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Obama's FTC plan to reinvent America's news media

Newspapers Coming off a printing press

What's widely-known is that Americans are not buying newspapers anymore in droves.

What hasn't been widely-known, until now, is that a year ago the new Democrat administration of Barack Obama launched a major internal study intended to design a major government rescue plan for the nation's financially-troubled information media, primarily newspapers.

That strident sound you hear are the alarms going off in minds and offices across the country: Government helping the press? Which press? How help? In return for what?

Well, two years ago who'd have thought the feds would own General Motors with major holdings in a bunch of banks and financial institutions, reshaped the healthcare industry, spent $787 billion on who-knows-what to create some jobs, have rewritten a package of new financial regulations to corral Wall Street and still not be securing the U.S.-Mexico border?

The Federal Trade Commission has just released a major staff study of modern American media titled "Potential Policy Recommendations to Support the Reinvention of Journalism." And....

...silly you thought the private business of journalism was doing that by itself in its own stumbling ways without the help of the Washington branch of the Chicago Democratic political machine.

The study notes those industry-wide revival efforts and adds:

There are reasons for concern that experimentation may not produce a robust and sustainable business model for commercial journalism. History in the United States shows that readers of the news have never paid anywhere close to the full cost of providing the news. Rather, journalism always has been subsidized to a large extent by, for example, the federal government, political parties, or advertising.

True, there have been government subsidies over the decades in the form of below-cost postal rates and printing contracts. But this FTC study is rated R for anyone who thinks the federal government, the object of copious news coverage itself, has no business deciding which sectors of the private media business survive and thrive through its support, subsidies and encouragement with things like tax incentives.

Yet that's what this Obama administration paper is suggesting as another of the ex-community organizer's galactic reform plans.

Would you believe: major changes to the copyright law, including government licensing provisions; government pilot programs to investigate potential new media business models, antitrust changes to allow media companies to unite on imposing online pay walls, establish a journalism division of AmeriCorps with government underwriting the training of young journalists, tax incentives per news employee, increased funding of public broadcasting, a 5% tax on consumer electronics and/or assessments on users of public airwaves.

Another idea would be to allow taxpayers to direct a portion of their taxes -- perhaps up to $200 -- to a specific media institution as payment for media services rendered. (Now, if taxpayers could direct such sums to individual bloggers.... )

Our thanks to Mark Tapscott of the Washington Examiner for his trenchant observations titled "Will journalists wake up in time to save journalism from Obama's FTC?"

Over at BuzzMachine, Jeff Jarvis aims his usual provocative analysis at the FTC paper, a main point being that Obama's folks are, quite likely too late, plotting to "help" the oldest, most-troubled part of the news media business: newspapers. With but one lone mention of something newer called blogs.

An equivalent task might be the feds helping U.S. car companies revive the densely-chromed, high-finned gas guzzlers of the 1950-60's. How many of you folks, for instance, bought and read an actual newspaper this morning?

That's what we thought.KindleBeachTicketcdz

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Comments () | Archives (41)

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The FTC certainly makes its bias clear. Jarvis' must-read analysis distills their flawed approach as "journalism as what newspapers do," but their mindset is actually more myopic than that. Per their original framing, carried through in their staff discussion draft, it all revolves around pay-to-read print dailies. Paid dailies as center of the universe perverts perspective, eclipses competing realities and fosters wacky self-invitations for government involvement. As many duly note, emerging freestanding digital enterprises are given short shrift.

But the FTC also ignores an entire landscape of ongoing success at the truly local level: The thousands of successful entrepreneurs -- local community paper publishers -- serving the local news and information needs of their hometowns for years, decades, generations. Free community weeklies thrive precisely where the aforementioned are failing: We address several of the issues raised by this staff discussion draft in our industry comments in the dueling drama, the FCC's Future of Media examination:

If big journalism takes a government handout, we'll end up with Pravda and Isvestia like they were under Stalin... Or like the state-run media under Chavez in Venezuela...

