Growing Opposition to FTC “Saving Journalism” Media Takeover Blueprint

by on June 9, 2010 · 4 comments

As I pointed out here last week, the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) recently released 47-page document outlining “Potential Policy Recommendations to Support the Reinvention of Journalism” has been raising eyebrows in many different quarters. Even though it is just a “discussion draft” and the agency hasn’t formally endorsed any of the recommendations in it yet, the sweeping scope and radical nature of many of the proposals in the document has already raised the blood pressure for many folks. It doesn’t help that the document reads like the CliffsNotes for the recent media-takeover manifesto, The Death and Life of American Journalism, by the neo-Marxist media scholar Robert W. McChesney and Nation editor John Nichols. Their book is horrifying in its imperial ambitions since it invites the government become the High Lord and Protector of the Fourth Estate. [For an in-depth look at all of McChesney’s disturbing views on these issues, see: “Free Press, Robert McChesney & the “Struggle” for Media.”]

The FTC’s seeming infatuation with McChesney’s proposals has many rightly concerned about where exactly the Obama Administration’s FTC (and FCC) may be taking us in the name of “saving journalism.”  In an editorial this week, Investors Business Daily worries that the feds are “Seizing The News Business and wonders “why, as the administration contemplates a federal takeover of their business, [there is] such thundering silence” from journalists and media executive themselves.  The good news, however, is that a recent survey found plenty of skepticism among news executives regading government subsidies and regulatory meddling in their business. According to this April survey by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism in association with the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) and the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), revealed that, “Fully 75% of all news executives surveyed—and 88% of newspaper executives—said they had ’serious reservations,’ or the highest level of concern, about direct subsidies from the government.” A smaller percentage (only 46%) had serious reservations about tax credits for news organizations, then again, only 13% said they “would welcome such funding” and just 6% said they were “enthusiastic” about it.

And now there’s this new survey by Rasmussen Reports which finds that average Americans find some of the FTC’s proposed recommendations pretty silly:

  • 84% oppose a 5% tax on the purchase of consumer electronic items such as computers, I-pads and Kindles to help support newspapers and traditional journalism.
  • 74% oppose a 3% tax on monthly cell phone bills to help support newspapers and traditional journalism.
  • 76% oppose placing an additional tax on internet news sites to help support newspapers and traditional journalism.
  • 71% oppose the government creating a taxpayer-funded program that would hire and pay young reporters to work for newspapers around the country.

Those are pretty lopsided numbers, but I don’t find those results all that surprising.  These FTC recommendations, which were pulled almost verbatim from the McChesney-Nichols media takeover manifesto, don’t past the laugh test with most Americans.  Seriously, next time you see someone whip out their smartphone, ask them if they’d be willing to pay a 5% tax on it to funnel money into an FCC- or FTC-led corporate welfare program for favored media entities.  You won’t find many takers.

The FTC still has time to right the ship, of course. It will be interesting to see if someone high up in the Obama Administration gets control of this situation before it gets completely out of hand. It’s fairly clear from those surveys that their is little appetite among those within the news business or among its consumers for the sort of radical recommendations that the FTC sketched out it is “reinventing journalism” blueprint. Let’s just hope the Obama Administration still listens to common sense and is ready to reject a media marketplace takeover.

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