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

June 2, 2010 |  2:02 am

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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