August 25, 2010 (8 Things to Know About How the Media Covered the Gulf Disaster)

BENTON'S COMMUNICATIONS-RELATED HEADLINES for WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 25, 2010


INTERNET/BROADBAND
   Blair Levin: Fix the Universal Service Fund
   USTelecom: Network neutrality fight distracts from the Broadband Plan

CYBERSECURITY AND PRIVACY
   Senator Hopes for a Vote on Cybersecurity Measure Before Elections
   Defense official discloses cyberattack
   Consumers Union questions safety of paying with smart phones
   Germany Plans to Limit Facebook Use in Hiring

TECHNOLOGY
   ITS Launches Its First Telecommunications Science Video Series for the Public

JOURNALISM
   Eight Things to Know About How the Media Covered the Gulf Disaster

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INTERNET/BROADBAND

FIXING USF
[SOURCE: The Hill, AUTHOR: Sara Jerome]
Levin, who directed the creation of the National Broadband Plan while he was at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), said that it is essential to overhaul the Universal Service Fund. "The current Universal Service system is broadly flawed," he said. "It creates false incentives. It creates situations where we're paying one phone company $17,000 per line, per year. ... The point is, if we don't fix that -- and part of the Broadband Plan is about fixing that -- the vision of broadband doesn't matter." He also said it is understandable that many Americans fail to see the broad public benefits of the Internet. It's because the government has been slow to show them those benefits. "We as a country haven't been effective at utilizing the platform for, essentially, public services," he said.
benton.org/node/41347 | Hill, The | The Hill -- benefits
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NET NEUTRALITY AND THE BROADBAND PLAN
[SOURCE: The Hill, AUTHOR: Sara Jerome]
Walter McCormick, president of USTelecom -- the lobbying association for broadband providers -- said that the telecom community should get back to talking about the broadband plan amid all the bickering over network neutrality. "Our hope as an industry is that we'll be able to get back to the broadband plan and that we'll be able to get back to these consensus objectives," he said. "To the extent net neutrality is an issue that needs to be resolved, [we hope] that there will be an acknowledgement of the fact that there is both an investment and deployment aspect to this that needs to be addressed and that there are also certain social aspirations for how we want the Internet to operate. But this does not need to happen on a partisan basis."
benton.org/node/41346 | Hill, The
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CYBERSECURITY AND PRIVACY

CYBERSECURITY MEASURE IN SENATE
[SOURCE: GovInfoSecurity.com, AUTHOR: Eric Chabrow]
The Senate is considering attaching cybersecurity legislation to a key defense authorization bill as a way to assure passage this year of the measure to reform the way the government safeguards its computer networks and that of key national IT systems, Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Deleware) said. "It's hard to get a measure like cybersecurity legislation passed on its own," said Sen Carper, who chairs a Senate subcommittee with cybersecurity oversight. Sen Carper said that backers would seek to add cybersecurity provisions to a bill that's likely to pass, such as the National Defense Authorization Act, which likely would be passed before the fall midterm elections. Besides, he said, cybersecurity is a component of national security. "That is a place that makes a lot of sense." Another reason Sen Carper said he believes the Senate may consider the cybersecurity legislation as part of the defense authorization bill is that the chairman and ranking minority member of the Armed Services Committee -- Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) -- also serve on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where a major piece of the cybersecurity legislation emanates. Sen McCain also serves as the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management.
benton.org/node/41342 | GovInfoSecurity.com
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CYBERATTACK DISCLOSED
[SOURCE: Washington Post, AUTHOR: Ellen Nakashima]
Now it is official: The most significant breach of U.S. military computers was caused by a flash drive inserted into a U.S. military laptop on a post in the Middle East in 2008. Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III says malicious code placed on the drive by a foreign intelligence agency uploaded itself onto a network run by the U.S. Central Command. "That code spread undetected on both classified and unclassified systems, establishing what amounted to a digital beachhead, from which data could be transferred to servers under foreign control," he said. "It was a network administrator's worst fear: a rogue program operating silently, poised to deliver operational plans into the hands of an unknown adversary." Lynn's decision to declassify an incident that Defense officials had kept secret reflects the Pentagon's desire to raise congressional and public concern over the threats facing U.S. computer systems, experts said.
benton.org/node/41341 | Washington Post
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ARE MOBILE PAYMENTS SAFE
[SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, AUTHOR: Tiffany Hsu]
Paying for a shopping spree by waving a smart phone may be more exciting than swiping a credit card, but according to Consumers Union, it might not be as safe. The nonprofit testing and information organization, which publishes Consumer Reports, called on regulators to implement protective standards on mobile payments. Federal law currently shields credit or debit card holders from many charges associated with lost, stolen or misused cards. But without industry-wide rules for "digital wallet" providers, consumers could risk losing money through fraud, merchant disputes or processing mistakes, the group said. Existing regulations are piecemeal, said the group. Mobile payments linked to credit cards are the most protected, with limited liability for unauthorized transactions and the right to argue about certain charges. Phone purchases hooked up to debit cards have fewer safeguards. But mobile payments would probably increase the number of charges funneled through prepaid cards and phone bills, which are even less protected. While mobile payments are already common in countries such as Japan, they're just now catching on in the U.S. Some critics have raised privacy and hacking concerns.
benton.org/node/41345 | Los Angeles Times
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GERMANY PLANS TO LIMIT FACEBOOK USE IN HIRING
[SOURCE: New York Times, AUTHOR: David Jolly]
As part of the draft of a law governing workplace privacy, the German government on August 25 proposed new restrictions on employers' use of Facebook profiles when recruiting. The proposed law would allow managers to search for publicly accessible information about prospective employees on the Web and to view their pages on job-networking sites, like LinkedIn or Xing, but would draw the line at purely social-networking sites like Facebook, said Philipp Spauschus, a spokesman for the Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière. Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet gave its backing to the proposed law Wednesday. The bill will now go to Parliament for discussion, and could be passed as early as this year, Mr. Spauschus said.
benton.org/node/41340 | New York Times
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TECHNOLOGY

