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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/11440/independent-media-requires-more-government/

“Independent” Media Requires More Government

January 12, 2010 by

In a meeting yesterday with the editors of the New York Times, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said more state subsidies and intellectual property may be needed to protect “independent” newspapers from the scourge of market failure:

“There are some areas where you clearly see positive creative destruction,” Mr. Leibowitz said, giving the example of travel agents who were replaced by Orbitz and other online-booking systems. The news, he said, was not one of those.

“When you’re dealing with something as critical as news is to a democracy, you need to ensure, certainly, that it’s independent, but also that it’s vibrant going forward,” he said. Areas like investigative reporting, foreign and domestic bureaus, and statehouse reporting, he said, would likely falter under blog operations because of “economies of scale.”

He said he wasn’t sure what the solution was, but threw out a few ideas discussed at the conference: maybe special tax treatment for newspapers, a Corporation for Public Broadcasting-like fund, or for the newspaper industry to charge fees for the re-use of its content, similar to the model used by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

Mr. Leibowitz, of course, is married to an editorial writer at the Washington Post, a conflict that the Times did not disclose in its report.

I would also note that newspapers, including the Times and the Post, generally do not report on the activities of the Federal Trade Commission (aside from reprinting FTC press releases). Unlike, say, this pathetic little blog and our poor economies of scale.


J Cortez January 12, 2010 at 3:18 pm

When I hear about the giant media dinosaurs of old being crushed by the current environment, I smile the same smile I would if I lived in decades past when steel manufacturers put iron out of business or when car makers killed the horse buggy manufacturers.

One of the beautiful things about technological progress is that it can usually outpace governmental interference. In the current information age, that progress is exponentially more powerful. New products, services, and industries seem to be cropping up much faster than in my parent’s or their parent’s era.

Save for government forcefully destroying technology, there is no way to stop progress. I think it speaks volumes that an old media hack is trying to gather support of the bureaucratic governmental hacks for money and protection.

Enjoy Every Sandwich January 12, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Newspapers have been coming and going since the founding of the republic. What makes the current situation any different?

Oh, these papers are special? Oh, yeah, they’re “independent”. Huh, in a pig’s eye.

Mitchell Powell January 12, 2010 at 4:04 pm

One thing people underestimate when they talk about the government subsidizing something independent is how the allocation of funds works. Even in an environment that attempts to keep monetary contributions to newspapers “fair,” the fact of the matter is that the government will give different amounts of money to different newspapers, and that the various subsidized newspapers will all be competing for cash, and therefore for governmental approval. In the end, you have to be at peace with whoever is giving you money, and subsidies for so-called independent news sources is therefore nothing more than a domestication of the free press.

And as to blogs, I don’t think we’d be worse off at all as a nation if a lot of people quit reading the financial news in their local papers and started reading from the Mises Blog. In fact, by subsidizing newspapers, the government is trying to keep people away from news sources like this.

Thef t Through Inflation January 12, 2010 at 4:04 pm

These papers are special because they have an oligopoly backed by state violence.

Taylor January 12, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Arguing for newspaper bailouts to ensure the “proper functioning of our democracy” is necessarily based upon the premise that newspapers have, up to this point, ensured the “proper functioning of our democracy”.

I, for one, reject that premise.

I reject, also, the secondary premise that what the newspapers provide us all with is “news” and not propaganda.

LvMIenthusiast January 12, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Is it me or are we just sounding more and more like the Third Reich as each day passes?

Honestly, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

This is simply pathetic, no further words needed to explain this.

Wayne January 12, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Pravada here we come!

I’m sure the reporting, in the automotive section, on GM (Government Motors) cars are the best will be an example of “independent” reporting.

I guess the government has to step in when they know better than the markets what people want…. wait….

Daniel L. Bennett January 12, 2010 at 4:44 pm

If the media is unable to innovate on its own to overcome the inevitable demise of the print news industry, then it needs to be left to die a natural death. Mr. Leibowitz’ assertion that investigative reporting and statehouse reporting will falter if the newspapers are left to their own demise is absurd. If anything, death of the giants will create more opportunity for entrepreneurial reporters to specialize in certain news categories that provide more in-depth coverage.

The conglomerate news business is a defunct model whose time has come and gone. The key to survival is specialization. By propping up failed business models, the government is prohibiting economic progress.

Bogart January 12, 2010 at 4:59 pm

As usual government categorizes while individuals specialize. And as usual one category of newspaper has to be saved although there is a giant piece of technology giving millions of individuals all over the world the ability to become newspapers unto themselves.

The better solution is to expand who you consider to be a newsperson to everyone which will lead to a more dynamic system to provide news that provides profits to those who do it best and bankruptcy to those who do it worst.

sean A January 12, 2010 at 5:02 pm

I suppose this is tantamount to early opponents of the automobile industry who argued against the safety and efficiency of automobiles and wished to prop up–through legislation–the horse and buggy industry.

Slim934 January 12, 2010 at 5:52 pm


Subsidies by the government to provide for independent news.

Oh my God. I think my sides are collapsing in on themselves. What a tremendous douche to even be able to say something like that with a straight face.

I’m glad his wife will be out of her job sooner rather than later.

EIS January 13, 2010 at 2:53 am

The government doesn’t care what or who the people vote for as long as it controls the media.

EIS January 13, 2010 at 3:29 am


“I actually think it’s quite right that it’s essential for a democracy to have outlets like the Times and the Post + public education. You need to homogenize public opinion to keep a democracy from turning into civil war.”

You mean you need to turn the public into unthinking drones so that they don’t rise up in arms when you steal 50% of their income, destroy their savings, and regulate their mutually beneficial and cooperative transactions.

Thomas January 13, 2010 at 4:25 am


“You mean you need to turn the public into unthinking drones so that they don’t rise up in arms when you steal 50% of their income, destroy their savings, and regulate their mutually beneficial and cooperative transactions.”

Jups, that sums it up rather nicely.

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