Victor Pickard (@vwpickard) is an Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. His research focuses on the history and political economy of media institutions, media activism, and the politics and normative foundations of media policy. Before coming to Annenberg, he taught at New York University in the media, culture, and communication department. Previously he worked on media policy in Washington, DC as a Senior Research Fellow at the media reform organization Free Press and the public policy think tank the New America Foundation. He also taught media policy at the University of Virginia and served as a Media Policy Fellow for Congresswoman Diane Watson.
Pickard’s work has been published in numerous anthologies and scholarly journals, including Critical Studies in Media Communication, Journal of Communication; Media, Culture & Society; Global Media and Communication; International Journal of Communication; Communication, Culture & Critique; New Media and Society; Journal of Communication Inquiry; Newspaper Research Journal; Journal of Internet Law; International Journal of Communication Law and Policy; CommLaw Conspectus: Journal of Communications Law and Policy; Political Communication; Journal of Information Policy; Digital Journalism; Journalism Studies; Communication & Critical/Cultural Studies; and Communication Theory. He is a frequent commentator on public and community radio and he often speaks to the press about med ia-related issues. His op-eds have appeared in venues like the Guardian, the Seattle Times, the Huffington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Atlantic.
In 2009, Pickard was the lead author of the first comprehensive report on the American journalism crisis, “Saving the News: Toward a National Journalism Strategy” (published by Free Press as part of the book Changing Media: Public Interest Policies for the Digital Age). He is the co-editor of the books Will the Last Reporter Please Turn out the Lights (with Robert McChesney, published by The New Press) and The Future of Internet Policy (with Peter Decherney, published by Routledge), and he is the author of the book America’s Battle for Media Democracy: The Triumph of Corporate Libertarianism and the Future of Media Reform (published by Cambridge University Press).
The FCC’s effort to overturn net neutrality in one word: chaos
The FCC’s efforts to overturn the net neutrality rules have descended into total and complete chaos. First of all, it’s hard to find anyone other than telecom companies, and the beltway insiders that represent them, that support Ajit Pai’s plan to overturn the rules at the December 14th meeting. A new Morning Consult poll finds that some 52% of Americans support net neutrality , with 29% who say they don’t know. Just eighteen percent outright oppose. Further, the opposition to Ajit Pai’s efforts appears to be bipartisan, with 53% of Republicans and Democrats coming in at just 2 points higher–55% who support the existing net neutrality rules.
And then there’s the Pew Research study showing that just 6% of comments submitted in the net neutrality docket are genuine, with others being fake and duplicates. Yet the FCC doesn’t appear to be accounting for the onslaught of fake comments submitted in this proceeding.
And a man was arrested and charged for threatening to kill Congressman John Katko if he failed to support net neutrality. Twenty-eight year old Patrick D. Angelo left a voicemail for Katko saying “Listen Mr. Katko, if you support net neutrality, I will support you. But if you don’t support net neutrality, I will find you and your family and I will kill…you…all. Do you understand?” This is according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
So the net neutrality debate has assumed a very unhealthy tone. Perhaps the FCC should wait on overturning the rules. That would certainly seem to be the most democratic way to go. Incidentally, some 200 businesses, including Airbnb, Tumblr, Pinterest and others sent a letter to Ajit Pai on Cyber Monday urging him to hold on overturning the rules.
Supreme Court hears location-tracking case
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week in Carpenter v. U.S. –that’s the cellphone location data tracking case. The defendant was suspected of serving as a lookout during several armed robberies in Detroit. Authorities used Carpenter’s cell phone location data to determine his proximity to the robberies. They found that Carpenter was indeed nearby to where the crimes took place. He was convicted and is now serving a 116-year sentence. But the justices seemed to lean in support of Carpenter’s argument that his 4th Amendment rights were violated–despite the third party doctrine which holds that individuals give up their right to privacy in information disclosed to third parties. Robert Barnes covers this in the Washington Post.
Pushback against tattoo recognition technology
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is suing the U.S. government — specifically the Department of Commerce and the Department of Homeland Security–for its work on developing a tattoo recognition technology. EFF sees the effort as an intrusion into civil liberties. Harper Neidig reports in The Hill.
GAO: Tech severely lacks diversity
A new Government Accountability Officer report found that people of color are disproportionately underrepresented within tech firms. Congressman Bobby Scott–Ranking Member of the House Education and Workforce Committee–ordered the study. The report found that some 10% of Hispanic and 7% of Black workers had Bachelors or Masters-level technology degrees, yet they represent only 5% or less of tech companies.
Softbank bids for Uber
Softbank has initiated a formal, $48 billion takeover bid for Uber–the embattled ride-sharing company. Softbank offered to purchase Uber shares despite 3rd Quarter losses of $1.5 billion, which was up from $1.1 billion Uber lost in the second quarter. Eric Newcomer reports for Bloomberg.
Bitcoin takes off
Finally, the digital currency Bitcoin had banner week last week. It jumped to over $11,000, from just $1,000 in the spring. Is it a bubble? Should it be regulated? Should the Fed create its own cryptocurrency? And, most importantly, what the hell is it??? Those are the questions being asked this week as Nasdaq prepares to trade Bitcoin. Michael Derby reports in the Wall Street Journal.