Government-Owned Newspapers? I Don’t Think So

Strange things are afoot at the FTC, ladies and gents. Very strange indeed.

First, on Monday the FTC announced that Bloggers, Facebook posters, and Twitterers will be at risk of an $11,000 fine if they endorse a consumer product and fail to disclose compensation—including receiving free samples for review.

And, today, the FTC took things even further by announcing they are planning public hearings designed to figure out how to bail out dying newspapers, including: tax breaks for news organizations, changing copyright law, and “greater public funding of public affairs news.”

The meetings, to be held in December, will seek to assess the “fundamental financial challenges to many news organizations” and how to address them using government policy. Here’s what the FTC will be considering:

– “Proposals for new tax treatment for news organizations”

– “Proposals for changes in copyright law and doctrine, including the ‘fair use’ of news stories”

– “Proposals for an antitrust exemption applied to certain conduct of news organizations”

– “Proposals for greater public funding of public affairs news.”

I don’t understand the logic in government bail outs of newspapers. I really don’t.

The original idea of newspapers was to have an independent watchdog. If newspapers are beholden to the government, how will we-the-people ever see legitimate reporting of government policy and spending? It just makes no sense at all.

Similarly, the fact is times have changed. The marketplace is simply not what it once was … and the Internet is only partially responsible for this. Cable news was the first to sound the death knell to traditional print news and from there emerging trends and technology changed the landscape.

Now, I understand we are talking about people’s jobs here. I do get that. But, as I’ve said before, this is the cost of innovation. To quote a previous blog post of mine, “automakers put wagon-wheel makers out of work and undertakers probably took a hit with the advent of pennecillin, that doesn’t mean these advancements were bad.”

The ambiguity of these new FTC rules has already created many questions about whether or not Blogs would be eligible for a new tax treatment? After all, blogs like Gawker Media are news organizations. And, what abut TMZ? They break news every day as does Tech Crunch and Talking Points Memo and even my little blog here has afforded me the chance to get the jump on a news story. Do we all get tax breaks and public funding?

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