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CHAPTER VIII - Conclusion

The new media market is innovative, remunerative and, for many participants, a whole lot of fun. But, when it organizes and unleashes forces that bring out the dark side of our national character, new media can do harm to our social fabric. The current new media environment brings tremendous innovation to a sector that touches one of America’s most important values—free expression. Neither innovation nor free expression typically thrives when large institutions try to intervene in a heavy-handed way.

That is why the recommendations in this report approach policy for new media with a strong dose of humility. Government efforts to legislate or regulate improvement to new media—whether that means shaping the innovation system to meet social goals or improve market access—do not have a good chance of success. By the time any rules are put in place, the market will have moved on. The law of unintended consequences would be all too relevant in the face of any such actions.

For that reason, the approach has been to take actions that can lay the groundwork to supporting and shaping the new media market in a way that adheres to the values of inclusion, promoting common culture and truth in public discourse. Grant programs that aim collectively to increase broadband adoption, bolster digital skills, promote entrepreneurship and improve network deployment will not necessarily raise the level of public debate. But, with vocal leadership and models to aid information literacy, the tenor of public discourse may improve over time. Changes in regulations that may ease the path for more OTT and other forms of new media, whether curated by video start-ups or more established players radically changing their business models, might not immediately improve the diversity of voices in the media. But in conjunction with initiatives to improve the digital readiness of communities in need, a more diverse media may unfold over time.

The hopes for new media—that it inform, entertain, connect people, spur creativity, expand knowledge, improve standards of living, and more—make it ripe for policy scrutiny. The market is fast-changing and has an inherently public dimension to it. Policymakers and other stakeholders will have to know when to be hands off without planting them in their pockets for too long, while also recognizing when to be hands-on, without having too tight a grip.

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