What happens when the Fourth Estate becomes a subsidiary of Big Government?
posted at 2:20 pm on December 1, 2008 by Ed Morrissey
The national media likes to fashion itself as a bulwark against the power of government, with the power of free speech to reveal the truth and keep our governing class honest. However, what happens when the government takes an ownership stake in the Fourth Estate? Michelle notes that we may soon find out:
Seven legislators from the area served by The Bristol Press and The Herald in New Britain today wrote to the state Department of Economic and Community Development to ask for its help in preventing the closure of the newspapers.
We’ll have more on this breaking news later, but for now, here’s the letter.
It’s also encouraging today to see that Jim Romenesko’s daily email roundup of media news for the Poynter Institute, which the whole industry reads, featured at the top of its list the story about Gov. Jodi Rell and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s willingness to lend a hand to the effort to save the papers. At the very least, it’s better to go down shouting than to slip quietly into the night.
Is it really? Newspapers might think so, but what happens when they give government — at the state and/or federal level — ownership in their companies? The “independent” media will suddenly lose a great deal of credibility.
That’s true even by them requesting the bailout. For instance, do readers of the Bristol Press and The Herald think that the newspapers will dare criticize Rell and Blumenthal while this request sits on their desks? And if Rell and Blumenthal do bail them out, can readers be sure that the new “owners” won’t have some conditions on their largesse?
Government shouldn’t be taking ownership stakes in any private enterprise, but even more so in the media. We need a strong, independent national media to inform the citizenry of the abuses of power that occur in government at all levels. That won’t be possible when the government owns the presses, or at the very least has a great deal of financial leverage over the media outlets and their owners.
No bailouts, especially for newspapers and other media outlets. Let them fail, and let new entrepeneurs enter the market with business models that work. In this case, we may not just be subsidizing failure, but creating propaganda outlets for the governing class. Conspiracy theorists like to rail on about “corporate media”, but government-subsidized media is an actual threat to democracy.