PFF today released the fifth installment in our ongoing series on “The Wrong Way to Reinvent Media.” This series of papers explores various tax and regulatory proposals that would have government play an expanded role in supporting the press, journalism, or other media content. In the latest essay, Berin Szoka, Ken Ferree, and I discuss proposals for direct subsidies for failing media outlets and out-of-work journalists.
We argue taxpayer support for failing outlets and unemployed journalists implicates significant First Amendment concerns. On the whole, subsidies can make “journalists and media operators more dependent upon the State; compromise press independence and diminish public trust in the free press; and result in government discrimination in the politically inescapable dilemma of determining eligibility for subsidies.” Such an agenda would also entail huge cost to taxpayers—initially about $35 billion per year according to advocates—and would represent “a massive wealth transfer from one class of speakers to another…”
We warn that calls for seemingly beneficent bailouts “to save” the media and journalism may actually be driven by those who have something more nefarious in mind: a “post-corporate” world shorn of media capitalists, and “such radicalism must be rejected if we hope to sustain a truly free press and uphold America’s proud tradition of keeping a high and tight wall of separation between Press and State.”
The ideas within these and other essays in the series will be worked into a major PFF filing in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proceeding on the “Future of Media” on May 7. The paper may be viewed online here and I’ve attached it down below in a Scribd reader.