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Abstract

This article provides a summary of a weekend-long convocation held in April 2002 that was sponsored by the Coudert Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida. The motto of the nonprofit group, which was founded by Dale Coudert in 2001, is, “Subjects That Matter, with People Who Make a Difference.” Each mid-winter through early-spring season, the nonpartisan and nonideological Coudert Institute organizes conversations and seminars on an eclectic array of topics featuring prominent academics, artists, musicians, and practitioners. The institute’s goal is to spark open and inclusive dialogue directed to critical reflection and enlightenment. This selection contains the fruits of a gathering that pondered the meaning of “the public interest” in a rapidly shifting media environment. It took place as digital communications tools were on the rise and before the advent of social media and other digital platforms. The legendary Newton N. Minow, chairman of the Federal Communications System in the early 1960s when broadcasting was coming of age—who also received the Presidential Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama in November 2016 for his lifetime of public service—was the guest of honor. This article presents the key topics and questions addressed, along with summary conclusions reached, to: (1) reinvest in public education, using revenues generated by auctioning portions of the digital spectrum; (2) create an international “Voice of Democracy” via a global coalition of democracies; and (3) organize a “philanthropic summit” to discuss the ways and means of leveraging endowment investment assets, across the portfolio, toward public interest purposes— specifically those concerning digital freedom and the advancement of democratic ideals and practices.

 

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