Argument: Governments already subsidize journalism without problem
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Rosa Brooks. "Bail out journalism". Los Angeles Times. April 9, 2009: "If the thought of government subsidization of journalism seems novel, it shouldn't. Most other democracies provide far more direct government support for public media than the U.S. does (Canada spends 16 times as much per capita; Britain spends 60 times as much). And as Nichols and McChesney point out, our government already 'doles out tens of billions of dollars in direct and indirect [media] subsidies,' including free broadcast, cable and satellite privileges."
John Nichols and Robert McChesney. "The Death and Life of Great American Newspapers". Nation. March 18, 2009: "But government support for the press is not merely a matter of history or legal interpretation. Complaints about a government role in fostering journalism invariably overlook the fact that our contemporary media system is anything but an independent "free market" institution. The government subsidies established by the founders did not end in the eighteenth--or even the nineteenth--century. Today the government doles out tens of billions of dollars in direct and indirect subsidies, including free and essentially permanent monopoly broadcast licenses, monopoly cable and satellite privileges, copyright protection and postal subsidies. (Indeed, this magazine has been working for the past few years with journals of the left and right to assure that those subsidies are available to all publications.) Because the subsidies mostly benefit the wealthy and powerful, they are rarely mentioned in the fictional account of an independent and feisty Fourth Estate. Both the rise and decline of commercial journalism can be attributed in part to government policies, which scrapped the regulations and ownership rules that had encouraged local broadcast journalism and allowed for lax regulation as well as tax deductions for advertising--policies that greatly increased news media revenues.
[...] The essential component for the immediate stimulus should be an exponential expansion of funding for public and community broadcasting, with the requirement that most of the funds be used for journalism, especially at the local level, and that all programming be available for free online. Other democracies outspend the United States by whopping margins per capita on public media: Canada sixteen times more; Germany twenty times more; Japan forty-three times more; Britain sixty times more; Finland and Denmark seventy-five times more. These investments have produced dramatically more detailed and incisive international reporting, as well as programming to serve young people, women, linguistic and ethnic minorities and regions that might otherwise be neglected by for-profit media."
Prof. Charlotte Grimes, who holds the Knight Chair in Political Reporting at the Newhouse School, Syracuse University: "My instinct (on a bailout) is to say: Not on your life! But newspapers need some life support these days ... or at least we need life support for the kind of journalism that mostly comes from newspapers. And historically, we have had some limited government support.
For example, the Postal Act of 1792 created the U.S. Post Office AND gave favorable postage rates to newspapers, because the founders realized that a fragile democracy needed the free flow of news to survive. And the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970 exempted newspapers from anti-trust laws so that they could share some business resources ... such as ad departments ... and keep competitive newsrooms operating in the same town.
Government MIGHT ... and I stress the MIGHT ... be able to do some things like tax breaks for newspapers as they adapt to the digital revolution, tax breaks for start-ups of new news organizations ... online or in print ... or tax breaks for the wonderful brave souls willing to buy a going-out-of-business newspaper and willing to have it fulfill its purpose of giving people what they need to know to stay free and self-governing."