The Revolution will be Televised (on youtube)

I remember a few decades ago when figuring out how a given regulatory agency functioned (or failed to function) required endless hours in the library stacks, paging through poorly bound government documents. Life has become far simpler thanks to the combined efforts of regulators and youtube.

To celebrate Earth Day, the EPA stepped into the youtube age by inviting people to submit “a video clip up to 10 seconds long of someone doing something for the environment, then reading and passing along a sign that says ‘It’s My Environment.’” To assist in this contest, the EPA has provided pdf files of their sign in English, Spanish, French, Chinese (traditional and simplified), Portuguese, Quechua, Urdu, Russian, Albanian, Croatian, Slovenian, German, Vietnamese, Hindi, Japanese, Irish, and American Sign Language. Ultimately, selected clips will be combined to create a “human chain.” So if you’ve got something to say about the EPA and you can keep it to under 10 seconds, submit. The deadline has been extended until the end of December.

(NB. the EPA notes that videos cannot contain “direct attacks on individuals or organizations.”)

If ten seconds seems like too great a constraint, or you really feel like a challenge, the EPA has also introduced a video contest to “explain rulemaking.” According to the EPA, “the video contest is your opportunity to explain federal rulemaking and motivate others to participate in the rulemaking process.” Not only do you get 90 seconds—nine times longer than you would receive to explain why its “your” environment—you could win a cash prize ($2,500). The video must use the phrase “Let your voice be heard.”

(NB. The EPA once again notes that videos cannot include “attacks on individuals or organizations.”)

Having taught regulation to college students for over a decade, I can testify that anyone capable of explaining the rulemaking process in 90 seconds deserves a Nobel, not a mere $2,500.

The EPA is a little late in entering the world of video. USA.gov—“the official web portal of the U.S. federal government”—has already concluded its video contest sponsored by the General Services Administration, awarding a $2,500 prize. Contestants were asked to explain how USA.gov had made their lives easier. There were 30 entries between February 22 and April 2, when the contest formally closed. Let me repeat: 30 entries.

Promoting government through short videos is a compelling concept. I would love to propose new contests, each of which would require contestants to address the theme in question (NB. videos cannot contain “direct attacks on individuals or organizations”) expending no more than 90 seconds. Here are some ideas:

Explain the Social Security Trust Fund’s role in covering future liabilities.

Explain how specific features of the stimulus package made your life easier.

Explain how Freddie and Fannie helped us build an “ownership society.”

The Question: Does anyone have any ideas for additional contests? Undoubtedly, there are endless opportunities for explaining how [fill in government agency of your choice] has improved your life.

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