Really, Really, Really Bad Idea

Just what we need, the government choosing winners and losers in media like they do earmark recipients.  Since government ownership of GM was politicized in Congress before the ink on the court agreements was dry, I wonder how fast Congress will find a way to use a government media bailout to punish the critical and reward sycophants.

A top Democratic lawmaker predicted on Wednesday that the government will be involved in shaping the future for struggling U.S. media organizations.House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, saying quality journalism was essential to U.S. democracy, said eventually government would have to help resolve the problems caused by a failing business model.

Waxman, other U.S. lawmakers and regulators are looking into various options to help a newspaper industry hurt by the shift in advertising revenues to online platforms.

Waxman continues:

"Eventually government is going to have to be responsible to help and resolve these issues,"

Why?  You mean like when the US government stepped up in the 19th century to bail out pamphleteers and failing broadsheet publishers when the market moved to new media?  Or when it moved to bail out network television under assault from new cable channels?  Remember that?  Neither do I.

Next steps:

At the Federal Communications Commission, officials are embarking on a quadrennial review of the state of U.S. media. The study, which is mandated by Congress, seeks to determine whether current rules should be changed to allow for a more vibrant media industry serving a diverse audience.

We have that.  Its called the Internet.  It emerged entirely free of government action (save some funding of some original infrastructure).  Go away.

  • ben

    I'm speechless. I simply can't believe how out of control the US government is. As if a $10 trillion deficit isn't big enough, they're looking for more work.

    In media.

    I think the US government may have become sufficiently detached from reality that it will take a bankruptcy or a crisis in public finances to force a correction. It happened in New Zealand in 1984 when government spending and regulation became badly out of control. The good news is that it produced a real correction in areas that matter, although a good deal of that has now been undone.

    Sad to see a great nation like the US being so woefully led. Go long on gold, folks.

  • DrTorch

    I thought they already did that: NPR, PBS.

  • ben

    The more I think about this idea, the more extraordinary it becomes. What is the logic that says it is pro-democratic to have the mass media funded by government, and presumably under implicit obligation to whoever is sitting in government to be "reasonable" and "fair" and "balanced" in their reporting, those words being defined by whoever is leading the government and according to their own circumstances on the day.

    What is the definition of US democracy being used by Waxman?

  • spiro

    @ben

    Beat me too it. That was the "soup bone" quote that stuck out to me too. Government control of the media is necessary to save the cause of democracy....um, ok?
    Do these guys even proofread anything before making a statement anymore? Has reason died?

  • Doug

    Such is doomed to failure and defeat. They will delude themselves into believing they will control the media and that belief will allow them to feel safe. They will be unable to follow anything new and will not understand when they are turned out of office.

  • roger the shrubber

    the relevant quote, one that would appeal greatly to a thug pol who learned his trade in chicago, is "generally, whoever pays for an institution controls it." either that, or maybe a ministry of truth quip from '1984'. would like to say that the net will be our saving grace, that they'll never be able to control that, but china - among others - has already proven that you *can*. helluva a deal for obama, BTW: essentially absolute press control for just a few billion bucks, which he's already shown is just tip money to him. controlling the media also gives them the ability to control the past, too: how long has it been since you've read in the media an article praising the founding fathers? ever notice how the anniversaries of muslim atrocities - the khobar tower bombing; the WTC '93 bombing; the moscow theater massacre; the beslan school massacre; the mumbai massacre.....just don't get mentioned?

    after awhile, it's as if those awkward massacres never happened. "eurasia has *always* been our peaceful religious friends."

  • Ken

    I don't care whether it's doomed to failure or not. What I care about is that I dropped the local daily fishwrap (the Cleveland Plain Dealer) because I was tired of paying money to people who sneer at just about everything I believe in. Now the State thinks it's going to MAKE me give them money?

    Yeah, this'll end well.

  • GregS

    @Ben: I am starting to think that a lot of Democrats believe in the theory of democracy that is practiced by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela: unlimited government power freed of any constitutional limits in the hands of a leader that sees himself as representing the voice of the ordinary people. In other words, a sort of populist elected dictatorship. The idea seems to be that all institutions, like the media, are supposed to serve "the people"; institutions that are in private hands serve the interests of their owners, not the people, so the body that is the voice of the people, the all-powerful leader, has to assume control over those institutions. Likewise any constitutional limits on government power are invalid because the only act to stop the government from implementing the will of the people.

    Substitute "Congress" for "leader" and I think this is a fair description of the way many American politicians (at least in the Democratic party) see the role of government.

  • GregS

    Even the hint that newspapers may be angling for some sort of government help is destroying their credibility. Every time I see how a major story (like the current "Climategate" scandal) is being almost completely ignored by the papers, I now think "are they ignoring it because they don't want to anger the people in government, because they're hoping for a bailout?" And I wonder what other important stories are being suppressed for the same reason.

    Really, what are they thinking? If the NYT or any other major paper starts relying on the government dole, why would anyone continue to read them, or trust anything they read in them? No one is going to believe anything they read in a newspaper that has decided to become the American Pravda.

  • Ken

    "Really, what are they thinking? If the NYT or any other major paper starts relying on the government dole, why would anyone continue to read them, or trust anything they read in them?"

    Well, Garfield is in there (okay, not in the NYT, but you take my meaning), and the ball scores.