All About the Benjamins (and a Compelling Story)

By Casey Rae-Hunter, Communications Director, Future of Music Coalition
Marty Kaplan brings up some good points in his post, "All About the Benjamins." It can be dispiriting to see worthwhile agendas compromised, thwarted, or, worse yet, ignored by policymakers. It's particularly discouraging when you have high expectations of (and an affinity for) certain leaders. No one would disagree that money affects our politics. And I'm personally inclined to agree that the Citizens United decision doesn't do democracy any favors.

I would argue, however, that these factors are not an excuse for giving up on making our case. In fact, I'd say the opposite.

Marty talks about the recent revelations about FCC leadership engaging in closed-door conversations with Captains of Industry (in this case, the Internet Service Providers). The purpose of these meetings (as well as some less "closed" discussions on the Hill) is to arrive at a consensus regarding proposed regulation to preserve the open internet.

Now, those of us to read the tea leaves for fun and non-profit would probably tell you that such consensus will be difficult if not impossible to achieve. What really bugs some folks about the FCC situation is that the Commission already has a pair of public proceedings about the aforementioned issue, and at least one on the National Broadband Plan. Doesn't this kind of go against the whole transparency thing?

Yes and no. It's not uncommon for policymakers to have direct conversations with representatives from the private sector, and it's not always a quid pro quo situation. It's actually a way for officials to hear potential concerns -- real or manufactured -- about proposed policies. The important thing is for these same policymakers to hear from us.

I'm not suggesting that just anyone from the arts community is going to be sitting across the table from the CEO of Comcast in a high-stakes horse trade. What I'm saying is that there are plenty of opportunities to articulate our concerns and those of the broader arts community -- we just need to get better at spotting and taking advantage of them.

Look, we already know that we can't match the lobbying power of multi-gazillion dollar corporations. But we can tell stories. We can offer real-life examples of how we benefit from access to technology and communications platforms that don't discriminate against smaller voices. We can remind policymakers that protecting these voices is an American virtue. And we can do this without name-calling, hyperbole or even gobs and gobs of cash.

If those of us in the arts community are truly concerned with the outcomes of today's policy debates, than we'll work even harder to have a voice in them. We're certainly allowed to be disappointed when our leaders fail to live up to expectations, but it's more productive to remind them of why we had those expectations in the first place.

They won't always listen. But if we don't speak, they'll never hear us at all.
July 19, 2010 12:25 PM | | Comments (0) |

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