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Media policy to be focus of new initiative at Illinois

Craig Chamberlain, News Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Media policy issues will be getting increased attention at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a result of a new research initiative supported by $234,000 from a recording artists organization.

The university’s College of Communications has established the Illinois Initiative for Media Policy Research, under the direction of Robert McChesney, a media policy expert and professor in the U. of I. Institute of Communications Research. The initiative will support research on media policy and on improving the overall policymaking process, in part so it better serves democratic values, McChesney said.

The initial funding for the initiative comes from a grant from the Recording Artists Coalition, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose members include numerous well-known recording artists. The coalition supports recording artists’ rights and addresses public-policy issues affecting the music industry.

The grant will be distributed over two years, at $117,000 a year, with the possibility of a two-year renewal.

“This is a significant grant for the College of Communications,” said Ronald E. Yates, the dean of the college. “It positions the college and the university as a national and international focal point in this critical area of media work and research.”

The Recording Artists Coalition was formed in 1999 by Eagles band member Don Henley and Irving Azoff, personal manager of the Eagles and the chairman of the Azoff Music Management Group. Both men serve on the coalition’s board of directors.

Azoff, an Illinois alumnus, also has made a two-year commitment of funds to support an annual seminar on media policy. That commitment also may be renewed for an additional two years.

Azoff, a former chairman of the MCA Entertainment Group, has produced movies such as “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “Urban Cowboy” and “The Hurricane.” He also manages the careers of Christina Aguilera, Seal and Van Halen, among others. He received an honorary doctorate from Illinois in 2003.

Azoff and Henley said they were drawn to supporting the new initiative at Illinois out of their admiration for McChesney’s research and writing, going back to before his arrival at Illinois in 1998. Beginning last year, Azoff and McChesney have worked together on issues related to media ownership.

McChesney is the author of some 200 articles and chapters on media issues, and has written or co-written 11 books, including “Rich Media, Poor Democracy” and “The Problem of the Media,” the latter published earlier this year. He also is the founder and president of Free Press, a national nonpartisan organization dedicated to generating widespread and informed public involvement in media policymaking.