FedNet first went online in 2069, just a year after the Chinese Hegemony collapsed under the revolt of its citizens and while the Federation was still in the process of consolidating its rule across the remainder of the planet. Initially conceived of as simply an efficient means for the fledgling government to communicate with its population, the FedNet of the time was nothing like what people in the Federation are used to seeing today. When it was first conceived, FedNet was little more than a single channel of programming, showing occasional events on the floor of the Federal Council (though never the deliberations) and endlessly repeating governmental announcements tailored to the various regions of the Federation’s territory. For example, if the government was about to start construction on a new school in Lahore, that information would be broadcast to the viewers in the area, but not to the rest of the world, under the reasonable assumption that no one in Europe or North America would particularly care.
FedNet has changed dramatically over the course of the years and is now an important element of daily life for citizens and civilians of the UCF. It is the primary entertainment medium of the Federation, broadcasting hundreds of programmes daily to every home in Federation space which range from educational programming to interactive gaming to sporting events to simple, fun entertainment. FedNet also remains true to its original purpose, to provide the government with a means of effectively and efficiently communicating with the populace, but has expanded on that role to become the primary, and usually sole, source of news for the people of the Federation.
It is a wholly interactive medium, allowing viewers to request additional information on breaking news stories or access archived records from as far back as the beginning of the Federation (and even before, when such records still exist). Users may also use FedNet to check their financial information by accessing the Economic Services department of the UCF government. Lastly, FedNet is used for private communication between citizens and civilians throughout the Federation. A simple command opens a small window in one corner of the FedNet screen, allowing the user to talk live to any friends or relatives on the same planet he wishes to speak to, or to compose a written or recorded message that will be transferred through FedNet to the recipient’s terminal. In the case of communication between different star systems, there is a small fee attached to the transmission of the message and no guarantees given regarding when it will be delivered. Basic model FedNet terminals are provided free of charge to every employed citizen and civilian in the Federation. Upgraded (such as a larger screen) or additional models are available for a nominal fee.
Freedom of press
The Federal Council retains ownership of the airwaves and computer communications networks within the Federation and any individual, group or corporation wishing to make use of them for the purposes of public broadcasting must petition the Federal Council for permission and provide compelling reasons why they should be permitted to do so. Thus far, such petitions have been extremely few and none of them have been compelling. The reasons for this are relatively simple. FedNet already provides everything from news to entertainment to sports coverage to interpersonal communication. There are even channels on FedNet devoted to dating services. All those who have petitioned for use of the airwaves and computer networks currently used by FedNet have merely proposed ‘more of the same’, more channels of entertainment, of news, of communications but, considering the hundreds of channels already available through FedNet, such new additions would not add variety or uniqueness. Further, it was determined long ago that, with the creation of FedNet, there was no need for additional news outlets. As an instrument of the government itself, FedNet reporters have easy access to government officials, from Social Services to SICON and are thus able to gather and report the news far more effectively than would some employee of a third party attempting to secure the same kind of access.
On the stellar colony worlds, the Federation has unofficially conceded the need for additional news sources. Despite the speed of the Cherenkov drive and the Guilder wave, the vast gulfs between these colonies, some more than a score of light years away from Earth, make speedy communication impossible. Thus, on each of these planets, small news organisations have risen, filling the void in news caused by the void of space.
Generally, these unofficial news organisations restrict themselves to reporting on the events of the colony itself, relying upon FedNet to supply the lion’s share of news coverage of the happenings elsewhere in the Federation. So long as these unofficial groups, usually formed by a group of wealthy individuals or by a local company, cause no problems in the colony and do not interfere with the official FedNet broadcasts, the Federal Council tends to ignore them. They are, however, carefully monitored to ensure that they, not having the centuries of experience and expertise developed at FedNet, do not inadvertently make a serious error in their coverage.
Usually, life as a FedNet reporter on Earth is somewhat glamorous but relatively dull. Information is spoon-fed to the populace as it is deemed fit by the Federation authorities – gone are the days of the inquisitive news-hound digging up the dirt on prominent politicians and public figures. News about crime and treason against the Federation is also carefully monitored and a maverick reporter submitting stories of just how far the Zegama Cartel’s influence extends for public release will not be looked kindly on.
On the outer colonies the situation is somewhat different. While the independent news networks must still toe the Federation line when it comes to information delivered to them from FedNet, there is plenty of opportunity for a reporter with a bit of initiative to actively investigate the local underworld or the shady backgrounds of prominent individuals, as long as it does not clash with Federation interests. Here, a reporter has an opportunity to do more than just relay prepared information to the public – he can discover the news, seek it out and reveal to the people the truths that are being hidden from them. Now, with the war against the Arachnids, there is also a demand for war reporters – men and women who will be sent to the frontlines themselves. These brave souls will be standing alongside the Mobile Infantry in the chaos and mayhem of battle, describing mankind’s victory against the alien horrors to the people at home. They need to be able to seek out the brightest examples of humanity’s future, those moments of triumph that best show humanity’s inevitable success over the alien foe, all while surviving in an incredibly hostile environment where a noncombatant is a liability rather than an asset.