Can Google-TV Help Liberate Cable-TV?

Tech nerds and media junkies have been buzzing lately about Google’s announcement that it will soon rollout Google-TV — a new device/platform that will turn people’s televisions into portals for online video and other web content.

Google representatives unveiled the project last week at a developers conference where they staged a Steve Jobs-like showcase that included animated demonstrations and bold statements about the end of TV as we know it.

Much of this was puffery, of course, but there is no denying Google’s determination to expand its dominion over the communications universe, nor the inevitability of the web’s eventual absorption of traditional television.

These two things terrify broadcast and cable executives. But the advent of web television might benefit traditional TV businesses –- particularly cable companies –- in one important category: First Amendment protection.

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Televising the Supreme Court

Last month, Tony Mauro published a column in the National Law Journal (found here), highlighting the results of a public-opinion poll that researchers at Farleigh Dickinson University conducted to determine the level of support for televising proceedings at the Supreme Court.  Sixty-one percent of Americans, the poll found, believed that televising the Court’s proceedings would be “good for democracy.”  And that result, compared to the twenty-six percent of respondents who thought television would “undermine the authority and dignity of the court,” suggested that the researchers had found overwhelming public support for the idea — indeed, bipartisan support.  For seventy-one percent of those who identified themselves as liberals favored the idea, and fifty-five percent of self-identifying conservatives did the same.

The readers of this blog are undoubtedly familiar with the essential contours of the debate over televising the Court’s proceedings.  Proponents argue that cameras would provide the public with greater access to an important public institution.  They suggest following the mold of what C-SPAN has done for public debates and committee hearings in Congress.  Opponents, essentially, believe that what might have worked for Congress will not work for the Court.  They contend that cameras will alter the dynamic in the courtroom, allowing participants to play to a larger audience in a way that would diminish the value of oral arguments.  Litigants may address the Court with less candor, preferring to speak in platitudes designed for the evening news, and the justices themselves may be less willing to ask pointed questions, lest they be misconstrued by a larger audience. 

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International Media and Conflict Resolution

Photojournalists_bwI’ve just received my new copy of the Marquette Law Review, which includes a fascinating collection of papers on the role of the media in international conflict resolution.  This symposium issue emerged from the Law School’s conference on this topic last spring, which was organized by Professors Andrea Schneider and Natalie Fleury.  In her introductory essay to the symposium, Andrea explains the genesis of the conference this way:

For conflict resolution scholars, the idea of focusing on the media is a logical one. After all, the media is the primary method through which the public and political leadership perceive and understand conflicts at home and abroad. If we are working to better handle these conflicts, the way that these conflicts are explained and understood is a crucial part of that process. Do the media have a responsibility to report all sides, even if one side is “wrong”? Do the media share in responsibility for escalation of a conflict if the reporting is incendiary? (The conviction of certain media figures involved in the Rwandan genocide and the use of “Tokyo Rose” during World War II are only two stark examples of how media can be directly involved in conflict.) And what of the responsibility of conflict specialists — are those of us in the conflict resolution field ignoring the media at our peril?

The symposium issue includes not only general, theoretical articles, but also case studies of specific conflicts from Iraq to Tibet to Peru.  All of the articles can be downloaded from the Law Review’s website, as can video from the conference.  The full list of articles and authors is after the jump.  Congratulations to the editors of Volume 93 for a great first issue! 

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