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Georgia's Media Future: Options and Opportunities for the Third Millennium*
Nicholas Johnson

Laura Lengel, ed., Culture @nd Technology in the New Europe:
Civic Discourse in Transformation in Post-Communist Nations
(Stamford: Ablex Publishing 2000), Chapter 17, pp. 323-37.

NOTE: This chapter is an outgrowth of Nicholas Johnson's consultations in the Republic of Georgia February 24-March 3, 1998, and the material prepared prior to, and following, that trip. Page numbers are indicted [in brackets] as a convenience for anyone wishing to use citations to this chapter. This chapter is copyright by both Nicholas Johnson and the Ablex Publishing Corporation, 2000, from whom permission should be obtained before reproducing any portions beyond those within "fair use." If you find this chapter of interest you may also want to visit the Georgia media Web site he has created with additional material of relevance to the subject. This page was posted August 22, 2000.

Media and telecommunications policies are central to the functioning of any society. They affect--among other things--economic growth, the education of the young, levels of democratic participation, the preservation of the culture, and the values of the people about everything from the role of women to the role of war--essentially every aspect of being human and living in a civilized community. This chapter presents ideas on the future of media in Georgia, based on my participation in the American Bar Association/Central and East European Law.Initiative (ABA/CEELI) Georgia Parliament effort (1998) to review proposed legislative language, section by section, line by line--most recently in 1998 in Tbilisi, Georgia.



Many former Soviet Republics' policymakers assume they should attempt to construct a broadcasting system, using analog technology, similar to that in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s. It would include a public broadcasting system relatively independent of the government (to replace "State Television"), along with commercial television stations licensed and regulated by an independent body similar to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. That is one option. There are, however, alternatives.

There are disadvantages to building a telecommunications and broadcasting system "from scratch." There may be a shortage of capital and experienced personnel. Or there may be an absence of audience expectation. In the case of Georgia, there is also the pre-existing state broadcasting system to overcome.

But there are also advantages. One of the advantages is the opportunity to "leapfrog" intermediate technologies. It is not necessary to create the analog broadcasting system of the 1960s in order to evolve toward the 21st century. One can start with a 21st-century digital system and simply skip the technologies of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

There are also disadvantages to creating a 1960s television system. First, television stations are costly: studios, transmitters, antenna towers, cameras, and so forth. Second, the sum total of homeowners' total investment in receivers is an even greater expenditure, a multiple of the station owners' costs. Third, these costs do not produce much in the way of benefits. Unless an even more costly nationwide repeater (or "translator") system of transmitters and antennas is installed, vast areas of the country will be without any television reception. Fourth, the laws of physics (plus those of the State) restrict the number of conventional over-the-air television stations that can operate in any country at the same time and on the same, or even adjacent, channels. Thus, the 1960s technology creates an artificial limitation on the number and diversity of channels, with the resulting concentration of economic, political, and media power in the hands of a very few.

There is substantial research about various economic, social, and political issues in the Republic of Georgia (see, for example, Atal, 1998; Gachechiladze, 1996; Goodwin et al., 1999; Macfarlane, 1997; Russell, 1992; Suny, 1994). However, there are few, if any, regarding media and technology in the Republic. As a result, I. do not know enough about either the Georgian economy, society, and technological capability, or the characteristics and costs of available technology, to make precise recom-


mendations. But this part of the chapter is not about precise recommendations. It is about a "new paradigm," a new way of thinking about Georgia's telecommunications and media future.

Many of the ideas that follow are merely examples drawn from my previous work (Johnson, 1988, 1995, 1997, n.d.), designed to stimulate discussion and provide illustrations of the type of options that may be available to those who are planning and building Georgia's media future. Anyone Georgian who is open to new ways of thinking will almost certainly come up with approaches that are not mentioned here.


