A Public Press? Evaluating the Viability of Government Subsidies for the Newspaper Industry
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A Public Press? Evaluating the Viability of Government Subsidies for the Newspaper Industry

  • Author(s): Greenberg, Brad A.
  • et al.
Abstract

Despite the availability of information from online news

organizations and new media outlets, newspapers remain the primary

contributor of new content to the marketplace of information and

ideas-integral in setting the agenda for public discourse, connecting

readers with their communities, reducing the costs of citizen oversight

on elected officials, and producing investigative and local news

reports. But newspaper economics have sparked massive reductions in

editorial operations and threaten the press's role in American democratic

society. The strong public interest in preserving the newspaper

industry should compel Congress to stabilize the press.

 

Journalists, politicians, and legal scholars have discussed many

possible solutions. This Comment evaluates the practical and constitutional

questions raised by two potential public subsidy programsdirect

government funding and indirect support by facilitating

newspaper conversion to nonprofit status-and whether such programs

could be administered without jeopardizing the Fourth Estate's

independence. This Comment argues that direct subsidies, though they

could be tailored to survive constitutional challenge and to protect

editorial independence, cannot deliver a feasible long-term solution.

Indirect subsidies likely would only be available to newspapers

following an amendment to the U.S. tax code and even then would

provide limited benefit to qualiying newspapers until they have developed

a fundraising base. Yet, this Comment concludes that subsidies

could stabilize the press practically if Congress combined direct

funding and tax-based incentives into a hybrid similar to that utilized

by public radio.

 

 

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