There's a new subject on the syllabus this fall at USC: What are the legal and policy implications of changes in the communications industry?
To answer that question, the university last week established the USC Center for Communications Law and Policy at USC Law School. The Annenberg School for Communication and the Annenberg Center for Communication will also sponsor the new interdisciplinary center.
Among the first items up for consideration are the circulation of offensive and false information on the Internet; the effectiveness of V-chip technology in shielding children from sex and violence on television; and the consumer impact of mega-mergers among telephone, cable and media companies.
"We aim to determine which policies for regulating and controlling these markets are most successful at achieving such important goals as informing voters, protecting children from potentially offensive or dangerous material, and supporting freedom of speech," said Matthew Spitzer, a USC Law School professor who will serve as the center's director.
The center has scheduled its first conference for next spring to address the use of ratings and filtering systems on television and the Internet.
Partial funding for the center comes from USC alum Jeffrey Smulyan, founder and chairman of Emmis Broadcasting Corp., an Indianapolis company that owns 14 radio stations, six TV stations and two magazines.