SCIENCE VIDEO SERIES
[SOURCE: National Telecommunications and Information Administration, AUTHOR: Press release]
The Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS), a division of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce, today released a collection of online training and educational videos for public viewing on ITS's website. These videos cover telecommunications topics ranging from an easily understandable review of the fundamentals of radio spectrum -- such as defining decibels using common logarithms—to in-depth explanations of complex engineering issues like resolving signal-interference problems. In announcing the public posting of this video collection, Al Vincent, Director of ITS, stressed that this is the first of what he expects to be a valuable educational series. "The publication of these videos reflects ITS's goal to be not only a technical resource for telecommunication standards development, but also a trusted, impartial informational resource for industry, students, the general public, and other government organizations," said Vincent. "This unique web-published video series represents a significant expansion in the accessibility of ITS's research findings for the public, and we certainly hope to continue to make information on additional topics available in this way."
benton.org/node/41344 | National Telecommunications and Information Administration | website
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JOURNALISM
   Eight Things to Know About How the Media Covered the Gulf Disaster

MEDIA COVERAGE OF OIL SPILL
[SOURCE: Project for Excellence in Journalism, AUTHOR: Mark Jurkowitz]
The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which began with the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion on April 20 and continued to gush for another three months, posed a daunting set of challenges for the news media. Unlike most catastrophes, which tend to break quickly and subside almost as fast, the spill was a slow-motion disaster that demanded constant vigilance and sustained reporting. The story was also complex, dominated by three continuing and sometimes competing story lines from three different locales—the role of the London-based oil company, the efforts of the Obama Administration, and the events in the Gulf region -- that taxed reportorial resources and journalistic attention spans. Coverage of the disaster also required a significant amount of technical and scientific expertise. The news media, in short, found themselves with a complicated, technical and long-running disaster saga that did not break down along predictable political and ideological lines. And they were reporting to an American public that displayed a ravenous appetite for the spill story.
A study of the coverage reveals:
The oil spill was by far the dominant story in the mainstream news media in the 100-day period after the explosion, accounting for 22% of the newshole—almost double the next biggest story. In the 14 full weeks included in this study, the disaster finished among the top three weekly stories 14 times. And it registered as the No. 1 story in nine of those weeks.
The activities in the Gulf—the cleanup and containment efforts as well as the impact of the disaster—represented the leading storyline of the disaster, accounting for 47% of the overall coverage. Next came attention to the role of BP (27% of the coverage). The third-biggest storyline was Washington based—the response and actions of the Obama Administration (17%).[1]
The Obama White House generated decidedly mixed media coverage for its role in the spill saga, but questions about its role diminished over time—in part thanks to a Republican misfire. And the administration fared considerably better than BP and its CEO Tony Hayward, who on balance were portrayed as the villains of the story.
BP emerged as the antagonist in the media narrative about the oil spill, particularly its CEO Tony Hayward. But outside of two Louisiana politicians playing smaller roles, none of the top newsmakers were portrayed as protagonists in the saga.
The Gulf saga was first and foremost a television story. It generated the most coverage in cable news (31% of the airtime studied), with CNN devoting considerably more attention (42% of its airtime) than cable rivals MSNBC and Fox News. The spill also accounted for 29% of the coverage on network news as the three big commercial broadcast networks—ABC, CBS and NBC—spent virtually the same amount of time on the story.
The spill story generated considerably less attention in social media, on blogs, Twitter and You Tube. Among blogs, for example, it made the roster of top stories five times in 14 weeks. But during those weeks one theme resonated—skepticism toward almost all the principals in the story.
While some did better than others, many traditional media outlets made effective use of interactive features on their websites to track key aspects of the disaster. The PBS NewsHour's Oil Leak Widget, for example, monitored the amount of oil spilling into the Gulf. The New York Times site offered a video animation that helped explain how a last ditch effort to prevent the spill failed.
If anything, public interest in the Gulf saga may have even exceeded the level of mainstream media coverage. According to surveys by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, often between 50% and 60% of Americans said they were following the story "very closely" during these 100 days. That surpassed the level of public interest during the most critical moments of the health care reform debate.
benton.org/node/41343 | Project for Excellence in Journalism
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