It will be illegal to publicly criticize the government...

WOW,sounds like the same arguments that HUGO CHAVEZ used to take over all the communications down in Venizuala are being used by the Obama administration,wait,can I legally type this? Is this sedation? am I a fearmonger now? Americans better take a stand for something now because once the government gets a foothold on the press it'll be like a eagle that just caught a fish,they don't let go.

Quid pro quo...the media abandons its last figleaf of objectivity and becomes Obama's propaganda ministry, in return it gets to feed at the government's trough. We already have a state-owned media, this just makes it "official."

Just one more reason why I'm a lot less worried that Obama wants to be another FDR than that he wants to be another Hugo Chavez.

I just remembered,the MSM has already given the Obama administration a free ride in everything they do,I'm surprised this article was even allowed into print.

"....a 5% tax on consumer electronics..." Yep , just follow the money as our favorite Alinskite President wants to gleefully redistribute the weath of America into the paws of the usual Chicago thugs. Wait for the other shoe to drop---a $5 per month tax on monthly fee's for 4G - Interent connectivity. Kindle and Nook monthly charges are coming to reader near you.

I'm sure Apple - Sony - Samsung - ATT - T-Mobile - Verison - Amazon - Motorola - JVC are eager have their hardware prices increase 5% in this tough economy.

Another dangerous example of a government take-over of the private sector...all in the name of "saving it". I seem to remember George W. Bush saying that he had to "abandon free market principles in order to save the free market". It's a contradiction if the government is doing it. But Obama isn't worried about "saving journalism"; he wants to take it over and shape it in his desired form.

America better wake up fast or this socialist SOB will have transformed the entire private sector (no longer private) and every industry will owe the government, like G.M. Hey, David Gregory and Brian Williams: How would you like Obama's pay czar setting your pay?

I HAVE NOT BOUGHT A PAPER IN ABOUT 15 YEARS. They were to much trouble. You have to bag up a big stack (used to be a brown paper bags' worth) each week to haul out the trash. Total pain in the but. And then I was only reading the sports section, movies, and comics. When "Calvin and Hobbs" ended I saw NO reason to continue buying a paper. As far as "News" goes, when the content became completely progressive liberal left wing crap, it just confirmed my "opinion". Nothing of importance here, move on.

The American taxpayer has no business subsidizing news organizations. That is a clear conflict of interest between government and private press.

"antitrust changes to allow media companies to unite on imposing online pay walls, establish a journalism division of AmeriCorps with government underwriting the training of young journalists,"

The Carrot AND the stick. Grow liberal journalists like hot house plants and give them access in exchange for "laudatory coverage" and if the coverage is not laudatory, then we slam your business with an Antitrust investigation.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the raw face of fascism. Joseph Goebbels would be pleased.

I suggest the Dear Leader enlist the aid of Hugo Chavez in getting this done. At least he has experience.

Yeah, what could go wrong with the Government running the papers!

obama was mentored by marxists, black liberation theology and radical socialism - he is trying to control/reshape free speech and the media. it is sick. who does he think he is? people thought he would bring CHANGE - and he sure is. The wrong kind, the soviet-style un-constitutional kind. he is a cancer on this country that must be removed. he is unamerican and his views on the role of government are just immoral. he deceives with these "noble" type statements, and people hand over their freedoms.

get out of our government, you traitor obama. you are not a president of these united states. you are a fraud, a dumb communist thug. barry soetoro for dog catcher.

This is one of those pieces that you have read slowly...then go back and re-read just to make sure you read what you thought.
This is VERY BAD. Can you say '1984' and 'Nazi Germany' ?

November can't come too soon.

"[J]ournalism always has been subsidized to a large extent by, for example, the federal government, political parties, or advertising." (emphasis added)

Umm, advertising isn't a subsidy, it's a legitimate revenue stream for publications. You see, the publicatiosn offers a service (i.e. print space or air time or the like) so that a business can advertise to potential customers, and in return they pay for this service.

