Media Access Project Senior Vice President and Policy Director Andrew Jay Schwartzman spoke over the phone with Radio World today, a day after the public interest law firm announced that it would cease operations, effective May 1, citing “the difficult funding environment facing MAP and other progressive public interest groups.”
“I’m certainly disappointed, but I’m an inveterate optimist,” said the University of Pennsylvania-educated media attorney who has helmed the 40-year-old organization since 1978. “You can’t do this for 34 years without being an optimist.”
Over the years, MAP advocated for First Amendment rights on the Hill and in the U.S. courts, playing a key role in decisions about media ownership deregulation and low-power FM service. As their mission statement online says, “fighting for an open and diverse communications system that protects freedom of expression, promotes universal and equitable access to media outlets and telecommunications services and encourages vibrant public discourse on critical issues facing our society.”
More than the well-documented policy battles and landmark achievements, however, it was MAP’s work in training and mentoring budding public interest advocates that Schwartzman said he felt proudest of: “Building a cadre of young people working in media and telecommunications policy throughout the public community.”
Of course, there are some issues Schwartzman said he wishes MAP could have done more work on — like securing open Internet. “We’ve only come partway with that in the broadcast area,” he said.
Schwartzman said he regrets that the organization wasn’t able to hold more broadcasters accountable to “provide some meaningful content to the public interest… programming that informs the community about matters of concern in the local community.” He said that too many broadcasters get away with “doing nothing” in that area.
As for plans for the future, the 2004 recipient of the Media Matters Lifetime Achievement Award said he’s not sure what the next step will be. “I’m going to spend a month or so shutting (MAP) down, then we’re going to throw a party,” Schwartzman said. “Then I’m going to start looking for a job.”
Media Access Project to Close