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Should the Federal Government Fund Journalism?

(Photo by Robin Holland)

This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with FCC Commissioner Michael Copps about his perspective on net neutrality and the future of journalism in the digital age.

Copps, who believes that the government should play a role in regulating and promoting Internet access, suggested that government also has a role to play in funding and encouraging investigative journalism. He said:

"I think newspapers are going to survive, and I think broadcast is going to come back. What I'm not convinced of is that newspapers in their new survival mode are going to be able, unaided, to support the kind of in-depth journalism that we need to have, and get those reporters back. I think they can get by with that slimmed down newsroom, or the closed-down newsroom. That doesn't help the country very much though... We're talking about educating a country and keeping a country informed. I think at some point we have to get off the defensive and start talking about public support for public media. In the United States, we spend $1.35 per capita per annum supporting public media - public broadcasting, public radio. Lots of other countries are spending $50, $75, $100 or more, and you kind of get what you pay for. It's not interfering with the democracy of Denmark or Finland or Great Britain or places like that... The news has gone down the drain, investigative journalism is on the endangered list, [so] maybe there's an argument to be made for doing a little bit more."

Recent polling from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism suggests that many in the industry have reservations about accepting government funding:

"As they look forward, news executives have concerns about some of the funding ideas being discussed for journalism... [There was] overarching concern about accepting government money. 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. And about half (46%) have that level of concern over tax credits for news organizations... Even in these dire economic times, only 19% would welcome such funding... 'If the government becomes the 'money bags' for journalism, journalism will become the ''bag man'' for the government,' wrote a member of [Radio Television Digital News Association]. 'This would be an assault to the first amendment of the constitution.' 'We must keep our independence or perception of independence and accepting government subsidies ties you to the government we are meant to watch,' explained an [American Society of News Editors] member, 'The lines become too blurred if we begin taking donations and subsidies. Even if we remain aggressive in coverage why would readers believe we are independent?'"

What do you think?

  • Should the government fund journalism? Why or why not?

  • Do you trust government-funded journalism to remain independent? Explain.

  • Do you believe that government funding has affected the independence of state-funded news outlets like the BBC?


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    Comments

    What is the "American Dream"? The "American Dream" is defined in the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. It is a document which defines the law which is your freedom free from tyranny from a colonial King or a corporations lobby for favorable legislation, or a court ruling.
    When we become apathetic and don't vote we lose the "American Dream". Democracy or the realistic model Representative Democracy requires participation. This lack of defense of "American Dream" could result in the "American Nightmare" if we repeat history as what happened to the Romans and end up with an Emperor.

    DewBoy: A decent person would not accept these intolerable conditions, as you seem to. You are a milquetoast if you decline vinegared cucumber with your deli Reuben. (I relish sandwich stackers as I am a vegetarian of 40+ years.) If you met me you would not see a sunnier or more hopeful individual. Today I spent my day repairing the bathroom of an elderly friend and picking up a non-ambulatory patient at the hospital. My days are composed of non-compensated good deeds. It is a fact that I have worked solidly my entire adult life, mostly as a volunteer, and have not yet earned $300,000.00 gross in 40+ years. I am charming enough to have been a con artist, but repress these gifts until a worthy opportunity arises. I have curbed several heinous acts of injustice with low income community help and even secured the founding of 2 state parks. At present I advocate for a national network of pedestrian and bike trails (freedom of movement), the right of the taxpayer to designate the specific use of his/her contribution and the immediate devolution of corporate personhood. My artwork, my crafts, my trades and my editorial and creative writing are all dedicated entirely to these and related causes. I rise in the morning at 6:45 ready to labor and go as long as I'm able 7 days a week despite an auto-immune condition that is destroying my joints and my guts. I enter a world poisoned to me (by humanly created chemicals)each day thanking the universe for each minute of life. If you cannot say the same or equivalent I suggest you are the one who craves a dank cylindrical organic dill down your throat: not that there's anything wrong with it: but that's what the Oligarchy holds in store for advocates of halfway measures.

    Captcha: pompton Dayan: Of course moderators I recall General Moshe's one-eyed portrait in Life magazine. They made him the idol of many 13 year old Boy Scouts. So be prepared there at WNET....

    Jack Martin, take the sour pickle out of your mouth and go soak your head. 23 comments is nothing to sneeze at in this discouraged world. Moyers' leaving is the latest in a lengthening list of sad television moments in our society. We have no choice but to accept them, and watch television even less. You wouldn't notice though because you are not a decent person.