Small (50 cm) dishes for reception of satellite signals (with the accompanying receivers and other equipment) are now relatively cheap. Presumably, with the research and development and science and engineering capabilities in Georgia, they could be built in the country, thereby providing jobs and otherwise encouraging economic growth. The satellite uplink, and the satellite itself, are, of course, more expensive.1

Investigation may show that such a system would not be more expensive than the cost of providing country-wide coverage of Georgia using conventional, over-the-air broadcasting technology. Even if it were to be slightly more expensive, among the advantages of such a system are that: a) it provides full-country coverage throughout Georgia; b) 100 to 500 channels can provide outlets for substantially more "broadcasters" than an over-the-air system; c) it can also be used for Internet (data) communication (at least one-way, from the source to the user); d) unlike cable and "telephone" video delivery systems the incremental cost of adding an additional home viewer is virtually zero; e) it avoids the cost, aesthetic blight, and other difficulties associated with "wiring up" every home in Georgia for cable television; and f) of course, it also avoids the costs associated with transmitters, antenna towers, translators, and the other capital costs of establishing conventional over-the-air stations.

Cable television is only 10 or 20 years newer than over-the-air television technology. It is usually installed "over" (that is, after, in addition to) a broadcasting system, providing an alternative way of distributing programming from television stations (through a wire rather than through the air). Of course, it is also possible for a cable system to create its own programming, or contract with programming suppliers (who often use satellites to distribute their product). Although there is no theoretical limit to the number of channels a cable system can provide (by stringing


additional cables or the use of fiber optic), some U.S. cable companies still offer only 50 channels or fewer. Unless required to do otherwise, the cable company, normally a monopoly, will seek to maximize profit by charging as much as possible for as little programming as possible--while maintaining a nonreviewable control, or censorship, over all channels.

Note that, rather than using a cable system as an alternative distribution network for over-the-air stations' signals, it could be created as the sole method for bringing audio and video programming into Georgians' homes. Presumably, such a system would need to be created as a "common carrier," that is, a system that would be forbidden to have any interest in the programming, and would be required to add such additional channels as are necessary to satisfy programmers' demands--at fair, regulated, equal prices for all.

An alternative to "cable television" would be to create a "telephone" system capable of handling voice, data, fax, and video (sometimes called "video dialtone"). Cable television typically has no capacity for switching--a basic necessity for conventional telephone systems. The video dial-tone option would be otherwise similar to that for cable television: a common carrier.


The distribution of video signals is now in its infancy on the Internet. But, then, so were photographs and audio not that many years ago. Today, the video pictures are small, sometimes jerky, and the quality is not that good. But there are now plans to expand the capacity of the Internet by 100 times, or even 1,000 times.

Many radio stations now "broadcast" their signal over the Internet simultaneously, with conventional broadcast over the air. Presumably, the day will soon come when this will be true for television stations as well.

Thus, another possible option for Georgia would be to take the plunge with, say, a 10-year plan for conversion to Internet distribution of what is today thought of as "television" programming. Because "telephone" conversations and fax transmissions are now possible over the Internet, Georgia could find itself the world leader in this field.


Of course, one of the drawbacks to Internet alternatives in Georgia today is that connection to the Internet is normally made with a


"modem" through conventional telephone lines, which are both slow and not always reliable for this purpose. There is also the problem of electrical power outages, but presumably these would be resolved by the time the Internet conversion was in place.

There are a couple of solutions. First, if George ends up choosing the cable television alternative, it is possible to construct a system that can also provide Internet access to subscribers who use a "cable modem." Such a system, with its wider bandwidth, can potentially offer much faster interaction for users (that is, require less time for downloading large files). Second, the previous discussion of satellite distribution refers to "downloading" Internet material to a small dish. Such a system would still require uploading--today through the telephone (or cable) system.2

However, it is also possible to provide wireless connections between an Internet service provider (ISP) and a user. Not only does this avoid the problems (and costs) associated with telephone wire connections, it also substantially increases the possible speeds of transmission. While there have been efforts in the Republic, and elsewhere in the New Europe, to provide wireless telecommunications technology (compare Wolfe & Jaffe, 1994), there is still much work to be done to provide the communications access that Georgians require.

As explained at the beginning of this section, no single one of these ideas is being recommended--and certainly not all of them. All that is recommended is that they be used as a stimulus for "what-if" games, for thinking about (and then planning and building) possible future telecommunications and media systems.


