news on the Olympic Torch and the shadows that dog it can be created as a game that immerses people in the real world, full of real-time political crises. Players create avatars modeled on characters such as the Dalai Lama and politicians caught in the fray. The route to Beijing offers rich scenarios for the virtual reconstruction of real cityscapes.
In his keynote, David Wortley of the Serious Games Institute in UK shared a glimpse of the future of serious play. The movement has serious brain power behind it. Advocates and nonprofit groups have joined forces to search for new ways to reach young people, while tech-savvy academics are keen to explore video games’ education potential.
Serious games are already being developed to help players learn about health, social, political and economic issues. The United Nations has released Food Force, a game that helps people understand the difficulties of dispensing aid to war zones.
A newspaper or other local news organization needs to be more than just a pipeline for informing people about current news and events.
PAUL GRABOWICZ University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
News games are more than voyeuristic mindless fun. They can be a medium for change. At Carnegie Mellon University, a game on the Middle East conflict is being developed. In the game Peacemaker, players assume the role of either the Israeli prime minister or the Palestinian president.
The idea of games for journalistic storytelling is in the skunkworks. The New York Times has published a game to help readers understand immigration legislation that was up for debate.
News media can use games to provide context for young people to understand their community and its history. Journalism professor Paul Grabowicz says video games let people re-live the history of their communities and understand not just what’s happening today but what came before.
Funded by a Knight News Challenge grant, Grabowicz and his students are developing Remembering 7th Street, a virtual reality game that replicates an Oakland street known for its jazz and blues club scene in the ’40s and ’50s.
Educators and traditional media approach games with fear. There is much to celebrate and little to fear when a young medium and old media converge on new media to reach a post-MTV audience. When information is retooled as enthralling experiences that tap the emotion and intellect through the interplay of narrative, performance and play, the consequences of this fundamental shift in media creation and use are profound and promising.
Through their ability to renew age-old modes of cultural expression, games can be adjuncts to topical issues, providing fresh experiences to spur community interactions. Augmenting play with media narratives can connect audiences to current events and issues.
We need best practices to re-imagine a knowledge aesthetic that provides core journalistic services built around a community of media producers, visual storytellers, information designers, narrative architects and game developers.
A Uniquely Singapore Toilet Break. March 2, 2008Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Essays, News, Singapore, YouTube.
Tags: Jemaah Islamiah, JI, Mas Selamat Kastari, Terrorist
It’s been four days since Mas Selamat Kastari answered nature’s call and put Singapore in the global spotlight. The city’s most wanted man, and now ubiquitous poster boy, gave his guards the slip during a toilet break in a top security detention facility on the island. Accused of plotting to crash a plane into Changi Airport in 2001, Mas Selamat was never charged in court. At the time of his escape, he was being held under an internal security law that allows for detention without trial.
The circumstances surrounding the prison break in a city-state that touts itself tops in everything – from being a terror target to policing and ministerial pay – are as incredulous as the escape is audacious. It’s been 86 hours. Tens of thousands of police and security personnel are still looking for this middle-aged Singaporean national with a limp.
3.9 million mobile subscribers in the city will receive a photo of Mas Selamat via multimedia messaging from Singapore’s three main telecommunications companies. Singtel, the country’s biggest telco, will also send the fugitive’s photograph and a physical description to Internet subscribers.
There is no official word on how Mas Selamat breached one of the tightest security apparatus in the world. MSM has not raised the tough questions which are being asked on the Web with increasing derision. Mas Selamat’s face in possible guises are beginning to appear on blogs and portals. As much as the case is grist for conspiracy theorists, The Great Singapore Escape is becoming fodder for Photoshop artists and mash-ups. Here’s a sampling of the fare:
Possible Guises of Mas Selamat from TALKINGCOCK.COM
Spoof: Mas Selamat Kastari – Confession of a Terrorist
Apology: DPM Wong Kan Seng Informs Parliament
Interpol Global Red Alert
Comments by Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng on 2 March 2008 at the Visit to the Special Operation Command
MHA Press Release: Escape Of JI Detainee Mas Selamat From Detention
Bye to an Old Friend, Netscape. February 29, 2008Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Convergence, Essays, News.
