Free Press, the radical pro-regulatory media activist group, recently filed comments with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for the agency's upcoming workshop on "How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?" The Free Press comments provide an enlightening glimpse into the mind of how many on the Left now think about media policy in America. Their approach can be summarized as follows:
For U.S. public media to become a truly world-class system will require a substantial increase in funding. This could be accomplished by an increase in direct congressional appropriations to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. With increased funding -- to as little as $5 per person, increasing annual appropriations to some $1.5 billion -- the American public media system could dramatically increase its capacity, reach, diversity and relevance.
A better and more durable solution would be to create and fund a public trust, seeded with a large endowment and operated by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting or other NGO. The money for such a trust could be provided directly through an act of Congress or perhaps by placing a small tax on advertising. We estimate that a trust fund would require $50 billion to create sufficient revenue. If that figure seems high, consider that since last year, more than $173 billion in tax money has been sunk into just one corporation, AIG. Given that Congress just passed a nearly trillion-dollar economic recovery package, $50 billion for public media seems like a smart investment.Basically, because everybody else is on the public dole these days--including undeserving Wall Street idiots--that justifies putting media operators and journalist on the dole, too. Some pretty twisted logic there. But the Free Press plan doesn't end with public bailouts for media. A welfare system for journalists is next on the list:
Another form of government investment that could help spark new competition in the news ecosystem is the creation of research and development fund for journalistic innovation and experimentation. We need to think about the new media marketplace as an incubator for innovation. Just as government invests in medical research to heal the ails of the body, we need government to invest in experimentation with news models to heal the democratic ails of the body politic.
We should explore the creation of a government-seeded innovation fund for journalism -- a taxpayer-supported venture capital firm that invests in new business models. As a starting point, we are proposing a $50 million per year budget. This new venture capital firm could be set up as a public-private partnership, with federal matching funds for foundation-supported projects, or designed to provide guaranteed loans at low or no interest to start-up initiatives.
Taken in the aggregate, the Free Press proposal reads like a Soviet-style 5-year plan for the media sector. [Hey, why not appoint another White House "czar" to oversee it all!] In practice, such a public option for media raises many troubling questions. The prospect of a large swath of the American media sector being treated as a publicly funded ward of the State isn't just a small leak in the important wall between Press and State, it is the end of that wall. It would dynamite that wall to the ground. It could potentially open the door to a fundamental corruption of the journalistic profession by public officials who would not likely be able to resist the urge to pressure those who are subservient to the State. As such, the plan is an affront to our traditional First Amendment values and the importance of press independence in particular. And it is an affront to the taxpayers who would be stuck paying for a lot of journalism that they may not even want, like, or see. As I noted in a previous essay, you can file all of this under the general theme: "Socializing Media in Order to Save It."
But hey, it's a new era, baby! So get ready to pay your fair share to "save journalism" because Free Press and their founder Robert McChesney appear ready to make good on their promise to socialize all media and make it everybody's collective responsibility via their public option for the press.