The Media Access Project to cease operations May 1st

The Media Access Project to cease operations May 1st

The Media Access Project (MAP) will close on the 1st of May, 2012. The group noted a harsh fundraising environment and quantity of other ‘progressive’ organizations in its explanation of why it would cease operating. However, it wasn’t competition that choked off MAP’s funding, but a more general issue: “The problem isn’t that there are too many groups; the problem is that there isn’t enough money,” said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, its policy director.

Now, why should you care, and why is this on TNW? This post is not an endorsement of every MAP view. Instead, we wish to highlight the fact that MAP has been an important voice on several issues that do impact the technology community, most notably net neutrality and media concentration. MAP was founded in 1973, working on preserving what the NationalJournal called the “free flow of information and free speech and diversity in electronic and other forms of new media.”

The issues of technology are becoming increasingly political. In a world in which Apple can cause a legal ruckus with ebook pricing, Google’s new privacy policy causes a stir in Washington, and everyone is staring at Facebook to see what the company will do next, technology is political. As the influence and importance of technology firms has become systemic, the eye of government now catches the larger players in its daily gaze.

That’s why it’s unsettling to see MAP fold is flag and close shop; its experienced voice helped to shape the discussion around important technology-related issues in places where most technology-minded people likely couldn’t find the bathroom, let alone the right person to talk to.

The SOPA debate painted a very clear picture: the technology community is not completely prepared to articulate its positions in a continuing fashion; we can, as a group, raise all sorts of hell for a day, but the long-burn lobbying war is a game that other business categories have more experience, and savvy, in executing. This was illustrated in how groups such as the RIAA, and MPAA, who are funded by an industry that is but a fraction of the size of technology, nearly pushed through a law Congress that many in tech found to be antithetical to their operational success, or at least came to that position by the end of the debate.

This is a long way of saying that watching MAP shutter is to lose an ally that we could have used. It’s worth taking the time to reflect who will make the same case as MAP did, moving forward. We need someone to do so.

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