Tags: Firefox, IE, Netscape, Safari
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Farewell Netscape, thanks for the surfing memories. You started it all for me in the early days of the Web. Though your graphical user interface is a relic in my memory, you were the Web for me back in 1994.
In a few hours time, the icon that gave people their first experience of the Web will no longer be around. Owner AOL will no longer support Netscape Navigator from 1 March 2008 and recommends users to upgrade to Firefox or Flock which are based on the Navigator technology.
Created by Marc Andreessen, Netscape helped make the Internet a mass market phenomenon when it was launched in the mid 1990s. But it could not compete. Its hey days were numbered when its user base and market share were eroded by Microsoft, which bundles Internet Explorer with its Windows operating systems.
Recent surveys suggest that Netscape currently has only 0.6% market share among browsers, compared to IE’s 77.35% and Firefox’s 16.01%. This same underdog once claimed more than 90 percent of the market, sparking the browser wars of the 1990s and the subsequent Microsoft antitrust trial.
Netscape Navigator introduced me to the World Wide Web by enabling me to access information online. Those were the good old times, but I won’t miss Netscape. I write this on the Safari browser which I have come to love. No doubt an underdog touches a soft spot, but Netscape had its day. Rest in peace Navigator. The Web and I will cherish your legacy.
Spare the Presidential C H A N G E February 3, 2008Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Essays, Journalism, News, Trends, YouTube.
Tags: Change, Presidential Elections
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Mirror mirror on the tube, who’s the changiest of them all? Notice how the political rhetoric in the US presidential elections is now down to a single word – change? Once upon a time in elections past, candidates fought to distance themselves from change – or flip-flopping – as it was called then.
Now change is so hot candidates are falling over themselves to flaunt their change credentials. Whatever the political stripes, whether in a dress or in suits, everybody wants to change their spots. Any change will do it seems. String these voices and mash ‘em up and presto! The Changiness Chorus:
Spare the change! It’s a word that has inflamed defenders of the status quo and media watchers. Jeff Jarvis, Associate Professor at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism rants in his blog that change is the “emptiest” word in politics:
“It’s an utterly empty word. Meaningless. The worst of political rhetoric. The worst of political bullshit. Pure spin. Cynical marketing. Juvenile pandering… Oh, just shut up and do something.”
I might be persuaded that progress comes through change, but don’t tell me all change is progress. Democrats will be a big change from Bush. Duh, but change in what terms? Didn’t America vote for change in 2000? Does change imply electing a female or a black President?
Change is the word of choice for an uncritical political culture. Any politician of any stripe can stand behind it without specifics or fear of contradiction:
Notice, when you hear the word “change,” whether the speaker or writer is using it as a noun or a verb. As a noun, the word is an empty abstraction. You don’t have to explain it, or give examples. You can simply invoke it, like “freedom” or “terrorism” or “amnesty.”
As an intransitive verb, “change” rarely helps: as in “I will change!” The politician who offers us the transitive, who gives us an object of the verb — “I will change the way we wage this war” — is at least giving us a small peg on which to hang.
Out in the field, Obama is cool as a symbol and vessel for change. Clinton is cold and shrill in her naked ambition. Excuse me, is anybody thinking for a change? Changing the face and name in the White House is not change. Holding different perspectives and acting on those ideas is.
Blame it on TV and tube talk in an attention economy. So last century to be sure. Throw in the social networkers of MySpace and Facebook and you get a growing disconnect with the cuckolds. Can user generated politics predict election outcomes?
As people begin to switch off their TV and “live” online, the Web will define politics. If this has become a contest about who represents change, perhaps it makes more sense to talk about who owns the change. Voters own change, not candidates. Voters can vote out representatives and replace them with candidates who deliver more than promises.
Come to think of it, change is no big deal. Talking is the easy part. In the final scrutiny, who can change his or her spots?
A TV Website is a Product, Duh. October 28, 2007Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Advertising, Convergence, Essays, Journalism, News, Trends.
Tags: Advertising, Broadcast Strategies, TV Online
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TV folks still don’t get it! When I’m consulted by broadcasters planning to launch an accompanying Website for a TV series, I am often floored by the silo-thinking that an online presence is merely something nice to have to reinforce the brand and generate awareness.
