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.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.
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.