Federal Communications Commission
News Media Information 202 / 418-0500
445 12th St., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
Released: May 24, 2013
OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS BUSINESS OPPORTUNITES ANNOUNCES
RELEASE OF CRITICAL INFORMATION NEEDS RESEARCH DESIGN
The Federal Communications Commission’s Office of Communications Business
Opportunities (OCBO) announces the release of the Research Design for the Multi-Market Study
of Critical Information Needs (Research Design). The Research Design and subsequent studies
are intended to inform the Commission’s 2012 report to Congress on barriers to participation,
also known as the Section 257 Report. Section 257 of the Communications Act of 1934, as
amended, requires that the Commission review and report to Congress on: (1) regulations
prescribed to eliminate market entry barriers for entrepreneurs and other small businesses in the
provision and ownership of telecommunications and information services or in the provision of
parts or services to providers of those services and that can be prescribed consistent with the
public interest, convenience and necessity; and (2) proposals to eliminate statutory barriers to
market entry by those entities, consistent with the public interest, convenience, and necessity.1
In April of 2012, the Commission entered into a contract with the University of Southern
California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism to provide a literature review
of research into the critical information needs of the American public and the barriers to
participation in the communications industry that might limit the extent to which critical needs
are met.2 Under the direction of The University of Southern California Annenberg School for
Communication and Journalism, a multi-disciplinary team of communication experts, journalists,
legal scholars, and social scientists prepared and submitted the review to the Commission in July
2012 (“USC Literature Review”).3 The USC Literature Review defines a range of critical
information needs of the American public and explains how these needs are met as well as the
existing barriers to meeting them. In addition, the review presents an overview of further social
science and communications research that may assist the Commission in assessing the need for
1 47 U.S.C. § 257(c).
2 See The Office of Communications Business Opportunities and the Media Bureau Announce the Release of a
Request for Quotation for Study Examining the Critical Information Needs of the American Public
, BO Docket No.
12-30, Public Notice, DA: 12-56 (BO, rel.
Feb. 6, 2012).
3 University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communications & Journalism, Review of the
Literature Regarding Critical Information Needs of the American Public (July 16, 2012) (“USC Literature
Review”), available at https://transition.fcc.gov/bureaus/ocbo/Final_Literature_Review.pdf
government action and in developing targeted policies to address existing gaps in the ability of
various “media ecosystems” to serve, and deliver critical information to Americans. The review
makes several observations, including that (1) there are clear and significant information needs
of Americans at the individual and community level; (2) available research indicates that many
of those needs are not being met; (3) access to information, as well as the tools and skills needed
to navigate information, are essential to civic and democratic participation; and (4) low-income,
minority, and marginalized communities and “lower-information” areas are likely to be
systematically disadvantaged in both personal and community opportunities when information
needs lag or go unmet.4
Building on this literature review, OCBO contracted with Social Solutions International,
Inc., (SSI) a research and evaluation firm, to design a research model that would provide the
Commission with a tool for understanding access to and barriers in providing critical information
needs in diverse American communities. To inform the Research Design, SSI convened a
subject matter expert conference on September 13-14, 2012. The meeting included a review of
the literature review, and discussion of methodology, protocols and procedures best suited to
implementation of both a Media Market Census and a Community Ecology Study. Based on the
discussion and insights garnered from the conference’s participants, SSI developed this Research
To develop policies that ensure that the critical informational needs of Americans are
being met and that would advance the goal of diversity, including the promotion of greater
women and minority participation in media, the Commission needs to conduct or commission
research that illuminates the diversity of views available to local communities, the diversity of
sources in local markets and the diversity of critical information needs of the American public,
including women and minorities. This Research Design provides the Commission with a
research tool to examine in a variety of markets how the public acquires critical information,
how the media eco-system operates to provide critical information, and what barriers exist to
participation. Although it was commissioned pursuant to Section 257, analysis resulting from
the USC Literature Review and the Critical Information Needs Studies will be relevant to the
Commission’s future analysis of broadcast ownership issues in upcoming Quadrennial Reviews,
including issues related to minority and female ownership.5
The public is also invited to submit written comments in response to the research design.
A copy of the research design is available on the OCBO website (https://www.fcc.gov/office
communications-business-opportunities). Interested parties may file written comments in FCC
Docket 12-30 not later than July 23, 2013. Comments may be filed using the Commission’s
4 An annotated bibliography, consisting of academic studies, reports, and additional resources,
accompanies the literature review and is available at https://transition.fcc.gov/bureaus/ocbo/Final_Annotated_Bibliography.pdf
5 OCBO’s critical information needs studies are not designed to focus on any particular type of media in
any particular market. They will, instead, encompass any and all Commission regulated and non-
regulated media outlets and will be constructed to provide a comprehensive census of the critical
information available from various resources in each studied market.
Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS). See Electronic Filing of Documents in Rulemaking
, 63 FR 24121 (1998).
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be directed to Mark Wigfield, at (202) 418-0253.