The Center for Digital Democracy was founded in 2001. But CDD’s work on new media and public policy really began in 1991, when Kathryn Montgomery, Ph.D, and Jeff Chester co-founded the Center for Media Education (CME). CME played a key role during the 1990’s promoting greater public participation in media and telecommunications issues.
CME's work helped lead to:
- Development of the E-rate (the fund supporting school and library online access)
- Passage of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act
- Enactment of the 3-hour FCC rule requiring educational children’s programming for commercial television stations
- Creation of the Telecommunications Policy Roundtable
CME also played a key leadership role in organizing a broad range of children’s, educational, and library groups to promote a communications policy agenda supporting the healthy development of children and youth. It also led efforts promoting media diversity policies during the debate over the 1996 Telecommunications Act. CME was instrumental in fighting a number of “big media” deals, including helping secure the open access safeguards as part of the AOL Time Warner merger. It was during the fight over the cable’s industry’s plans for a closed broadband Internet in the late 1990’s (versus an open platform, now known as network neutrality), that the idea to create a new group focused on fostering a vital democratic new media ecology was born.
Through a Stern Family Fund “public interest pioneer” award, CDD was formally launched. Over the last several years CDD has played a major role in:
- Developing the campaign for an open broadband Internet
- Helping educate the public about the plans of the phone and cable companies to operate a more tightly-controlled broadband system
- Leading efforts at the Federal Trade Commission to promote new policies governing online privacy and responsible interactive marketing practices
Through its monitoring and analysis of new media marketplace developments, CDD has served as an “early warning” system for journalists, policymakers and the public about emerging public interest issues. During 2001-2003, CDD played a major role fighting plans for further media consolidation by the FCC. The group also led the effort exposing—and ultimately helping eliminate—plans by officials of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to undermine the journalistic independence of public broadcasting.
In 2007, CDD’s executive director Jeff Chester’s book, “Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy” was published.