If You Want To Encourage Free Press And Free Expression, Subsidize Broadband, Not Newspapers

from the enable,-not-protect dept

As we get ready to kick off our Techdirt Saves* Journalism event, it’s definitely been an interesting day on the “journalism” front. Earlier today, we wrote about Iceland’s decision to create a haven for free expression and press protections. And now techflaws.org alerts us to a column by Dan Gillmor, responding in part to the suggestions the FTC discussed yesterday at its workshop on saving journalism, which seemed to be a lot more about saving newspapers than saving journalism. Gillmor’s point: if you want to make sure journalism lasts, the response should be to subsidize more broadband, in terms of both speed and access, rather than subsidizing news organizations. Building on the history of the US, which included the decision to make postage for news mailings quite low to encourage their dissemination, Gillmor points out that enabling infrastructure, and then getting out of the way, is the best way to enable a strong and free press:

First, direct subsidies for journalism are the wrong way to go, even dangerous. But we absolutely could use the kind of indirect help — taxpayer-funded deployment of high-capacity, wide-open broadband networks — that would be an analogue to the early American postal subsidies, and then some. This would be essential infrastructure, aimed at beefing up all 21st Century commerce and communications, including but not limited to journalism.

Second, if we got serious about broadband in this way, entrepreneurs would almost certainly come up with the journalism, including a variety of business models to augment or replace today’s, that would provide the public good we all agree comes with journalism and other trustworthy information.

Gillmor then goes on, in great detail, about why this makes sense, in that it actually promotes a lot more competition and opportunities for journalism to thrive, rather than just trying to prop up the old system of journalism. There are, of course, other issues with subsidizing broadband, but if the focus is on journalism, encouraging widespread access to information and the ability for others to create information definitely does seem like an area worth exploring.

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Comments on “If You Want To Encourage Free Press And Free Expression, Subsidize Broadband, Not Newspapers”

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Anonymous Coward says:

“If You Want To Encourage Free Press And Free Expression, Subsidize Broadband, Not Newspapers”

I completely agree, I would much rather tax dollars be spent on subsidizing broadband than an obsolete business model involving paper with very slow information transportation speeds leading to constantly outdated information and a very limited amount of information per newspaper (since newspapers have to worry about saving paper), not to mention a business model that wastes trees and is terribly cost inefficient in comparison (ie: you must pay for labor to constantly hand out newspapers). Not that I necessarily favor government subsidies, what I favor more is for the government not to grant monopolies on the use of existing infrastructure and on the ability to build new infrastructure so that newcomers can enter the broadband market. But the U.S. government is a joke anyways.

Anonymous Coward says:

sorry, this is a fail, because you are once again making the mistake of confusing the medium with the content. a broadband connection to nothing gives you nothing, higher speed broadband gives you the same nothing, and widely available broadband still nothing.

well, not really. what it does get you is millions of people tweeting “i found a parking spot” and “baby just burped”. making broadband widely available doesnt save journalism, if anything it brings up the noise level to the point of drowning it out.

so far, the only part of journalism techdirt appears to be saving is the self-justification part.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

TAM, about the only noise I see is you wasting time rambling about nothing.

and since when did you get to define what constitutes journalism? The stuff discussed on Techdirt better informs us about the world than the censored nonsense we get from newspapers and television. Outside the Internet who reports on the “journalists” and their misbehaviors (ie: the lobbying efforts of the newspaper and MSM industry to distort the free market)? No one. At least on the Internet journalists can criticize “journalists” and write about their misbehavior. If true journalism outside the Internet existed copy restriction laws wouldn’t last 95 years because these “journalists” would be sure to stand up for the public interest and inform the public about these nefarious laws. But they are part of the problem not part of the solution and so the public outside the Internet is intentionally kept ignorant about the many monopolistic laws that serve the common detriment.

Technopolitical (profile) says:

Re: Re: Still doesn't make you less of a liar.//// Not Newspapers"

Again “A” ,, i am calling you out on the liar charge.

Show me where and when ,I have lied in my posts.

( As I have stated , lying is against my religion — forbidden by Jewish law VERY clearly– [but to save life , or spare feelings]

( I have updated my profile here , to help you and others , find all the “dirt” on me you want.)

MikeC (profile) says:

Subsidize the Infrastructure is correct...

Example — interstate highways.. we didn’t have to subsidize suburbs, cars, truck companies, overnight delivery, vacation travel, and on and on and on… all we had to do was build a killer highway system and infrastructure. The rest took care of itself. Broadband is the same way, make hi-bandwidth hookups (I am talking 100mbs and higher) available to everyone with massive backbones and the rest will take care of itself. Very simple and supportable by dozens of examples.

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