FOR RELEASE: January 20, 2010
Contact: Richard T. Kaplar
The Media Institute
Arlington, Va., Jan. 20, 2010 – Government intervention aimed at “saving” journalism by funding or subsidizing media companies is a misguided idea that could imperil the future of independent American journalism, says economist and former FCC commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth.
That idea was unthinkable only a few years ago but is now “alarmingly chic” and discussed routinely at government and private-sector conferences. The prospects are “frightening,” Furchtgott-Roth says in a new Speaking Freely opinion paper released today.
Policymakers seem to be forgetting that media companies play a key role in reporting on the activities of government and thus are not like other companies the federal government has bailed out, he says. “The line between government support and government control is impossible to determine,” the former FCC commissioner cautions.
Furchtgott-Roth’s paper, “A Taboo Topic: Government Subsidies for the Media,” is the latest in the Speaking Freely series published jointly by The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression in Charlottesville, Va., and The Media Institute in Arlington, Va.
Furchtgott-Roth, now the head of Furchtgott-Roth Economic Enterprises in Washington, D.C., notes that government-controlled media outlets are the antithesis of the free press protected by our First Amendment. “Every repressive regime in the world today controls some part of its national media and censors the rest,” he says.
It “strains credulity” to believe that a media outlet receiving government support could be totally objective in covering the government that provides for its survival, Furchtgott-Roth says.
“As a country, we are richer with an impoverished but independent media than we are with more affluent but government-influenced media,” he concludes.