Little wonder that so many micro-sites purporting to be the online arm of a TV show are, well, so small and mono-dimensional. Sure, the bean counters on the board ask for the business case. It’s about time they drop the blinkers and TV-centric thinking and build the Website as a product.
The Website cannot be conceived as a brochure for reinforcing the TV brand, but rather as unique content sold as its own entity. It’s about leveraging the resources unique to broadcasters to implement a successful online strategy.
With Web content eating into the profit pies of print and TV, online financial success for broadcasters lies in creating true cross-platform integration with the TV side of their business. Traditional media are not getting the share of advertising because they have not got past the ways to monetize their Websites.
ESPN.com and CNN.com got it. And it’s simply that people will pay for content if it is valuable to them. What ESPN and CNN have done is increase cross-platform reach to their audiences by investing in and building their Websites. It’s about taking the information the networks have and knowing how to feature it.
ESPN.com developed cross-platform storytelling by streaming video and creating interactive games for their users. CNN.com emphasized the cable network’s strength in delivering breaking news by expanding on the I-Report feature which allows the portal to receive a large volume of breaking news without actively soliciting.
So instead of using third-party and costly software, broadcasters should create a local network of sites, organize the local Web and take advantage of what’s already available to create unique community. Some of the brightest minds in the industry know where the future lies and are steering their online products in that direction.
Burma: Junta Draw Veil of Ignorance September 29, 2007Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Essays, Journalism, News, Web Video.
Surely and swiftly the military junta in Burma have returned a veil of ignorance to the country while they shoot people on the streets. But the week has been an extraordinary moment for civic media and the Web, with grassroots witnesses to a pacifist struggle posting images and accounts out of Burma for global scrutiny.
The last time Burmese soldiers fired on their own people there were few witnesses, and those who were there had no way of telling the story. This time, the demonstrations had persisted and spread in part because of new technologies.
What’s amazing is the cadre of people on the ground, gathering and disseminating information through the sieve of the state despite low internet penetration, low connection speeds and the need for proxy servers. This uprising in Burma is a compelling argument for citizen media forcing the world to confront a reclusive regime with draconian Internet control.
People sharing photographs and writing blogs aren’t doing it because they are journalists, but because it is a natural impulse to want to share experiences. Images of chaos and casualties have circulated with a battery of videos and an outpouring of comments (see here and here)
The Burmese people know must keep international attention on themselves if they want to succeed. Armed with mobile phone cameras, they have become the eyes of the “saffron revolution”. For days they risked their lives to stand in for the hundreds of foreign journalists banned by a government with much to hide.
To be sure, citizen media will not be the only source of information in events like a revolution, coup or civil war. They are welcome complements and sources of experts.
It is a risk. The soldiers arrest anyone who takes photos, destroy their phones and beat them up. But we have to show the world what is happening. Kyaw, medical student
I’m scared that if we stop sending photos and video the world will forget about us. Lynn, Burmese
Raw footage capturing the last gasps of Kenji Nagai has been aired on Japanese TV and posted on the Web, raising official suspicion that the 50-year old photo-journalist was murdered by Burmese troops.
The footage shows Nagai on the edge of a crowd of panic-stricken demonstrators, shoved to the ground by a soldier and shot at point-blank range, clutching his video camera to protect it from the fall. Evidence like this contradicts official Burmese explanation that Nagai was killed by a “stray bullet”.
The monks were moral shields; without them the marchers had lost a lucky charm. They felt less like crusaders for justice and more like what they resembled – scared, angry kids in T-shirts facing well-drilled troops with automatic weapons. TIMES ONLINE
The images have certainly spoken louder than words, catalyzing action by the international community. So far, UN talk of sanctions has been mere slaps on the wrist that failed to force the junta’s hand.
Weasely diplomatic response by Burma’s allies did not lead to wider influences. The tired rhetoric of outrage from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is motivated more by threat of financial sanctions from the West than compassion.
Elements of the armed forces may rebel and overthrow the old guard. But this has not happened yet. The junta will ignore international calls for restraint, unless China, ASEAN and other nations that hold the most leverage on Burma join the outcry.