Georgia is now beginning to use the communications technologies that are now available and can better position the country to provide education for its children, jobs for its adults, and a better quality of life and democratic society for all. For example, a not-for-profit organization called Civitas Georgia (1998a) was established in 1996, "to provide public information, to raise issues of a simple but fundamental nature--and to promote awareness of democratic principles."  The underlying principle of Civitas Georgia (1998a) is "that individuals and communities should know what is happening or is about to happen to them in order that they might be able to make informed choices about their own futures." The organization believes that "in the process of transition little attention is paid to: The relationship between state and society;


Actual data to enable us both to plan for our futures and to discover what is happening now; Positive criticism of decisions and decision-making process" (1998a). Civitas Georgia (1998a) intends to address these concerns by "Providing a vehicle for public discussion; Publishing materials to stimulate debate as well as to inform; Encourage and participate in individual and public development issues and practices; Assisting accurate data collecting process in the regions."

Through partnerships with both local and international organizations, such as the Open Society Georgia Foundation, Civitas Georgica (1998b) has developed a number of initiatives to meet the above goals. One recent effort is the "Local Elections In Georgia - Opportunity For Ethnic Minorities" project. The project was developed in reaction to the marginalization of ethnic minorities in the Republic. One outcome of the project is the publication and distribution of a booklet entitled "Citizens' Guide to Local Elections," which is in Armenian, Azerbaijanian, and Russian; all versions are currently viewable on their website. The guide addresses basic "what, why, and how" questions of local government, and the importance of and essential information about participating in elections. Particularly directed to the problems ethnic minorities have faced in the Republic, the guide will explain how minorities can defend their rights in the election process, "the functions of local election committees, how these committees should react on any violation occurred, and to whom should [minorities] appeal in cases when they consider that their legitimate rights are violated" (Civitas Georgica, 1998b). Unlike organizations outside of Georgia, such as the International Foundation for Elections (Scott, Edgeworth, & International Foundation for Elections, 1996), Civitas Georgica has a keen understanding of the concerns of those living in the Republic and assists marginalized communities by providing opportunities for raising awareness of democratic principles and discourse.


In the U.S., it has been said, "Freedom of the press exists for the person who owns one." Of course, anyone can speak in the public park, or hand out leaflets on the public sidewalks. But the only citizens with meaningful First Amendment rights are those who have the capital, and the inclination, to acquire a major newspaper or broadcasting station. Needless to say, virtually all media owners support this view.

Less expected, perhaps, is that the Supreme Court of the United States does also.  The Court says that the "freedom of speech" includes the freedom not to speak; or, more precisely, the right to keep others


from speaking. The Court has ruled that media owners can censor the views of those who would like to engage in a community's democratic dialogue by using the pages of its newspapers or time on its radio and television stations. In short, not only do citizens not have the right to free newspaper space and broadcast time; they do not even have the right to buy space or time if the owner wishes to silence their viewpoint.

This would not be so serious in a media environment in which the "barriers to entry" (the costs, or other impediments to establishing a media outlet) were trivial. But in most U.S. cities, there is no meaningful competition for the dominant newspaper, only the cable system and a small handful of television stations.3 So the implications for meaningful "free speech" by citizens are serious. The ease of web page creation, newsgroups, and e-mail via the Internet illustrates how a truly open system functions. However, its existence is by no means an adequate counterbalance to the power of dominant media to shape public opinion.

Given the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings, the position that follows is my own. It is not the view of most lawyers, judges, and law or journalism professors--nor is it the view of some of the professional journalists with whom I spoke in Georgia (though they are quite insistent that they should have free speech rights vis-a-vis their employer-owners).


Democracy requires that all citizens have the potential right to participate in the democratic dialogue in a meaningful way, whether they choose to exercise that right or not. Under what circumstances should that requirement outweigh the rights of a media owner to publish or broadcast--or not--whatever he or she chooses?

A media owner should have the right to operate a newspaper or broadcast station with no advertising (for example, with support from subscribers, contributors, foundations, or from the owner's personal wealth). Such an owner (which might, in fact, be a trade union, church, or other organization with a particular point of view) should be free to edit, to "censor," however he or she may please.

But if an owner does choose to sell space or time, I believe he or she should not have the right to sell to some and not to others. This is especially true if there are a limited number of outlets reaching most of the community (as is true in all but the very largest of U.S. cities). Of course, I do not argue that all advocacy ads need be taken, only that the reasonable and rational selection process not be based on content.

