Ideas to save traditional journalism organizations like government subsidies, coupled with existing “arbitrary and contradictory regulations that actually prevent people from investing in these businesses” are part of the industry’s problem, according to News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch, who spoke today at an FTC workshop.
News Corp. Chairman-CEO Rupert Murdoch said today that if the government wants to insure the survival of newspapers and other journalistic organizations, the best thing it can do is simply get out of the way.
Speaking at the Federal Trade Commission’s two-day workshop on the troubles traditional journalism is facing in the digital age, Murdoch called for the end of “arbitrary and contradictory regulations that actually prevent people from investing in these businesses” and he blasted the idea of government subsidies for journalists.
Murdoch targeted the FCC’s newspaper-broadcast crossownership rule as an example of “outdated thinking.” The rule bars a single owner like Murdoch from owning a newspaper and broadcast station in the same market.
“If you’re a newspaper today, your competition is not necessarily the TV station in the same city. It could be a Web site on the other side of the world or even an icon on someone’s cell phone.
“Just as business is adapting to new realities, government needs to adapt too. In this new and globally competitive news world, restricting crossownership between television and newspapers makes as little sense as banning newspapers from having Web sites.”
Just as alarming is the idea of government funding of newspapers or giving newspapers nonprofit status in exchange for their agreeing not to endorse political candidates, he said.
Such government involvement tends to prop up businesses that the public does not want. “In other words, it subsidizes the failures and penalizes the successes.”
It also strikes at the heart of the First Amendment, he said. “The prospect of the U.S. government becoming directly involved in commercial journalism ought to be chilling to anyone who cares about freedom of speech.”
The founding fathers knew that a “free and independent press” was vital to a democracy, Murdoch said. “They also knew that the key to independence was allowing 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. This also builds readers’ trust and confidence.”
The press is the only institution that “truly holds accountable” government officials and corporate executives, he said. “They know it and they fear it.”