From the point of view of TV, the situation is the same as it was in 1988. No foreign TV crews have been able to enter Burma and networks such as BBC and CNN have been reporting from neighboring Thailand.
The junta has calculated that it can again win the propaganda battle if it controls traditional media. It is countering the impact of information smuggled out of Burma with news broadcasts, and surreal official versions describing the soldiers as victims.
Indeed, TV has made us so used to seeing popular uprisings topple authoritarian regimes that the difficulties involved can be underestimated. The first flush of images and accounts from citizen witnesses may create premature expectations about a new era of public protest.
It is unclear how much this “saffron revolution” resembles the “color revolutions” that took place in Georgia and Ukraine, where “networked” movements maximized cell phone technology and used the Internet as a platform in political mobilization for new elections.
To be sure, protesters in Burma faced an implacable military junta that showed subtle and malignant cunning in moving against the monks. The crackdown is a reminder that street protests do not necessarily lead to revolution.
Citizen journalism is a movement in progress. Where sovereignty is at stake, there will be the struggle between the Utopian roots of the Web, and the hegemony of the state. As much as we would like to think the Web is an unbridled new frontier, realistically on the ground, the force of law, or in Burma’s case – the might of the fist – will be invoked at tipping point.
It would be naive to think that a media of the people has immediate power to undermine hard power. While the Web ensures that the world will continue to keep watch, the question is whether this will sway a regime which cares nought about its image.
In many countries of Asia, journalism is battle ground territory between authority and media. It is worth remembering that however cyber the space is, it is also real and subject to real space power.
Since Thursday the military junta have made themselves felt in cyberspace, blocking Websites and cutting mobile phone lines while they shoot people on the streets. But a handful of people has already ensured that the perpetrators will face some measure of accountability for their repression.
New York Times Free At Last September 18, 2007Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Advertising, Essays, Journalism, News, Trends.
Tags: , columnists, Murdoch, New York Times, NYT, Times Select
So it’s no sale with paid content. The New York Times is joining the crescendo of falling walls at news sites including The Economist and CNN by ending its experiment with charging for select online content. The Times today restored free access to most of its columnists along with many articles, blogs, video, podcasts and archives.
It sure is good Maureen Dowd and the cast of Times columnists are firmly back into the public conversation. Columnists like her must be clicking their champagne glasses now their verbiage is accessible to a larger audience. But I’m raising my glass to a move that opens access to journalism’s most definitive moments on the Web.
The more important meaning for journalism here I say, is opening up the Times archives. With a perma-link on each article, Times’ stories will become the de facto primary sources for people around the Web, and around the world. So on topic after topic, the Times stories will move near or to the top of the search engine rankings. They will become more valuable for keyword and advertising once people click through to the actual stories.
Readers increasingly find news through search, as well as through social networks, blogs and other online sources. In light of this shift, we believe offering unfettered access to New York Times reporting and analysis best serves the interest of our readers, our brand and the long-term vitality of our journalism. We encourage everyone to read our news and opinion – as well as share it, link to it and comment on it.
New YorK Times
This was a money decision to be sure, and it could well be the start of the end for paid news on the Web. It is not so much that ads on the columnist pages will bring in that much new revenue but rather people looking at those pages will then go elsewhere on the site and the more eyeballs looking at more advertising, the better.
By lifting the gates on Times Select and returning its website to a completely ad-supported model, the larger significance is a resounding victory for the idea that information wants to be free. The Times site, nytimes.com, is the most popular newspaper site on the Web, with 13.1 million unique visitors. But its middling results with paid content, neither validation nor failure, strongly suggest that very few content publishers should even consider playing in the pay arena.
Lifting the ramparts on paid content shows the Times is taking seriously the prospect that Rupert Murdoch will drop access charges for most or all of The Wall Street Journal Online. The Journal is now the only major newspaper charging subscriptions for most of its online content.
Incidentally, Murdoch gave his strongest statements to date the WSJ.com will go free. He says the company doesn’t feel it would hurt subscriptions and any lost revenue would be more than made up from increased readership and search engine traffic.
