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all of this goes back to James Hamilton [a professor of communication at Stanford University]. He gets tremendous props for caring about this. His story of how he came to study this is really interesting. I heard him describe it as, he was in a convenience store, and he saw a newspaper that was basically just made up of people’s mug shots—super weird. And it was one of the only newspapers in this convenience store, and he’s like, “What the hell is this? How is there a market for this and not a market for news? If people are willing to buy this, what are they not being served by traditional media?”

The research that he does is really interesting because he notes that even when low-income news consumers are taking in media at very similar rates to people who have more money, they’re not being served by the media because the media is obsessed with their target audience. I know that to be true. I’m sure you know that to be true. In public radio, there’s this person we consider, called “Mary.” Sometimes, when people are pitching stories, somebody will say, “Well, why would Mary care about that?” And Mary is in her 50s, she’s well-educated, she’s white, she’s affluent. And Mary is not Maria, you know?

It’s not that low-income news consumers are not interested in being served by media, but there are these huge information gaps that result from targeting higher-income consumers. So the stories aimed at them, especially issues in low-income communities, those stories are more like, “Look at what’s happening on the other side of town.” And there’s this very behind-the-museum-glass mentality. If you’re in a low-income community and you see that story, that might be validating if it’s done well. But it’s not informative. It’s not helpful.

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The ability to buy small amounts of prepaid calling time had enabled the very poor in many countries to gain access to mobile phones. In Latin America, however, high taxes on communication services impedes some of that access, with a typical broadband plan costing 66% more than in the average developed country. In Asia, meanwhile, a low-cost business model has driven high mobile use.

Across the developing world, potential emergencies consistently rank high on surveys as the main reason for buying a phone. Many developing countries lack the standard emergency services found in developed countries. In the absence of such a service, people call a family member or a friend for help in a crisis.

For businesses, saving time and money on transportation has emerged as the greatest economic benefit of mobile phone ownership. Meanwhile, “mobile money” has gained in popularity, suiting the needs of the poor better than conventional banking.

Laurent Elder: The Information Lives of the Poor | Ottawa Citizen, introducing the new book he has co-authored with Alison Gillwald, Rohan Samarajiva and Hernan Galperin.

Tooks Chambers has a proud record of defending the rights of the under privileged and the oppressed. From its early days of defending miners and their communities during their year long strike, consistently tackling miscarriages of justice such as the Birmingham Six and representing the family of Stephen Lawrence, to its current involvement in landmark cases such as the Hillsborough Inquests and the AHK judicial review, members of chambers have sought to hold the state to account. The dissolution of Chambers is the direct result of government policies on Legal Aid. The public service we provide is dependent on public funding. 90% of our work is publicly funded. The government policies led by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling are cumulatively devastating the provision of legal services and threatening the rule of law.

How would you evaluate the state of individual freedoms in India at the practical level? Do the rich have more of it than the poor?

In (V.S.) Naipaul’s phrase, India has a million mutinies (going on) diurnally. This social anarchy contributes to free speech. Trade unionists, journalists, social activists, artists and writers are dealt with (by the establishment) on the basis of the fear created in those who censor with heavy-handed police action. The protests of the poor are much more vulnerable. But for the media, which exposes human vulnerability and offers space to the free expression of vulnerable people, the poor would be nowhere. True, the media is corporate-owned, but journalists are not pawns in the hands of editors. My faith in journalism rests on journalists who have proved their mettle again and again in independent India.

How would you evaluate the state of individual freedoms in India at the practical level? Do the rich have more of it than the poor?

In (V.S.) Naipaul’s phrase, India has a million mutinies (going on) diurnally. This social anarchy contributes to free speech. Trade unionists, journalists, social activists, artists and writers are dealt with (by the establishment) on the basis of the fear created in those who censor with heavy-handed police action. The protests of the poor are much more vulnerable. But for the media, which exposes human vulnerability and offers space to the free expression of vulnerable people, the poor would be nowhere. True, the media is corporate-owned, but journalists are not pawns in the hands of editors. My faith in journalism rests on journalists who have proved their mettle again and again in independent India.