It's amazing and depressing that the Federan Trade Commission sees no substantial difference between a mutual agreement of a trade of services for fee (i.e. capitalism) and government largess. Perhaps this is what is fundamentally wrong in Washington.

Scared yet?

"Will journalists wake up in time to save journalism from Obama's FTC?"

No, the more accurate question would be "Why would journalists want to be saved from Obama's FTC?" My thinking is there are several reasons why newspapers are losing readers. First, the technology used by newspapers appears to several hundred years old. Papers are printed in much the same fashion as Ben Franklin used. Second, by the time "news" reaches its intended audience, it isn't really "news". Third, people - I'm guessing many like myself - wake up each morning and find it's a great deal faster to simply "log on" to my favorite sites and read about what's going on in the world. I can check 25-30 sources, including foreign, with a few keystrokes. 25 years ago I subscribed to the Sunday edition of a dozen American newspapers. I would receive most of them by mid-week, and it was expensive. Last, most newsrooms at any major newspaper are staffed by people who seem to tilt heavily to the political Left. When polled in election after election, they overwhelmingly support Leftist candidates. Whether there is or not, I believe most newspaper writers are perceived to be more interested in being cheerleaders for the political Left than reporters of facts. It could be kindly spoken of as "spin", or "slant". Less kindly, it could be spoken of as "propaganda".

I have no objection to paying for a news feed that's available electronically. I don't need to wonder if my morning paper will be delivered, and how late. When reading that the Federal Government (read "Obama administration") wants to "...establish a journalism division of AmeriCorps with government underwriting the training of young journalists, tax incentives per news employee, increased funding of public broadcasting, a 5% tax on consumer electronics and/or assessments on users of public airwaves.", I can only imagine the shrieking that would come from the same, now silent, media, if G. W. Bush had proposed the same program.

“The press should be not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, but also a collective organizer of the masses”
Vladimir Lenin

I guess the old adage of supply and demand just doesn't cut it any more. If the demand fails Ize it...

When a newspaper out there starts to print something other than MSM agenda driven propaganda I'll start my demand for a paper again!

"ize"... Subsidize, socialize, federalize it but dear god dont you dare let an outdated business model fail!

OMG, is George Orwell behind the curtain?

Just what we need - government molding and making our journalism profession and our news outlets. Once upon a time that was called a propaganda machine. If the feds get their way on this one, it will be the end of free speech. News organization who think otherwise are astoundingly naive.

Are you guys in the press ready to collect your gov check when your industry is DEEMED TOO BIG TO FAIL.

The progressive Universities are famous for deciding "legitimate" points of view on campus. Anyone who disagrees with their point of view is branded a "fascist" and prohibited from speaking.

Is it any wonder the progressive government wishes to impose the same mechanism on American society as a whole?

The Socialists Obama, Pelosi and Reid are hell-bent on having the Democrat Party seen 20 years from now in the same light as the Whig and Bull Moose parties: EXTINCT!! All patriotic Americans (especially young ones) NEED to go vote and throw out the LIBERTY-ROBBING, HIGH-TAXING, MORALLY BANKRUPT Democrats in 2010 and 2012!! Your freedom DEPENDS on it......

"Rather, journalism always has been subsidized to a large extent by, for example, ... advertising."

Ok, so the Government can't tell the difference between income from a business model, and subsidies? Well that's who I want in charge of more industries across the nation. Economic intelligence like that is rare; most people are far more intelligent than that.

This sounds really familiar and indeed it is a parallel to what we saw in Communist Russia during the cold war years. Back then the Russian government ran ALL of the media and their point of view was the only one presented to the public. Indeed we are seeing things moving in this same direction under the current Obamafia regime! Better get rid of this whole bunch in the November elections, otherwise we are headed down the same path as Communist Russia did!

