An Affiliate Fellow at Fordham University and a researcher at the University of Helsinki, Minna Aslama Horowitz teaches International Communication at St. John’s University (New York). As a media research fellow at the New America Foundation (Washington D.C.), she coordinates the work of Open Technology Initiative. She has recently co-edited a book for Fordham University Press, titled “Communication Research in Action”. In addition, she is working on a multi-country project on media ethnography called Digital Living.
Dr. Minna was in Delhi to present a paper in an international conference on “Contours of Media Governance: Teaching, Disciplinarity, Methodology”, organised by Centre for Culture Media and Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia on February 25-27, 2013. In an interview with Jitha T J, Project Fellow of Media Policy and Law project, hosted at CCMG, she talks about media policy research and advocacy in Finland & the US. Excerpts:
JITHA T J: What are your primary research concerns?
MINNA Aslama Horowitz: My central concern is how to make public service broadcasting more inclusive through enhanced public participation. For instance a public forum like Wikipedia can be made more of public interest by way of educating and informing people. One way of making the institution of Public Service Broadcasting more inclusive and participatory may be through multi-stakeholderism. Such an effort demands redefining public media. We need to think in terms of how governance, regulatory bodies and media regulations address the issues of supporting PSBs and the different sources of funding for such public initiatives. It is also important in terms of prioritizing such public spaces. Thus we need to talk about multi-stakeholderism, especially with regard to the old media. Multiple stakeholderism can produce and support consensus. It is important that NGOs that are into alternative journalism get public support.
JITHA : How are you planning to accomplish your goals?
MINNA: What is required is a new model of governance, or what is called legacy media. My present goal is working for this idea. I am working on what can be called micro sociology or media anthropology. We maintain a blog where anthropologists and media professionals share their everyday experiences reflexively; people talk about basics of living and basics of media. In the blog, we discuss the mundane everyday ways of life; besides, we conduct interviews, make self observation and things like that.
JITHA: Can you briefly describe the policy making process in Finland?
MINNA: Finland is a small country. There policy making is a kind of agreement between friends. The policy making is [done] by Public Service Broadcaster. There might be a debate about couple of things with regard to the commercial activities in the broadcasting sphere, but policy making is more or less an agreement between policy makers in consensus or negotiations with broadband actors. Ever since Finland entered the age of information society, policy makers are integrating and engaging civil society in policy making process, for instance e-governance or any other media related policies. It is a country where civil society had been very active traditionally and hence they are involved in all fields of policy making through consensus. There were debates in our country on how to make available broadband across the spectrum. Then the government decided to step in and provide subsidies for ensuring with involvement of communities, the reach of high speed broadband to the villages as well. The CBOs are in fact on the efforts for setting up such endeavours.
JITHA: What were some of the main issues for media advocacy in the US?
MINNA: In the US, media reform movements began raising questions about the media ownership and other related issues in early 2000. No matter how commercial media landscape is in the US, with all community media groups and alternative media groups as well as gender and ethnically sensitive media advocacy groups together with consumer advocacy groups started problematising the patterns of the media concentration. Civil society pushed such issues into the forefront forcing the government to come out with regulations controlling media concentration. The US is also a place where scholars push for applied research. They work with civil society organizations and argued for engaging scholarship in the field of communication research, telecom studies, governance studies, thus expanding from traditional feminist media studies. To engage with this trend, the canvas of media advocacy also got widened.
JITHA: Where do you stand in media advocacy?
MINNA: My argument is that we can style out internet governance and rest of media governance, or telecom governance. Let me turn to media governance. Whether broadcasting media or telivison news or print journalism are so differently structured; and there are different civil society groups such as feminist groups try to influence its governance, but very often they are at the meso level of the organisations. We need to embrace the whole spectrum of macro level structures and policies and regulations whether regionally, nationally or internationally. We need to understand how they are connected to the macro level organizations in terms of content and service. Also we need to connect them to the individual level and how to make them more institutionalized today. Legacy media is no more different from internet governance. We run into the same problem. Who is liable, who get access, and how do people get access to public media, broadband access is directly related to Internet freedom and human rights.
JITHA: What are your initiatives to integrate your ideas within curriculum?
MINNA: The policy studies needs to incorporate sociological and anthropological tools to arrive at a micro level understanding of how the policies are reflected at the ground level and also to understand complexities of people’s everyday life. It shall not only restrict itself to macro and meso levels. There is the need for more policy advocacy studies. At many instances, the media policies are market-oriented and the big commercial players come up with hands-on data/market research which we do not have any mechanisms for verification. We also need to engage in generating and collecting data, verifying them and simultaneously push for advocacy on policy related issues. Policy studies shall not restrict itself to the field of legal studies. Sociologists, anthropologists and even political economists shall get into the policy analysis fields.
Thus media governance needs to be understood at all the three levels of macro, meso and micro levels. At the macro level, it deals with the process of media governance at national and international level and at meso or organizational level self regulatory measures, etc. The civil society initiatives like those for migrant groups or feminist collectives also work at meso level. It is also required to teach the young generation about media literacy, critical media analysis and the politics involved in media policy studies. Such as who are the service providers or who are the sponsors of reality TV, what are their interests and so on? Media governance, I argue, is really about human rights, for instance the UN also recommends this view. Internet governance and human rights and need for media literacy. We are living in an era where people can be part of generating quality media content. There shouldn’t be any censorship. Media has the potential to mobilize people and sensitize them to the social issues. The youngsters need to be educated about its high potentials.
Prof. Minna Aslama may be contacted at: email@example.com