    After a week, 23 comments! That silence says it all. Of the 23 some are spammed ads and at least 3 belong to myself and David. Moyers is bogeying out of the public mind like Tiger Woods at Quail Hollow. Maybe in several decades Obama's press secretary Robert Gibbs could be another Bill Moyers; several decades too late. It's not Repubs and Dems anymore than it is Cowboys and Indians (Redskins?) David F. Oligarchic butler Obama calls for the Master's slippers, calls for the Elite's oil drilling, and the wealthy speculator's public insured nuclear plants. He calls Corporate Capitalism as above human survival, just as Mitt Romney or Bobby Jindal would. Moyers fellow lay theologian Chris Hedges will tell you how rhetoric surrounding the Gulf Spill sounds similar to a World Wrestling Federation script. Moyers once told Terry Gross (Fresh Air interview) that the public needs to know if the guard dog is licking the leg of the burglar, and this from an old hound with a history of loving up Johnson's britches. Comes a rolled up newspaper and Bill learnt better; he's tried to apologize ever since. Maybe David F. can never know the things he don't know, just as Rumsfeld described. Let's get outside our integument; shed our indoctrinal skins; and experience the elements. I want windmills on Cape Cod, like day before yesterday!

    I’d like to retract my earlier comment. I spoke way too soon, so I apologize for my outburst. Can I get my crow well done, please, and maybe with some cranberries?

    "Government" is the people. I would like to have a government (tax payer) supported station as one of many selections. It would be refreshing to get programing with no commercials. Wouldn't it be more like PBS than NBC? It's an interesting idea worth a lot of discussion.

    Government funded journalism is a double edged sword.
    Should the government fund journalism? Yes. It is fraught with danger due to the possible and likely abuse through propaganda but no one can argue that the American people are woefully uneducated in regard to the reality on the ground of the US government and its foriegn and domestic policies. I have often thought of how much good unbiased information can help the American people and democracy. But just as other posters have pointed out we have the FCC who fails the people and democracy at so many turns. Can we expect better from government supported journalism? Probably not. We in America seem to work counter to what so many other countries have gotten if not right, well.
    I trust many in government to supply unbiased information to the people. But the problem lies in those who appoint those people in government that would supply the information. We've seen 8 years of really bad appointments to government posts that have reeked havoc to the environment, civil rights, foriegn policy and the economy. Without strong oversight the information will be tainted if not full blown propaganda.
    I absolutely believe that state funding affects the independence of state funded news outlets. For good and for bad. And unfortunately this will always happen. Regardless of who does the funding. I just believe that state funded news organizaions will provide better news that privately funded news orgs. At least state funded news will have oversight and accountability. It is possible to have both types produce unbiased news but it is more likely to have truer state funded news.
    I would support more state funded journalism in America. I still have issue with some of the programs that are aired on public broadcasting but they do not compare to outlets like Fox news.

    Where's the liberal tv media? I haven't heard one "Spill, Baby, Spill" yet. I don't watch as many shows as I used to, so I might have missed the one, but now would be the perfect time to rub Princess Palin's nose in this, and the liberal journalists should be telling us this over and over. Next they'll probably give nuclear energy a free pass. Oh wait, they did that a couple months ago. What a bunch of hucksters. Oh well, I guess I better get back to playing with my baseball card collection.

    There needs to be a separate Internet without advertising and pornography, amusement gaming, gambling or self-promotion devoted entirely to public education and citizen expression.

    I find the current Internet polluted, censored by glut and distraction, and dominated by corporate sensibilities.

    But I guess we'll never see a better Net. It's just like a' la carte pricing on Cable, Medicare for all, or consumer protection; all contradictory to our economic religion: hierarchical sado-capitalism.

    I will reinterate my manifesto of suggested substantive changes after the Last Moyers Picture Show.

    ☼ Oops, but I didn't directly answer your Query! Yes, We could fund Journalism, but the problem is Who will "Capture" the Agency! ...We know that under Powell, even CPB wasn't safe, and so the Media's slide to the Right & the Corporate Agenda in the last 30 years is unbelievable! So, we could elect the 'Board of Overseers', but we have seen how well the present 'Overseers' have twisted our elections! ...Yes, ...Black is White ...War is Peace ...Profits Before People ...or the Environment ...and, This Millionaire has the Worker's best interests in mind!
    So Again, Perceptions are the Key! ◄:)
    ☼ The Open Internet as Commons is our Collective Soapbox, where we all have the possibility of voicing our opinions ...Just Like Here! ...It's Democracy at Work! ...It's our town hall meetings, where we can all be the town crier ...But, Who holds the reins of the thoughts & ideas which formulated our Opinions ...Who has Guided our Perceptions? ...Or, should I say Misperceptions! ◄:)
    ☼ But, why should I speak, since I know Nothing! ◄:)

