01 June 2010

"Creating the American Pravda"

Coyote Blog | Warren Meyer | Creating the American Pravda

It is a beautiful day here, so I really don’t have the time or desire right now to summarize the absolute mess that is the FTC discussion draft for the “reinvention of journalism,” [PDF] reinvention being a synonym apparently for government takeover. Almost every proposal is fraught with unintended (or perhaps intended but hidden) consequences, faulty economics, and unprecedented attacks of the first amendment. [...]

Here is the intro that was missing from the report: “The New York Times and Newsweek can’t figure out a profitable business model in the Internet age. We propose the government step in with all means at its disposal to limit competition to these print media companies and create new government subsidies for their business. Once their companies’ profitability is absolutely dependent on these government mandates and subsidies, the Federal government will have a powerful source of leverage to protect itself from criticism in these outlets. Once we have this situation in place, we will have a strong inventive to quash more independent outlets and maximize the market share of media companies beholden to the government. In a large sense, our recommendations build off the success of the tobacco settlement experiment, where a few large companies agreed to pay the government large percentages of their future profits, and then the government worked diligently to quash new tobacco competitors to maximize the market share of those companies paying it settlement money.”
This is a story familiar to anyone who has paid attention to a college newspaper. Students don't pay for the campus paper directly. Instead they a portion of their mandatory student activity fee is earmarked for the paper. The university administration collects this fee and distributes it to the paper. In addition they are usually blessed with use of office space on campus and other benefits. At that point it is inevitable that the editorial stance of the paper is beholden to the administration

Then there is the matter of other, fringe papers, which the main newspaper doesn't like because they offer competition, and the administration doesn't like because they are fringy, generally more antagonistic and harder to control. Battles ensue over why the orthodox paper gets access to offices and student fees while the heterodox paper does not. Is that the model we want to build on a national scale?

I already think most journalists are sycophantic fools, but do we really want them more beholden to the government? Any journalist who takes the King's shilling like that must abandon all pretense of being independent.

No comments:

Post a Comment