Articles about "Government support for journalism"


Consider public subsidies for newspapers, says Penn prof

“Despite contemporary concerns, generous press subsidies have been the norm since the early days of the republic. And scholarly research continues to show that subsidies don’t discourage critical journalism; often, they have the opposite effect. Removing commercial pressures, while maintaining strong fire walls between government influence and media content, could help liberate investigative journalism.”

Victor Pickard, in an opinion piece for The Philadelphia Inquirer

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Filloux: ‘No hope’ that public subsidies can reverse declining print readership

Monday Note
Frédéric Filloux looks at a study that analyzes public subsidies of various forms of media and concludes that there’s no correlation between public spending and print readership. Finland is a big spender, per capita, and print media there has a high penetration: 79 percent of the population. But Germany spends just 11 percent of that and achieves a 72 percent penetration. Moreover, print media in the U.S. have almost twice the penetration of their counterparts in Italy, although the U.S. spends just 16 percent more on a per-capita basis. Filloux says Finland’s high readership is due to its editorial product, not subsidies. “There are no Keynesian mechanisms in evidence when it comes to correlating public spending with print media penetration,” he writes. Moreover, the study “kills long lasting prejudices such as European media being massively state-funded, or an American public sector unsupportive of the media industry.” He goes on to list four guidelines for public subsidies, including “no life-support funding.” || Related: FCC media report shows how interest in government subsidies for local journalism fizzled Read more

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FCC commissioner: Report lacks bold recommendations needed to support journalism

Federal Communications Commission
FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps criticizes the agency’s “The Information Needs of Communities” report released Thursday, saying it isn’t the “bold response” needed to address the lack of accountability reporting and diversity in local media. “Instead of calling for stepped-up Commission action, it tinkers around the edges,” he writes. His thoughts on the report’s recommendations after the jump. Read more

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FCC media report shows how interest in government subsidies for local journalism fizzled

There is a lot to like in the Federal Communication Commission’s exhaustive, 478-page study of shortfalls and potential solutions in media.

I’m particularly glad Steve Waldman, who oversaw the report, and his collaborators rejected an assortment of false dichotomies. Old vs. new media, professional or citizen reporters, commercial or nonprofit? “Obviously we need both,” the report says.

In a similar spirit, Waldman concludes that the proliferation of digital news outlets “masks a shortage of reporting …This illusion of bounty risks making us passive.”

Good enough. But when Waldman and company get to what the FCC or Congress can do about deteriorating local accountability reporting, they pretty much punt. Better broadband access, favorable tax treatment of news nonprofits, better digital disclosure of government data and regulatory filings — most of it is familiar stuff.

There are a couple of provocative ideas, such as redirecting to local media the massive, $1-billion-a-year federal ad spend for such things as legal notices and military recruiting. Read more

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It is Time for the FCC to Reboot the Media System

Reboot: An Open Letter to the FCC About a Media Policy for the Digital Age
Columbia Journalism Review, Nov./Dec. 2010

Poynter’s Rick Edmonds recommends the “excellent (albeit long) piece by Steve Coll in CJR about modernizing FCC media policies.”

In his letter to the FCC’s Steven Waldman, Coll writes that “….we badly require new policies and new thinking in Washington because the media policy regime we have inherited is out of date and inadequate for the times in which we live.

….The problem is that the media policies that govern us in 2010 — a patchwork stitched from the ideas of Calvin Coolidge’s Republican Party, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, and Ronald Reagan’s deregulatory wave — have been overtaken by technological change.

From the country’s founding, American media and journalism have been continually remade by technological innovation. Political pamphlets made room for industrially printed newspapers, which made room for the telegraph, which made room for radio, which made room for broadcast television, which made room for cable and satellite services, which made room for the World Wide Web, which is making room even as we read this for the Kindle, iPad, and mobile phone applications. Read more

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FTC Future-of-Journalism Inquiry Wraps Up With Little Momentum for Major Intervention

I’ll be among the 30 participants in the Federal Trade Commission’s roundtables Tuesday in Washington, D.C. evaluating proposals for government action “to support the reinvention of journalism.” I expect a stimulating discussion, but not a run-up to landmark regulatory action or legislation.
 
Over the last year, the steam has gone out of any movement toward major federal intervention that would shape a media mix in rapid transition. Since spring of 2009, newspapers and traditional media have grown markedly healthier, at least in the short run. Concurrently, there has been an explosion of new digital media experiments, with philanthropists and private capital providing ample start-up funding, absent any push from government.
 