    ☼ You kept dancing around the Real reason that net neutrality is necessary ...the corporate media distracting people, and waging disinformation campaigns ...the need for the internet to be part of our collective Commons, rather than just another megaphone for Big Money & their Agenda Partners! ◄:)
    ☼ I wish you would consider doing an update of "The Secret Government", but this time focus on the corporate control of the media, and government, with a focus on how our perceptions are twisted & distorted by the talking heads, and those who Own them! [You could call it: The Secret Government, & The "Doors of Perception"! ...or, maybe "Revolving Doors of Perception"!] ◄:)
    ☼ But, Truly Bill, You are one of my Heroes, and I sincerely hope you continue to "Follow Your Bliss" ... Wherever It May Lead! ....Thank You for your Service! ◄:)

    "BBC is a British Government supported and broadcast in the US for free. It covers the world more broadly than any US network.

    How many of the US networks broadcast around the world ?

    If they did, the world would instantly recognize them for what they are - a propoganda tool for the private US industry - plain and simple."

    Right on!

    Hit the service providers in the pocket . I agree with our Canadian friend.

    They need our money to run their empires ..without us they are NOTHING.

    I think we will keep our internet free from Coporate control .

    Government funding only if the government is NOT CONTROLLING program content by bought off political bureaucrats.

    If the crooked politicians can control what we see and hear then we are no better off than the Soviet Union or any other dictatorship censoring news and spewing propaganda to further unjust wars and evils against the people.

    My take on this is really very simple. Should the internet servers be given given control over the intern , then maybe we as consumers should simply demand that we disconnect.

    I say hit them in the wallet, when they can nolonger collect revenue from us , they will soon understand that without our dime, they will fall.

    Just the cost of having to sent our a service person to disconnect, will drive them all into the ground.

    I say hands off the internet or they can take their information highway and shove it.

    Companies who are in business building computers, modems and services the equiptment for we consumers will also see their stockholders suffer.

    Remember this, without us / consumers they are nothing.

    Someone should start a movement on the internet, while we have it to cut this clowns down to size.
    It is our money that keeps them in business and without our dime they are dead in the water.

    Wayne Coady Cole Harbour Nova Scotia Canada .

    I attended the 2 big National Media Conferences where both Bill and Chair Capps spoke..Thanks for the inspiration..I do what I can in Oklahoma to tell people about net neutrality and the group "Media Matters"(they send out alerts about actions I can take.I approve taxes for media support..Real journalists have to eat and and make house payments too. Miss you Bill xxxxxxxxxooooooooooo

    we will miss you bill! your one of my most favorite people ever! best wishes...........hocksion

    I missed the previous broadcast but did catch the one on April 23rd and learned about Bill Moyers' retirement.

    I was very saddened to hear this. Mr. Moyers is one of the extremely few journalists that actually serves the public's interests and one of the extremely few that I respect.

    The loss to the news media is great. If you do not believe this, just watch some of the network "news".

    I only hope that PBS will put in place another news program that meets Mr. Moyers' high standards.

    Bill, if you're reading this, thanks for all of the informative programs and my best wishes.

    Now that Bill has spent a year lamenting over the symptoms of the "culture of corruption" he continues to leave us with no real remedy as Prof. Black summarized by stating federal employees will not prosecute each other. That suggests we have a country where wrongs have no remedy which is antithetical to our framer's caveat of judges sitting only "in good behavior". At bottom, if federal judges refuse to let the agrieved bring their casegs to civil courts [when the coconspirators refuse to prosecute their croneys in criminal courts], we have an option that Republicans ironically use as a battle cry but never employ; that of impeachment. Since Democrats are seen as weak socialists by the new arm of the GOP [i.e. guised as "Tea Party"] it would seem only logical that if Dems don't agree to go after judges then they are complicit in the corruption. They cannot have it both ways. When they pick up the banner of disaffected Reps, they might just counter their "Soutnern Strategy" of racism and general blue-collar milieu that is rumbling and might soon shake the foundations as did the Brown Shirts in you--know-where just 70 years ago. The height of Orwellian irony here is that the neo Tea drinkers are portraying Obama as Hitler and once again beating the spineless Dems to the reality that could be theirs.

    Excellent interview - trenchant, timely, and troubling, considering how the preceding interview proved that our government is in cahoots with, if not thrall of, concentrated corporate power. Regarding the recent Supreme Court decision affecting the internet, Mr. Copps mentions what Susan Crawford describes in the NYTimes (4-10-10): "The FCC ... can regain its authority to pursue both network neutrality and widespread access to broadband by formally relabeling Internet access services as “telecommunications services,” rather than “information services,” as they are called now." . Once this is accomplished however, again as the previous discussion with William Black cautions, we the people must demand that our representatives do their duty for the public interest, not their corporate funders.

