News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch declares that government funding is a bigger threat to newspapers than new technologies such as the Internet.
In an opinion piece published in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, Murdoch acknowledges that print journalism has fallen on hard times and much of the blame has been placed on electronic news sources.
“My message is just the opposite,” he writes. “The future of journalism is more promising than ever — limited only by editors and producers unwilling to fight for their readers and viewers, or government using its heavy hand either to overregulate or subsidize us...
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“In my view, the growing drumbeat for government assistance for newspapers is as alarming as overregulation.”
Murdoch notes that some favor providing taxpayer funds for journalists, or giving newspapers nonprofit status — “in exchange, of course, for papers giving up their right to endorse political candidates.
“The most damning problem with government ‘help’ is what we saw with the bailout of the U.S. auto industry: Help props up those who are producing things that customers do not want.”
In his Journal article, adapted from his Dec. 1 remarks before the Federal Trade Commission’s workshop on journalism and the Internet, Murdoch observes:
“The prospect of the U.S. government becoming directly involved in commercial journalism ought to be chilling for anyone who cares about freedom of speech. The Founding Fathers knew that the key to independence was to allow enterprises to prosper and serve as a counterweight to government power. It is precisely because newspapers make profits and do not depend on the government for their livelihood that they have the resources and wherewithal to hold the government accountable.”
Those Founding Fathers built a new nation on the “sturdy foundation” of a free and informed citizenry, which requires news that is independent from government, Murdoch writes, adding:
“Whether the newspaper of the future is delivered with electrons or dead trees is ultimately not that important. What is most important is that the news industry remains free, independent — and competitive.”
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