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Just Say No To Journalism Subsidies

By 12 April 2010 15 Comments

Government subsidies of journalism are such a bad idea that news executives who fear their businesses may not exist 10 years from now still don’t want the money.

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism put the question of government-subsidized journalism to news executives who are part of the American Society of News Editors and Radio Television Digital News Association, and most of the 353 executives who responded voiced serious reservations about the idea.

The survey found that 75 percent of all news executives, and 88 percent of newspaper executives, have “serious reservations” about direct government subsidies. Nearly half (46 percent) are even concerned with the idea of tax credits for news organizations, and only 19 percent support that idea despite ongoing industry woes.

The comments that news executives offered in the survey are telling:

  • “If the government becomes the ‘money bags’ for journalism, journalism will become the ‘bag man’ for the government,” wrote a member of RTDNA. “This would be an assault to the First Amendment of the Constitution.”
  • “The lines become too blurred if we begin taking donations and subsidies. Even if we remain aggressive in coverage why would readers believe we are independent?”
  • “Government involvement in any form is a terrible idea.”

The news executives are concerned about the future of journalism as a profitable profession. Nearly a third (29 percent) think their news organizations could be insolvent within five years. Add the 18 percent who give their companies 10 years of survival, and nearly half of news executives clearly are pessimistic about the future.

But they still have the sense to realize that the FCC and FTC, two agencies actively weighing government intervention in the media sector, are not the places to find the solution.

Hopefully the bureaucrats will listen to the news executives whose careers are at stake and stay out of the way as media firms continue to experiment with local search products, micro news and other revenue models outlined in the survey.

15 Comments »

  • setnaffa said:

    NPR, Pravda, and Isvestia, eh?

  • jeff said:

    At least one paper, the Seattle Times, is getting subsidies via a big state tax break.

    The paper claims this will not affect their reporting, however I find it funny that they accepted what they have decried for big business.

  • Dieter Niederbrunnsulzen said:

    I don’t understand why this is even discussed. Partial subsidy doesn’t do any good. Why not an outright ownership by the government? That would be much more efficient and practical. Instead of fruitless bickering and attacks on the Obama administration, the media could become part of a permanent solution. We need to think creatively.

  • geokstr said:

    How about this?

    The party out of power gets to distribute the “journalism” subsidies to whomever they choose. That way at least they’ll be investigating both sides eventually, instead of one side all the time.

  • George Ou said:

    Jeff, let’s get something straight.

    Tax break = An individual or company not giving the government as much money due to certain rules that all tax payers in the same situation can benefit from.

    Government subsidy = Government giving the individual or company money from other tax payers.

    Don’t conflate the two.

  • C said:

    While public monies collected, redistributed and doled in the name of Fairness is something they can get behind and often do, journalists don’t really want an explicit paper trail between their editorial and funding.

    First, they don’t want to see themselves as political whores and, second, they don’t want to be outed as same. ‘Twould reduce their efficacy.

    A gauzy thread-bare veil of deniability is all they ask for in remuneration, else they can’t effectively be partisan shills and hacks for the good of the world. They’re crusaders, tho’ the activist saving-us-from-ourselves truth-tellers would NEVER use such an offensive anti-Islamist term.

  • ronnor said:

    The Department of Disinformation in the old KGB did just fine why not here. The MSM and the old Department #6 are doppelgängers, they took the ideology so take the money we all know they are bought and sold anyway.

  • C said:

    While public monies collected, redistributed and doled in the name of Fairness is something they can get behind and often do, journalists don’t really want an explicit paper trail between their editorial and funding.

    First, they don’t want to see themselves as political whores and, second, they don’t want to be outed as same. ‘Twould reduce their efficacy.

    A gauzy thread-bare veil of deniability is all they ask for in remuneration, else they can’t effectively be partisan shills and hacks for the good of the world. They’re crusaders, tho’ the activist saving-us-from-ourselves truth-tellers would NEVER use such an offensive anti-Islamist term.

    The above rationalization works in a Democratic world, as we currently have. But perhaps it is only this: journos believe overt underwriting by a Dem administration compromises the appearance of integrity, but funding from a Rep power would comprise their intended integrity, were they to get hungry for real–

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  • Subotai Bahadur said:

    RE: George Ou @ # 12 April 2010 at 1:48 PM

    Tax break = An individual or company not giving the government as much money due to certain rules that all tax payers in the same situation can benefit from.

    I don’t dispute your definition at all, however knowing the players involved [Seattle Times and the government of the Peoples' Democratic Republic of Washington] the first thing that pops to mind is the question of whether the “Tax Break” was not sufficiently narrowly drawn as to only apply to the Seattle Times? Would it in fact be available to say an investigative newspaper that was looking at the Washington Legislature but was in the same financial situation as the Washington Times? I’m not stating it as a fact but as a question hoping that someone who knows the details will enlighten me. I’ve dealt enough with a corrupt Democrat-run state government to have a high index of suspicion, having seen just such narrow drawing of parameters.

    Subotai Bahadur

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  • Devin said:

    I just asked my 5 year old son, and he said he’d love to pay for current failures with his future tax dollars. So, trough up, pigs.

  • Journalism is a Joke said:

    Journalism as “bag man” for the government? Well, at least all that experience they got while pimping for Obama won’t be wasted then.

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  • bandit said:

    They have serious reservations but not about taking handouts.