    It was good to see Mr. Copps again, and revisit the hearings when people spoke out at what they knew to be wrong with our 'information highway.' These things haven't changed under the new administration. If they had, we would not presently have the dearth of education of both our government and the people that exists in this country today.

    PBS used to be much more public funded, government funded, than it is today. Extract corporate funding, take from the military budget and give to programs that emulate Mr. Moyers - get corporate logos off, downsize corporations so that corporate ownership doesn't mean what it means today - then we'll start to have the country we used to have, where citizens can make good choices because they are provided the facts.

    And even in a kleptocracy, I would rather see the money spent on the media than on bombs. If Mr. Copps can manage to maintain the internet highway, we will do the rest, even free of charge.

    We citizens, provided with 'net neutrality' will do our best to keep the public alert and questioning. Of course, the corporations in charge don't want that.

    Caveat emptor.

    Speaking of telecommunications/information:

    Comcast, the cable TV provider, is heavily into promoting its provision of full info flow. From TV, they have moved to broadband and telephone.

    A couple years ago, Comcast inexplicably removed c-span2 from my package. After leaving the channel blank for over a year, they finally filled in an iteration of Home Shopping.

    That removed not only coverage of US Senate and related public affairs, but of BookTV, a public interest program of current thought. Guess which election this preceded?

    I refused to upgrade to a package which includes c-span2 (let alone c-span3), but find it hard to replace it with streaming internet - I'm just not well set up for it.

    At the time, I protested to everybody I could think of. Received no expressions of concern, or interest, or condolence.... (Not even from you, Bill.)

    Sorry for the tangential nature of this comment, but it seems like yet another tumbleweed blowing before the winds you are covering tonight.

    Happy trails to you.

    BBC is a British Government supported and broadcast in the US for free. It covers the world more broadly than any US network.

    How many of the US networks broadcast around the world ?

    If they did, the world would instantly recognize them for what they are - a propoganda tool for the private US industry - plain and simple.

    Mr. Copps ends his interview with the words, "the future is now".
    Unfortunately for us and the internet, "the future is not what it used to be".

    RE Mant opined, "...but because we were living beyond our means and it will and must deflate, which means that people will lose the property they don't really deserve."

    Yeah, Made-off still sold his NYC penthouse for quite a few schekles.

    As often as WE have all heard "lose the property they don't really deserve"

    who is UNDESERVING

    has never been established by "we"...

    so do tell, REMANT,

    who did "we" decide was the "they"...?

    The house flippers?

    Single women?

    Illegal aliens?

    Fourth and fifth generation USA born and bred citizens...?

    Making it a SWEEPING list - how about no one deserves to call any piece of this planet "home" and care for it...

    Just so you KNOW, REMANT,

    In the OLD country in my "culture",

    The VALUES transmitted form one generation to the next was this:

    Where your umbilical cord is buried, that LAND is yours to cherish, nurture and protect.

    You NEED to shut up, Dude.

    As I wrote with respect to the segment on mortgage fraud, the problem here as well is fundamentally either the failure or the deliberate intention to see that when productivity increases, so does socialism (to put it bluntly). It isn't really that we have to have to consider the Internet telecommunications, but we do have to keep it from being monopolized and the major factor in creating monopolies is an excess amount of money, ie, credit, which in the end is only possible because of the bank creation of it. Were it made to come from the savings of labor, this would hardly be possible, even with all the derivative opacity in the world, or govt bailouts, it couldn't get very far. We have a "Great Recession" not because there were some gremlins in the machinery, but because we were living beyond our means and it will and must deflate, which means that people will lose the property they don't really deserve. This is nasty and in many cases unfair, but it cannot be helped and must in future be prevented by controlling credit. Likewise, it will not be helped by increasing taxes or making something public, which is not yet in itself public, that only makes it state-owned and operated. If you want freedom you must let people make it so, indeed as Bill, himself, suggested at the end of the program.

    The answer is no. As long as government is controlled by a corporate oligarchy, government funding of journalism would be no more than a way to spread corporatized government propaganda. The media is already too close to the government. That's why newspapers and broadcast journalism are failing. They were cheerleaders for the wars we're involved in and they are cheerleaders for the corporate oligarchy now. The internet is the only place where people can find opinion that is not heavily influenced by government. It must be kept free at the most basic level. It's proven by the fact that you are interviewing a government official here, on what the government should be doing. What government does should be decided by the people and their representatives, not government bureaucrats.

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