Newton Minow, who chaired the Federal Communications Commission under JFK, favors a national digital library—an idea I’ve pushed for years on this site and elsewhere. He is also against Net censorship.
Alas, we did the e-mail Q&A before the FCC approved the XM-Sirius satellite radio merger. I’d love to know Minow’s thoughts—from a consumer perspective—on that one.
See earlier TeleBlog item on Minow’s recent book signing for Inside the Presidential Debates. He is a Chicago-based lawyer, an early backer of Barack Obama, and father of Mary Minow, a leading specialist on library law. Reacting to the famous Vast Wasteland speech (MP3 here), the creator of the Gilligan’s Island series named the S.S. Minnow after the commissioner.
Q. The Internet didn’t exist when you gave the "Vast Wasteland" speech. How happy are you with the general quality of content on the Net?
A. Like everything else, the internet has both good and bad elements. Certainly, more good than bad. More people have more access to information and more capacity to communicate with each other. What is bad is that so much inaccurate and misleading information goes through the internet along with the accurate information—and often we do not know how to evaluate it.
Q. Should there be any instances at all where the government regulates content on TV or the Net, even if you deem it injurious? Should even hate speech be protected? And how do you feel about FCC regulation of obscenity or nudity? Has the current FCC gone overboard?
A. No, I do not think the government should regulate the content of information on the internet nor in other methods of communication. That is why we have the First Amendment. However, non-governmental persons and institutions should be encouraged to challenge information which is inaccurate or misleading.
Q. What’s the current status of Digital Promise, your advocacy group striving "to transform America’s education, workforce training, and lifelong learning through the development and use of revolutionary advanced information technologies"?
A. Digital Promise is still actively being considered in Congress, and we are optimistic for favorable action this year.
Q. How do you feel about a TeleRead national digital library system being included under Digital Promise? Is it possible there could be funding for pilot projects that could include (1) acquisition and development of content and (2) evaluation of technologies? See attached Washington Post op-ed summing up the idea. Beyond what I wrote, TeleRead could include multimedia and software.
A. A digital library is my greatest dream to be helped by Digital Promise.
Q. On vacation, did you get a chance to check out Mary’s Kindle, and what did you think of it? Will you be getting one yourself or a similar gizmo?
A. Mary’s Kindle is a gem and so is Mary!
Interesting detail: Newton Minow spelled Internet with a small i. As you can tell by the previous sentence, however, not everyone would agree. I’d be interested in his reasons. Meanwhile, when I send him the link to this Q&A, I’ll ask if he has a few words to say about the XM-Sirius merger.