Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Building a Community of Media E-ship Researchers

Media e-ship research is attracting more scholars! I met two graduate students, Min Hang and Aldo van Weezel, last week at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference. They've written a paper, "Media and Entrepreneurship: A Survey of the Literature Relating Both Concepts." Check it out!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Bush Policy Could Hurt Media E-ship in U.S.

Recently, the Bush Administration eliminated funding for the SBA's micro-loan program (see: "A Helping Hand Witheld"). Along the lines of the Grameen Bank, the SBA program was intended to promote entrepreneurship among the economically disadvantaged. Explaining the cut, an SBA spokesperson said the program was not cost effective and the administration wants to be 'judicious with taxpayer money' (What about today's $286 BILLION transportation bill, the biggest in history?). That's baloney. Grameen and its ilk actually have shown their investments in micro-economies around the world are cost effective.

Anyway, why is this bad for media entrepreneurship? After all, there is plenty of venture capital and other financing sources, including other SBA programs, available to the media entrepreneur with a solid business plan. It's a problem because most of that capital will go to entrepreneurs with big plans who need financing of more than a million dollars. There's not much out there, besides this SBA program, for the little media guy. Even small commercial lenders don't want to be bothered with micro-loans (up to $35,000) -- they can't make a profit for the cost of the paperwork.

It's these little guys who form an integral part of the media e-ship landscape and thereby assure the public a steady stream of innovation, diversity of viewpoints, quality and access. Sure, we need the bigger new entrants too, with their big ideas that need big money. But the little podcaster, newsletter publisher, tv producer or record label that wants to serve a small market or community, a micro-niche, is still going to need little loans to get going. You might say anyone can get into podcasting for the price of an iMac and some basic Radio Shack supplies. Yeah, but the most economically disadvantaged media entrepreneurs will lack the resources even for that small investment.

Bush says he's a friend of small business. If so, the SBA micro-loan program is the cheapest way I know to show it. I urge the Administration to reconsider.