NEW YORK, NY—The Markle Foundation will invest up to $100 million over the next three-to-five years to help ensure that public needs are served by emerging communications media and information technologies, it was announced today by Zoë Baird, Markle’s President. Emphasizing the potential of the Internet and other new media to improve people’s lives, Baird unveiled plans for a significant increase in Markle’s spending as well as four new areas of focus for the Foundation, and initial partnerships with several nonprofit, academic and commercial entities.
“New communications media are shaping the future of our politics, our culture and our economic relationships. The next few years represent a unique opportunity to develop these emerging tools for the public’s benefit,” said Baird. “This is a critical time, while the industry is still in flux, to try to realize the potential of new media to meet public needs. We intend to operate with a sense of urgency, working in collaboration with other nonprofits, academic institutions, government and the industry itself.”
The announcement is the result of a comprehensive review of the current communications landscape begun when Ms. Baird became Markle’s president in 1998. The examination has led the New York-based Foundation to identify four key areas of public need in which it will concentrate:
- Public Engagement through Interactive Technologies, which will encourage the use of communications technology to help people actively pursue knowledge and participate in democratic society.
- Policy for a Networked Society, which will work to enhance the public voice in the consideration and resolution of domestic and international policies that are surfacing in this new communications environment.
- Interactive Media for Children, which aims to enhance the potential for children to benefit from using interactive technologies. The program also aims to expand public expectations for what these technologies can do to enhance children’s lives.
- Healthcare, which will work to improve the ability of patients and consumers, and those who treat them, to make use of information technology to improve their health and health care.
In addition, the Foundation announced the creation of an Opportunity Fund to support public interest initiatives that fall outside these primary program areas and to ensure that intellectual and financial resources are available for unanticipated projects.
“Zoë Baird and the terrific Markle Foundation team have an opportunity to have a significant impact on the role communications technologies will play in our lives,” said Lewis W. Bernard, the Chairman of the Board of Directors at the Foundation. “This is an important time in the evolution of the industry, and we are therefore making a serious commitment to provide the resources necessary for the course the Foundation has charted.”
A private, nonprofit philanthropy, the Markle Foundation is the largest grantmaking foundation concentrating exclusively on the field of communications media and information technology. According to the announcement, Markle will pursue its goals through a range of activities, including analysis, research, public information and the development of innovative media products and services. The Foundation will also create and operate many of its own projects – using not only grants but also investments and strategic alliances with non-profits and businesses.
Among the grants and investments announced today:
- A $4.5 million investment in a project with Oxygen Media for research and experimentation in converging media. Markle has made a program-related investment of $3.5 million to create a partnership with Oxygen Media for the development of the Oxygen/Markle Pulse, which aims to enhance the influence of the audience over the creation of content. The Oxygen/Markle Pulse will track and measure women’s attitudes, needs and values to engage them as active partners in informing Oxygen’s content online and on cable television. This information will also be widely distributed to the public. In addition, Markle is creating a $1 million Experimental Fund for Converging Media with Oxygen for the creation of new programming, tools and technologies that might not otherwise be developed on a strictly commercial basis.
- A $200,000 grant for Web White & Blue, for the Markle Foundation and partners to broaden access to national and local election information during the 2000 elections. Markle created the Internet-based Web White & Blue campaign in 1998 with Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, America Online and numerous other commercial and noncommercial sites. Markle and America Online and others will partner again to help citizens find election information through Web White & Blue 2000.
- A $400,000 grant for Thirteen/WNET to support New York: Learning Adventures in Citizenship, a curriculum-based Internet project that will use the Web to teach children about their responsibility in the community and the ability to act on it. The project is being created to tie in with filmmaker Ric Burns’ “New York,” an upcoming five-part documentary on PBS.
- A $140,000 grant for the College of Communications, University of Texas at Austin to create a research agenda addressing the potential for interactive technology to meet children’s cognitive, social, emotional, and physical needs.
- A $76,500 grant for Oxford University to support the Programme on Comparative Media and Law. The Programme studies policy and regulation strategies that nation-states create in response to media globalization, and the implications of these strategies for democracy and human rights.
- A $157,000 grant for the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences to lay the groundwork for dialogue and development of Chinese media law, including the publication in Chinese of Western legal scholarship on free speech and communications law, and support for an international symposium on these issues in China.
- A $50,000 grant for the International Rescue Committee to develop and implement Child Connect, a software-based program to reconnect refugee children with their parents, and the Kosovar Family Finder, which uses database technology to provide refugees with location information of displaced family and friends.
- A $500,000 grant for Internews Network to develop and apply for a license for an interactive, 24-hour live television channel on two major Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) systems. It will be integrated with the Internet and dedicated to quality international affairs programming. The opportunity to pursue such a channel is the result of a recent FCC ruling that DBS operators must make available four percent of their channel capacity to public interest programming.
Markle Foundation works to improve health and national security through the use of information and technology. Markle collaborates with innovators and thought leaders from the public and private sectors whose expertise lies in the areas of information technology, privacy, civil liberties, health, and national security. Learn more about Markle at www.markle.org.