There’s talk the UK’s Financial Times web site with around 100,000 subscribers will also open up. Which begs that question – if we can read newspapers for free on the Web, why should we pay to read it in print? How come one model works for the Web and another model is used for print. The print model needs revisiting.
The once hot online-newspaper ad revenue is slowing as a result of competition from Web portals and TV networks. Nielsen/NetRatings show Yahoo News and Time Warner CNN Web sites posting strong growth over newspaper sites. Although online ads still make up a small portion of total newspaper revenues, the downward spiral of print revenues, has pushed print media to grab as big a slice of the online-ad pie as they can.
The Times introduced Times Select in September 2005 to wring subscription revenue from its website and shore up sales in print, where ad rates remain much higher than they are online. It admitted that the power of search engines, which often drive traffic to the Times Online even when people looking for information don’t necessarily set out to find it, meant there was too much potential to pass up in free access underwritten by marketers.
2007 is emerging as a watershed for advertising, once seen as only part of a broader revenue play. Media owners are recognizing there is more money to be made reducing barriers to usage and selling advertising against that increased usage. So far in 2007, publishers have abandoned the paid ramparts at outlets including CNN, The Economist and The Financial Times.
Sure it’s nice for advertisers to know that a consumer loves a publisher’s site enough to pay for it. Opening the gates do let in riffraff who may not be so desirable. But from a marketer perspective, the more, the better. You potentially create greater scale for advertisers, and they want as much scale as possible.
Essentially, the Times is betting it can generate enough advertising revenue and/or goodwill to more than make up the loss of $10 million in subscription revenue. That’s a lot of ads, but the popular columns and archives that were behind the pay wall are popular material and should generate a lot of page views.
Of course, niche sites with unduplicated or especially compelling content will always be able to charge something for content. In addition to the free photos and articles Playboy posts online, it sells three tiers of paid access.
The Times is ending its premium service with 227,000 paying subscribers, 471,200 people who got access as part of their print subscriptions and 89,200 college students and employees who signed up for free access. It has sold sponsorship ads to American Express across The Content Formerly Known as Times Select.
Can You Still Trust Your National TV? July 20, 2007Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Essays, News.
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Every country has a right to expect its national broadcaster to maintain rigorous levels of integrity. Every time you think a national broadcaster has sunk lower, a new breach in viewers’ trust hits the headlines.
The BBC admitted Wednesday that a series of flagship children’s and charity phone-in programs had deliberately deceived viewers. The moral rectitude revealed in the Beeb’s deception is an issue not only for the British broadcasting icon, but national broadcasters in general and Asia in particular.
Hit your remote. Deceit come in many guises over the airwaves where authority lies in the hands of the few. Look around and you see editorial failings; slants endorsing pay and political masters.
Look around and you see manufactured non-news; advertorials couched as content; sponsored lifestyle programs pimped by moonlighting news readers; product placements and commercial puff.
We’re talking stitched-up productions, stretched-out crews and big pay-offs. The only surprise is that it took this long. Auntie – the moniker for the once honored and trusted broadcaster, is now seen as a bunch of ‘crooks and liars’.
BBC production staff lied to the audience by posing as winners of phone quizzes (never mind that practices like this is a criminal offence). The programs identified are:
Comic Relief – Friday 16 March 2007 on BBC One
A caller was heard on air answering a question to win prizes belonging to a famous couple when in fact the caller was a member of the production team.
TMi – 16 September 2006 on BBC Two and CBBC
A member of the production team posed as a member of the audience who had won a competition which was open to the public.
Sport Relief – 15 July 2006 on BBC One
Viewers were led to believe that a member of the public had won a competition open to the public when it was a member of the crew.
Children in Need – 18 November 2005 on BBC One Scotland
A fictitious competition winner was announced during a segment called Raven: The Island following technical problems.
The Liz Kershaw Show – 2005/6 on BBC 6 Music
During pre-recorded programmes presented as live, listeners were led to believe genuine competitions were held when in fact there were no contests or prizes and all callers were production staff or their friends.
White Label – World Service until April 2006
On more than once occasion a fake winner was announced when no winning entries had been received.
The same day, media regulator Ofcom published a damning inquiry into recent phone-in scandals and concluded there is a “systemic failure” in the way broadcasters operate premium rate lines. Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries.