I can't believe this guy.
The press is ALREADY in his pocket.
That is one reason people don't buy newspapers anymore.

This is getting rediculoous. This man doesn't realize that he should be taking care of defending this country, and stop trying to be in control of every aspect of our lives. People don't buy newspapers because they can pull it up on the internet. DAH!!!!! What the hell is wrong with this Marxist, Communist? This country isn't going to put up with much more. The revolution is coming. Just waiting for the first punch to be thrown.

I can imagine just how awful it would be if a political party as corrupt as the GOP ever managed to gain control over the media. Just look at FOX "News".

Two years ago I was writing replies in various blogs and article replies and I was comparing this administation to the old Soviet Union, I had many people upset but it seems that my use of their terminology to describe this band of thugs in the White House was a lot more closer to the truth back then than we have would imagined today, I am really sorry that I am more right than wrong on this matter. You could see and read the perpetration for the torpedoeing of this economy and then watch the government intrusion into the freemarket.

Now I write the crazy stuff like, "we are being governed by chi-town thugs", "we are in desperate need of real leadership not rip-off artist such as we have." If you think I am more nuts than ever, please prove me wrong. It's been like a horror novel since Bush bailed out of office and left the American public to fend for itself, the lack of law the rupturing of ethic, the conspiracy of back room dealing and the setting up of the biggest crime sydicate the world has known...I wonder if I am making this up but the facts the evidence the names all fit the pattern and now we are puposely being herded toward a war we need not have and it will serve these thugs in a way that makes me fear for the very life of this country.

Why would any true military patriot obey the orders of a usurper, a un-credentialed, inexperienced unvetted person such as we have for a POTUS, because they respect the office and there is no legal attempt to remove the man. We are not a nation of sheep but we do obey law, our leadership does not, it simply is testing us to see how much we will take before we as Americans crack and they can claim we took the "Law" into our own hands. We very well may use the law but then we have a Constitution that tells us to do just that and we are patriots all to remove evil from our midst.

This is the most unbelievable move yet by this ANTI-AMERICAN ADMINISTRATION. It is one thing to intentionally manipulate the media [thank you David Axelrod - king of all liars], but quit another to suggest such blatant socialist ideology that directly impacts our freedom of speech. Do we all understand how treasonous even the contemplation of such a move is? This is beyond acceptable and everyone needs to wake up and put an end to this arrogant and misguided behaviour. Who the hell do you think you are President Obama to rewrite our constitutional principals? You are plain crazy!

If they pay you, they own you.

If journalists in the media roll over on this one, then they're already lost and completely worthless as an institution.

Here, throw the watchdogs another 'treat'. Goooood puppy!

The Democrat party and the press have been sleeping together for years. Obama just plans to put a ring on it- make an honest woman out of CNNMSNBCCBSABCNBC

BUT if you put a ring on a whore, she's still a whore- just with jewelery

The New Pravda Times I can just see it now.....

This administration must GO!

I can only comment this:


but it's only for our own good and of course "fairness" RIGHT!!!!
We do not know what's good for us we need a NANNY!

Or could it also be that the media going under is all liberal and DemoRats will have NO outlets.


What about the First Amendment don't they understand? From this article they probably have never read the Constitution, but given the opinions of many of our Supreme Court Justices not all of them have either.

"Reinvent" is a socialist code word for "make journalism a propaganda tool for the advancement of the Marxist agenda". For years during the Cold War Americans saw this EXACT same rhetoric and actions come from the Soviet government as it co opted the press in that nation. Back then, our press reported those lies for what they were. Today, the press in this country has become that of the soviets only it embraces the idea of becoming a tool for "social justice" rather than a tool of liberty.

Hey, sounds good. Which line do I get in for my swastika arm band. Today the press, tomorrow the world.

Yea this is exactly what the country needs at this time...We need the Government to prop up newspapers that lie to the public, and we the taxpayers should pay to keep these liers in business. Sounds great, where do I sign up?


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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