Whatever one's position on this issue, there are other possible ways of democratising and diversifying the media that are far less controver-


sial--and well within American law. Many of the options that follow did seem to be of interest, and potentially acceptable, to the Georgians with whom I spoke during a visit in early 1998. That is, there was a willingness to consider alternatives to top-down, hierarchical control of all content by a single media owner, whether state, public, or corporate.

The first option is producer power: Within the contemplated "public broadcasting" alternative to state broadcasting, there seemed to be support for the idea that the administrative budget and staff be kept lean, and that funding should go directly to producers, rather than through administrators. Indeed, some Georgians proposed a form of competition for these funds. Such an approach will encourage greater diversity as well as creativity.

Second, political and reply time: There seemed to be support for a number of proposals growing out of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission experience with its "equal opportunity,"4 and "personal attack"5 doctrines.

There was a belief that at least public, and possibly commercial broadcasting as well, should make-free time available to candidates.6 The "fairness doctrine"7 was only touched upon briefly, but there was little or no rejection of that idea.

Third, community access cable channels: In the U.S., cable companies are required to make some of their channels available, for free, to designated institutions (such as local governments or public schools) and also to individual citizens. Without detailing either the history or specific requirements, such programming is, for the most part, not subject to cable company censorship. Thus, any citizen with access to a video camera can present his or her views to the community. There seemed to be some openness to this concept in Georgia as well.

Fourth, access is, fairness: Although never adopted by the FCC, when the fairness doctrine was under attack, there was a proposal that radio and television stations wishing to opt out of its requirements could do so by offering a fixed percentage of each segment of their broadcast day for the purpose of announcements by local community groups (which were usually brief). Of course, not all tendered announcements would have to be broadcast, but the system of selection would have to be other than content based.

Fifth, ownership limitations: All Georgians (to the best of my recollection) were agreed that there should be some limitations on the numbers of stations any one owner can control. There was no objection to the proposal that this limit be set at one station per licensee. Whatever the statutory limitation ends up being, obviously the more owners there are, the greater the potential diversity of programming and opinion.


Sixth, shared time stations: Giving every station licensee the right to broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week, creates an artificial limit on the number of "broadcasters" and the diversity of their programming. An obvious solution is "shared time." Under this approach, everyone who wants to broadcast can do so. For example, if there are 10 persons who wish to broadcast and only five stations, each can broadcast either a) a half-day, everyday, or b) a whole day, three or four days a week. As more wish to broadcast, there is less time per day for each; as some go out of business, there is more time to share. Administrative arrangements would be made to fairly share the costs of construction, and operation, of the stations.

Seventh, citizen's media reform organizations: There is at this point little Georgian experience with the voluntary associations so familiar in the U.S., from the time of Alexis de Toqueville to the present. Media reform organizations in particular have played a very significant role in the U.S. in encouraging greater FCC scrutiny of stations' performance, the creation of standards (and legislation) regarding children's programming, or the reduction in levels of violence in television programs.

Eighth, ombudspersons, letters, and news councils: How can the public participate in the process of mass media selection and distribution of news?  Some U.S. newspapers have in-house "ombudspersons" (a Scandinavian concept and word), independent of management and journalists, to receive--and respond publicly, in the paper--to complaints from the public. Some papers--and even radio and television programs--receive, and broadcast the reading of, letters from the public critical of the programming. News councils are independent bodies of citizens--normally with no legal power--that hear and write opinions regarding public complaints about the media.

Finally, media literacy: television viewers in most countries, and especially those brought up on state television, accept TV programming as a given, something they are powerless (and disinclined) to affect. Television advertising is most effective with viewers who are relatively unsophisticated about the way commercials are created, and the techniques used to manipulate consumer choice.  By including media literacy courses throughout the K-12 school system, it is possible to create a much more sophisticated television audience. Viewers can become more willing to make their own programs, to organize and present their views to stations and regulators, and to be more resistant to commercial appeals.

The point is that, just as there are options offered by new technology, so are there options with regard to the degree of direct citizen participation in the democratic dialogue. It is my impression that the Georgians


are interested in including many of these in their broadcasting practices, policy, and law.


These thoughts are deliberately the last to be discussed because they will be considered by many to be among the most radical of those presented in this chapter. Even so, I believe it better to consider and reject them than to fail to consider them at all.