“If broadcasters want audiences to go on spending millions calling in, they need to show they take consumer protection as seriously as programme content,” said former Deputy Chief Executive of BBC News Richard Ayre, who led the inquiry.
Ofcom accused telecoms operators, producers and broadcasters of a lack of transparency. It said there was a need for clearer pricing schemes, fairer competitions, and greater external auditing. The investigation looked at 20 alleged phone-in quiz scandals involving networks.
Record Industry Lawsuits: Take a Hike July 11, 2007Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Essays.
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Suits brought against students by the record industry bring up issues around the role and identity of University and copyright. Go take a hike, say Harvard Law School professors Charles Nesson and John Palfrey of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Their essay is reproduced below:
Recently, the president of the Recording Industry Association of America, Cary Sherman, wrote to Harvard to challenge the university administration to stop acting as a “passive conduit” for students downloading music. We agree. Harvard and the 22 universities to which the RIAA has sent “pre-litigation notices” ought to take strong, direct action…and tell the RIAA to take a hike.
This Spring, 1,200 pre-litigation letters arrived unannounced at universities across the country. The RIAA promises more will follow. These letters tell the university which students the RIAA plans on suing, identifying the students only by their IP addresses, the “license plates” of Internet connections. Because the RIAA does not know the names behind the IP addresses, the letters ask the universities to deliver the notices to the proper students, rather than relying upon the ordinary legal mechanisms.
Universities should have no part in this extraordinary process. The RIAA’s charter is to promote the financial interests of its corporate members – even if that means preserving an obsolete business model for its members. The university’s charter is quite different. Harvard’s charter reflects the purposes for which it was founded in 1636: “The advancement of all good literature, arts, and sciences; the advancement and education of youth in all manner of good literature, arts, and sciences; and all other necessary provisions that may conduce to the education of the … youth of this country….”
The university strives to create knowledge, to open the minds of students to that knowledge, and to enable students to take best advantage of their educational opportunities. The university has no legal obligation to deliver the RIAA’s messages. It should do so only if it believes that’s consonant with the university’s mission.
We believe it is not.
Universities are special places, set off in time and space for students to have an opportunity most will not again have: to learn together in a community that cherishes openness above all else. If the university is perceived as doing the bidding of any particular industry, the message we’re sending to students is that the university is willing to let commercial interests intrude.
Of course there are times when that intrusion is warranted. The horror of Virginia Tech is on all our minds and in our hearts. There are far lesser justifications for allowing the arms of government and commerce to interrupt the secular sanctity of the university’s educational space. But protecting claims of copyright – whether or not legitimate claims – by passing along messages requiring students to pay lump sums to record companies just doesn’t warrant the betrayal of student’s trust and privacy.
The university does have an obligation to teach our students to be good citizens. Good citizens should be accountable for their actions. If our students are breaking the law, they should pay the price. That’s not the issue here. The RIAA has already sued well over 10,000 people, including many students, directly. They seem to be engaging in a classic tactic of the bully facing someone much weaker: threatening such dire consequences that the students settle without the issue going to court. The issue is that the university should not be carrying the industry’s water in bringing lawsuits.
The subtitle of the RIAA’s own press release puts a far more pleasant gloss on this: “New Program Invigorates Campus Conversations About Consequences For Illegal Downloading.”
If the RIAA wants to stimulate conversation, then it should engage in genuine dialogue. Come join us on campus. Come talk to the digital natives who are our students, to the faculty who care about fair intellectual property protections, and to the university counsel and technical teams who manage our strategies and operations in cyberspace. The RIAA should be asking, along with the rest of us, if we can come up with models that reward artists for their work while allowing the maximum circulation and use of their creations, as our Founding Fathers intended.
We should also be discussing the most important issue of all. Universities provide an open space in which every idea can be heard and discussed. Every limitation on the circulation of ideas works directly against the university’s mission. How can we open up more ideas, more works, more conversations, while, of course, preserving the legitimate rights of creators? How can we make the university far more open than it is now? How can universities – just like the RIAA – embrace a digital future and make the most of its opportunities?
Being the unpaid enforcement arm of the provincial interests of the RIAA is no part of the answer to these questions.