The Federal Trade Commission meets today to discuss whether and how the federal government should subsidize and otherwise support journalism.
I’ve already blogged (critically) about the FTC’s involvement in this issue and about two specific proposals for government subsidies, and I won’t repeat those arguments here. But I do want to call attention to some other good writing on the issue:
TBD’s Mandy Jenkins gets right to the point:
Journalism isn’t what they’re trying to save here – it’s newspapers. And not just any newspapers – the government is trying to prop up a defiantly anti-evolutionary business model supported by big corporations who can actually afford to save themselves if they’d be willing to make a little less profit. These solutions would do far more harm than good for journalism.
Dan Gillmor, a digital journalism pioneer now teaching at Arizona State University (and a colleague of mine at the Kansas City Times in the 1980s), proposes subsidies for extending open broadband connections nationwide:
If we got serious about broadband in this way, entrepreneurs would almost certainly come up with the journalism, including a variety of business models to augment or replace today’s, that would provide the public good we all agree comes with journalism and other trustworthy information.
C.W. Anderson makes the best case I have seen for some public-policy effort in the area of journalism (I still disagree):
Ultimately, I think that public policy has a role to play in fostering an entrepreneurial, innovative, reinvented journalistic sphere that, in the language of the recent Knight Commission Report, sustains democracy in a digital age. Net neutrality is a good place start, and so is open data, but government might have additional roles to play in stabilizing precarious local news ecosystems—as long as such support does not unfairly benefit monopolistic incumbents.
Josh Stearns of Free Press proposes five media policies the FTC should support. His approach is less specific and possibly less sweeping than the subsidies proposed by Free Press leaders Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols in their book, the Death and Life of American Journalism. The first and fifth policies Stearns proposes, broadband access and access to government data, are easy to support. The most troubling proposal is tax policies to encourage innovation and investment in journalism. Stearns and his Free Press colleagues have more faith than I do that such policies would favor innovation, rather than protecting companies that fail to innovate:
Tax changes could encourage media conglomerates to break up their holdings and put those outlets in the hands of local people, diverse owners and/or new innovators.
Jeremy W. Peters of the New York Times writes a good news summary of the issue:
The Federal Trade Commission has set out on the somewhat quixotic journey of trying to identify ways to save journalism as we know it from possible extinction.
Eric Pfanner of the New York Times writes about a report that shows that subsidies don’t necessarily help newspapers:
One option, subsidies, does not look particularly promising. Italy and France, the countries that provide the biggest direct subsidies to newspapers, according to the [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] report, also have some of the lowest levels of newspaper readership.
I’ve linked this one before, but Jeff Jarvis’ criticism of the FTC remains valid:
If the FTC truly wanted to rethink journalism and its new opportunities and new value in our democracy, it would have written this document from the perspective of the people it is supposed to represent: the citizens, examining how we can benefit from news that is newly opened to the opportunity of collaboration and greater relevance. Instead, the document is written wholly from the perspective of the companies and institutions of the industry.