The advantages to a country of having a television system in place are well known. Clearly, television is very popular with viewers everywhere. For instance, the average American watches television four hours a day; the average set is turned on seven hours a day. The marketplace indicates that consumers everywhere are willing to make financial sacrifices and forego other purchases to have a television. In the U.S., where the multiple-channel offerings of cable are widely available, roughly 70 percent of all home dwellers are willing not only to buy a TV receiver, but to pay $15 to $50 a month for the cable service.

Television has proven itself to be one of the most powerful of all advertising media for the creation, and manipulation, of consumer demand. It can be a powerful engine driving a consumer economy--if that is something desired as a matter of national policy. When the whole nation turns to television--such as in times of national disaster or national joy--television can be both a useful means of communication and of unification.

Television can be used to divert and defuse what might otherwise be citizen protests, or government opposition. It is the "electronic circus" in the modern version of governing through "bread and circuses." Once in place, of course, it, is politically somewhere between exceedingly difficult and impossible even radically to alter, let alone to do away with, television. Nonetheless, the disadvantages of television should be considered.

Many argue that it is harmful for children under the age of eight to be exposed to any television--regardless of content (Winn, 1985). The argument is that young children have a lot of learning to do; that many end up watching television for as many as 50 hours a week; and that the act of watching television--sitting motionless, "relating"' to an electronic device--impedes their growth physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially, and spiritually.

As children grow older, there appears to be an inverse relationship between the amount of time spent watching television and their academic achievement; the more they watch, the lower their grades will be


in school. There are now over 2,000 studies documenting the relationship between children's watching of televised violence and the amount of real-life violence in their behavior.8

There is an opportunity cost associated with adults' television watching; time spent watching television is time unavailable for other activities: physical exercise, interaction with one's children, adult education. Among the first activities to go are the evening meetings necessary to a civic society and its organizations, including democratic political activity.

To the extent the television is commercial TV, the consequences change radically. Commercial TV is not about programs, it is about delivering the audience ("the product") to the advertiser ("the consumer") at a cost per thousand viewers. Of all the objectionable "lowest common denominator" programming, it will be the "least objectionable program" (LOP; commercial broadcasting's expression, not mine) that will command the largest audience and, therefore, profit for the broadcaster.

Commercial broadcasting has an economic incentive to use cheap-to-produce programming that gets the audience's attention through violence, chase scenes, crime, and sexual themes. In doing so, it tends to drive out the teaching, and values, of parents, churches, schools, and the dominant culture. In their place, it substitutes the values of materialism, hedonism, consumerism, conspicuous consumption--the notion that "you will be known by the companies you keep," that your identity comes from the brands you use.

As a consequence of television's dominance in the economy, and the lives of the citizens, the station owners soon take on a disproportionate political influence as well. Already in Georgia, I was told--although I, do not know if it is, true--the Parliament was reluctant to impose as strict a prohibition on the TV advertising of tobacco and, alcohol as it might have because of the political power of the broadcasters.

There are many reasons, why a nation might wish to create, or expand, its television system.  There are other reasons why, even if it does not wish to do so, it must do so anyway because of political pressure.  But there are other reasons why it might wish to curtail the growth of television--or at least minimize its adverse consequences.  One of the options would be an alternative medium: radio.

One of the central problems confronting Georgia in creating a broadcasting system is lack of resources. Until the economy substantially improves, there cannot be a lot of disposable income and demand for consumer goods. Without the existence of such a market, there is little reason to advertise. Without advertising, there is little income for commercial television. And without the prospect of commercial television


income, there is little incentive for investors to make a capital investment in stations.

Nor are the economic prospects for "public television" much better. Viewers have little interest in, or experience with, special taxes for television. They believe they have a right to television programming for free. Needless to say, there is even less tradition of voluntary contributions, which U.S. public television relies upon for support. To the extent public that television sells commercials, and becomes dependent on corporate advertisers, it enters into the same ratings game as, and becomes almost indistinguishable from, commercial television. Finally, the more public television is dependent upon the state for financing, the more difficult it will be to project an image, and reality, of an independent public, as distinguished from the traditional state-controlled, television.

Given the economic realities confronting Georgia at this time, a two-phase plan might be worth consideration. The first phase would involve the development of a national public radio system. A two or three channel system, with nationwide coverage, could be developed for roughly one-tenth of what a national television system would cost.

