Rupert Murdoch, the Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corp., believes that U.S. government bailout funding or for the distressed newspaper industry would be a detriment to freedom of speech.
“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,” Murdoch wrote in comments in an opinion piece posted to the website of the News Corp.-owned Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.
Murdoch said government funds for journalists or giving newspapers nonprofit status – in exchange for giving up the right to endorse political candidates was as alarming as overregulation of the media industry.
“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.”
Murdoch was a participant in a Federal Trade Commission workshop on December 1 which dealt with the survival of journalism as the Internet gains popularity.
FTC Chairman Jon Leibovitz, in prepared remarks for the workshop, noted that citizens in the U.S. and in other democracies “have never paid subscription fees that cover all the costs” of producing news.
He said that the federal government has previously supported journalism through postal subsidies and requirements to publish legal notices.
With the Internet making copying news so much easier, consumer may “free ride” by not paying the full value of what they consume, he said.
“[It] means that sellers will have trouble getting paid enough to keep them producing what consumers value. That’s precisely the problem facing news organizations today,” he said.
Leibovitz said there would be additional workshops scheduled to consider various policy proposals such as a “special tax or antitrust treatment for news gathering organizations, changes in copyright law or cross ownership restrictions, or government subsidies (as exist for public radio and public broadcasting).”