Arts+Labs has told the Federal Communications Commission that if it wants to look at the future of media, it needs to keep a close eye on the present of search engines and online ad networks.
In comments to the FCC in its Future of Media inquiry,Arts+Labs, the alliance of Microsoft, NBC Universal, Viacom, Verizon, AT&T ASCAP and others, argued that the Internet is replacing newspapers as the first place a "growing number" of Americans go for information (local TV was not mentioned as part of that equation).
"Search engines and the companies that provide them, therefore, have enormous influence over where people go online - what websites they visit, what news and information sources they rely on, what online retailers they frequent and online services they use." according to Arts+Labs.
The FCC, in a separate proceeding on expanding and codifying its Internet openness guidelines, has focused on networks and not on applications or search. But sounding as much like commenters in that proceeding as in the Future of Journalism, Arts+Labs said: "[A] search engine's results, whether the result of an algorithm, human judgment or deliberate bias, can compromise users effective freedom to access the websites and information they require. Intentionally or not, search engines have enormous ability to act as gatekeepers who effectively select the information that users access."
The group also wants the FCC to get ad networks to disclose their policies for ad placement, including any "special arrangements" with search engines or Web sites.
"[T]he inherent diversity that comes from thousands of different local media markets and organizations may be at risk as the Internet transforms into a single global media market potentially subject to the actions of a single player.