Challenges of the Internet: Regulations and new Media Business Models: Remarks of Joaquin Blaya, Asia Media Summit

Nowadays, when anybody is called upon to speak about developments in the media industry, they invariably expound upon the revolutionary changes that have taken place in technology, editing, distribution and marketing.

They speak about a communications revolution that has reached into every part of our lives and shows no sign of slowing down. All this is very true, but today I am going to be a bit different. I want to remind you of the one thing that has not changed—the worldwide hunger for information that is clear, comprehensive and, above all, reliable.

The notion that “content is king” is a mantra we have all be saying for years. But it has never been truer than today—and never been faced with more challenges.

Today anyone can post video footage on YouTube or tell any story on a blog. Citizen journalism has opened up new sources of information on the ground as well as new possibilities for mischief-makers to provide content that is incomplete, biased, distorted or simply fabricated. People are bombarded with information on all sides and left on their own to separate the wheat from the chaff.

So when people tell me that traditional journalism is dying I don’t believe it for a minute. There is more than ever a need for the solid, authoritative reporting and commentary exemplified in my country by media such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal—and of course, Radio Free Asia, Alhurra and Voice of America.

These are no garage startups or bedroom bloggers. They are institutions that have spent generations building confidence in their news output through hard work and discipline. You associate these brands with good journalism.

Indeed their creed is the same as yours, I would venture—that journalism needs to be rigorous and ethical.

Again, all this is not to say that the business is not changing. Certainly our profession is going through a monumental transformation. Radio is no longer exclusively about sound, print about words, and TV about images. Today, all of us record history in multimedia formats. And we all reach out to a worldwide audience.

For most, this transformation was brought about through foresighted business acumen, new income models and—for those of us who depend on Government support—new road maps with little margin for error. Media executives have had to learn a great deal in areas they were not accustomed to, such as the technical complexities of the Internet. Our ability to reinvent ourselves has allowed us to survive.

More profoundly, the ways in which news is gathered and brought to light have changed entirely. Armed with cell phones and laptops, citizen reporters find out much faster than we do that an earthquake has happened or a train has derailed. They tell the story with immediacy hard to match. It falls to the trained journalists, however, to sort out the facts, provide context, balance and transparency.

This is why the journalistic profession—with its ability to organize and bring into perspective current events—has become more relevant; its strength is in the reaffirmation of these age-old fundamentals.

The need to protect these fundamentals, this culture, remains as vital as ever. Technological innovations have brought their load of challenges and the question is: do these challenges call for new regulations. If yes—which ones?

Ten years ago, the future of cyberspace seemed to be both boundless and overwhelmingly positive. Conventional wisdom saw values embedded in the openness of the Internet. Global economic growth and the advancement of human progress were the most commonly accepted outcome of its development worldwide.

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