Equally important, the exploration of possible government action by the FTC and others turned up a host of problems. Subsidies or anti-trust assistance for newspapers would appear to prop up fading for-profit enterprises over new media alternatives. On the other hand, it is less than clear that government could be skilled and disinterested in picking worthy recipients if it threw money behind new media, non-profit news units. Read more
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New Study: As Media Subsidies Decrease, Government Should Support Innovation

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It looks like we can add government assistance to the pile of disintegrating business models facing the media.

A new study of historic subsidies and emerging trends tracks various tax breaks, reductions in postal subsidies first enacted in 1792, and upcoming cutbacks in public notices that government regulations have traditionally forced into American newspapers.

In addition to a detailed review of past practices, the report by Geoffrey Cowan and David Westphal of the University of Southern California serves up some even-handed perspective on the hot-button issue of government funding for news.

There are plenty of reasons to challenge government funding of news — as well as a few reasons to consider it — but none of the debate is served by ignorance of the substantial thread of subsidy running through American journalism history.

Cowan and Westphal pose two central questions about the future of such funding, the second “potentially trickier,” as they put it, than the first:

  • “Is a new form of government intervention prudent, and necessary to ensure that Americans have access to the kind of information they need in a democracy?”

  • “If there is such a need, is government capable, amid such overwhelming change in the news business, of making choices that will make things better?”
  • With that second concern in mind, they urge consideration of two ideas:

    Read more

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    FTC Workshop An Odd Mix of Caution and Dangerous Thinking

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    I have an inside-out viewpoint on the Federal Trade Commission’s two-day workshop on “How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?” This was an occasion for government to listen to some of the usual and a few novel takes on the current turmoil. I was most interested, though, in the brief presentations of the two government officials who spoke.

     
    And here there was news. Both FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz and Congressman Henry Waxman get the problems and the high stakes should traditional news outlets crash before an adequate replacement system emerges. They are on the cutting edge of trying to find a way for government to help (the journalism if not the institutions). But neither thinks there is much chance of consensus on how to help anytime soon.
     
     
    “Whatever the new business models for journalism may be — and we have seen some glimmers of light in endeavors such as voiceofsanddiego.org, ‘Talking Points Memo’ and ProPublica — they are not yet fully apparent or fully sustainable. Read more
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    Next Steps for Downie-Schudson: ‘Mutualizing’ News about News

    What’s most interesting and useful about “The Reconstruction of American Journalism” report issued by Len Downie and Michael Schudson Monday is not so much what it chronicles or recommends.

    Look instead at what it’s provoking.

    My Poynter colleague, Rick Edmonds, and others provided expert, deadline analysis of the report’s diagnosis and prescriptions. They did that even before the rest of us were jamming office printers across the land with nearly 100 pages documenting what the authors characterize as American journalism’s “transformational moment.”

    It’s a moment in which they assert “the era of dominant newspapers and influential network news divisions is rapidly giving way to one in which the gathering and distribution of news is more widely dispersed.”

    So, too, with their own report. Credit somebody at the Columbia Journalism Review — and the school that runs it — with understanding that from the start.

    Rather than waiting for reactions, CJR commissioned four as part of Monday’s release. Read more

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    Downie, Columbia Study: Government Must Fund Some News

    Longtime Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie did more than his share of afflicting the comfortable in government with the paper’s ferociously independent reporting of the Walter Reed scandal and a host of other such stories.
     
    But after a deep dive into problems of the news business in transition and a scrupulous attempt at framing some solutions, Downie and his collaborators and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism reached a conclusion many will find surprising and controversial: a bright future for news must include some government funding of the enterprise.
     
    In a lengthy report being released this week, these two sentences stake out the case for federal intervention:
     
    “The days of a kind of news media paternalism or patronage that produced journalism in the public interest, whether or not it contributed to the bottom line, are largely gone.
     
    “American society must now take some collective responsibility for supporting independent news reporting in this new environment — as society has, at much greater expense, for public needs like education, health care, scientific advancement and cultural preservation — through varying combinations of philanthropy, subsidy and government policy.”
     
    Specifically, the report advocates creation of a Fund for Local News on the model of the separate National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities or the National Science Foundation. Read more
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