Once this system was in place, the audience was used to "public broadcasting," the staff was assembled, the programming developed, and the financial support firm and adequate--all at a fraction of the cost of television--the second phase could begin. The second phase would be public television.

Radio has advantages over television, in addition to the cost savings in transmission. Georgia has (at least at the present time) an electric power system that involves power outages during significant periods of time. It is much more common (as well as cheaper) for the audience to have alternative power systems for radio receivers than for television: batteries, solar power, or internal power generators (a "dynamo").

There are significantly more channels (frequencies) available for radio broadcasting in the AM and FM bands than TV channels.  Thus, radio offers the opportunity for a greater democratisation and diversity of the broadcast media than television. This distinction is multiplied by the fact that it is much cheaper for a potential broadcaster to go into the radio, rather than the television, business.

It is cheaper, both for the broadcaster and the audience, to provide nationwide radio coverage than television signals of similar reach. Radio signals can go farther, on less power, than television. At night, AM radio can cover enormous distances. And, for the reasons mentioned above, radio receivers (which cost less than 'IVs) can be used anywhere in the country--with or without electrical power facilities.

There are those who would argue that radio programming does less harm than television programming. It leaves more intellectual and artis-


tic freedom to the audience member--who must make his or her own pictures inside the head.

The proposal that public radio be given priority attention is the one that received the least interest--primarily because of the inevitability of a television system once the people have become dependent upon it. It is, nonetheless, worthwhile passing along. Others may find it of greater appeal. Or there may be elements, or variations on the idea, that may prove practical.


These are exciting times for Georgia. A nation with a great cultural heritage, a nation that has survived centuries of challenge, is entering a new era. Dangers and challenges abound, but so do opportunities and options.

Central to Georgia's future will be the decisions regarding its public policy and laws affecting media and telecommunications. Those decisions will be made by Georgians; Georgians must make them.

That Georgia's leadership is open to new ideas, to alternatives to its past as it plans for its future, is one of the many strengths of this country and its people. This chapter represents but one U.S. citizen's effort to contribute to that process--with appreciation for the invitation to participate, and confidence in the ultimate result.


1. Perhaps satellite transponders (channels) could be leased, rather than requiring Georgians to "own" the entire satellite. And perhaps foundations or other aid-granting institutions, or even corporations, could be interested in contributing funding.

2. "Uploading" is used to describe what happens when an Internet user sends out a message indicating the address of a web page he or she wishes to see. (E-mail or web pages created by the user might be other examples of "uploaded" material.) When the server, on which the desired web page is located sends the page back to the user's computer screen, it has been "downloaded" by the user. Because, usually, far greater quantities of material are downloaded by a user than uploaded, the combination of satellite-distributed downloads (at relatively high speeds) and telephone modem uploads (at relatively slower speeds) makes for a workable system.

3. This pattern of concentration exists throughout other media as well. For example, there are currently six firms that control over 90 percent of all the world's music. There are a similar number of movie studios producing most


of the top-grossing films in Hollywood.  In the book publishing industry, most of the competition has disappeared due to mergers.

4. "Equal opportunity" is found in Section 315 of the Communications Act.  It requires that if a station puts on one candidate for public office, it is required to give an equal opportunity to all competitors.

5. The FCC's "personal attack doctrine" states that citizens may be verbally attacked by broadcast media owners, but, having done so, the attack then triggers a right of the person attacked to know what was said and to reply personally.  (The distinction comes about because another requirement, since repealed by the FCC, the "fairness doctrine" did not create a right in a given individual.  It simply provided that a broadcast station must a) deal with controversial issues of public importance, and in doing so, must b) present a range of views on the issue.)

6. This idea was proposed in the U.S. in 1998 as a means of partial payback by broadcasters for the $70 billion worth of free frequencies recently given them by Congress and the FCC for high-definition television.

7. See note #5, above.

8. Some studies indicate the correlation between the amount of time spent watching any television, not just violent television programs.


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*The ideas, discussion, and proposals in this chapter are not necessarily the views of ABA/CEELI, the Federal Communications Commission, or other U.S. government agencies; or the University of Iowa or other institutions with which I am affiliated. In this case, much of this chapter is an expression of my views, which are directly contrary to the views of those institutions--to the extent that they have positions on these issues at all.