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Posted at 1:11 PM ET, 02/ 4/2011

The case for government-funded journalism

By Derek Thompson

What should we call dumb news stories that inspire smart debates? Sarah Palin's "death panel" comment was self-refudiating, but it galvanized a fruitful discussion about rationing Medicare spending and end-of-life choices. Rep. Joe Wilson's "you lie" outburst was a silly break in decorum, but it inspired some intelligent takes on the responsibility of government to undocumented immigrants.

You could say the same about the GOP's effort to punish NPR for firing Juan Williams by cutting funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. On the one hand, this is political theater, and it's not a terribly precise performance, at that. (The CPB doesn't directly support NPR. Instead, it funds between 10 and 16 percent of public radio stations that pay NPR for programming.)

On the other hand, maybe we should take this debate seriously. Does it make sense for government to support the news? I lean toward saying yes.

Your first objection might be: Derek, you can't trust government-supported journalism to critically cover government. My answer would be, maybe you can't. But everybody else seems to. Publicly supported media like the BBC, PBS and NPR are more trusted than "independent" news like Fox or MSNBC. If we think publicly supported news is discredited by its relationship to government, we seem to consider privately supported news even more discredited by the race to the bottom to attract an audience for its ads.

Okay, you respond, but that's a cheap response. Capitalism has to allow for winners and losers. We don't bail out florists or hot dog vendors who go bankrupt. What's so special about the news?

Well, news isn't like flowers or sausages. It's more like universities and research, which are publicly supported without much controversy because they're seen as offering wide benefits that cannot be captured in profit. As my friend Conor Clarke put it, "the government can and should close the gap between the individual value and the social value." Articles about cars and celebrities regularly attract more attention with less effort than articles about foreign affairs and public policy. I'm sure Nick Denton could make a compelling argument that each individual viewer is 100% justified in preferring to read about McLarens than Medicare. But is society better off if each individual viewer makes that choice?

It's becoming clear that somebody has to close the gap between the great need and small demand for in-depth reporting. Maybe it's a foundation, maybe it's one rich guy, and maybe it's the government. All of three benefactors could theoretically compromise news-gathering, but I don't see any hard proof that one is so much worse than the others. Convince me otherwise?

Derek Thompson is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, business, and technology.

By Derek Thompson  | February 4, 2011; 1:11 PM ET
 
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Comments

would government funded journalism catch typos like "you life"?

Hmmmmm.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 4, 2011 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I don't care how "trusted" biased news sources are. But it's nice to see independent "journalists" lying down to become the apparatchik of the state propaganda ministry.

Excellent use of the First Amendment, that.

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | February 4, 2011 1:41 PM | Report abuse

"If we think publicly supported news is discredited by its relationship to government, we seem to consider privately supported news even more discredited by the race to the bottom to attract an audience for its ads."

This could be expanded. If the worry is that journalists' reporting will be influenced by the demands of their sponsors, then that worry easily translates into the private press. People who think that the government can unduly influence coverage in its favor from funding sources should also feel that way about GE and NBC/MSNBC or about Kaplan and the Washington Post, about Fox News and Newscorp as well. [The other day I was watching a local Fox affiliate which ran a spot on the new Wall Street Journal subscription app for the iPad which was nothing more than a free ad for the Murdoch empire.]

Fear over sponsorship shouldn't lead us to favoring either a public only or a private only system, but one with outlets from both.

Posted by: y2josh_us | February 4, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I prefer to keep gvmt out of the news.

However, the flip side is that I also prefer to have some kind of legal assurance that big business does not dominate the news.

I also believe it should be easier to sue networks or journalists for intentional and egregious falsehoods or libel or slander.

Also, there should be ethics laws in place about whether or not journalists have to disclose (e.g. on air) whether they support (money) certain political candidates or parties. In fact, journalists should be required to say who they vote for.

AND no on-air show should be able to call itself a NEWS show if a certain percentage of the show is opinion based or funded by any political party or group affiliated with political agendas or group/company that does business with the gvmt. It's called truth in labeling.

AND journalists should be banned from any party hosted by the gvmt.

AND the White House press pool should be comprised of people randomly selected (perhaps one a month) via a lottery from all practicing journalists across the country instead of always letting the big millionaire journalists having permanent seats.

Furthermore, all political ads on TV and radio and internet should be heavily taxed, and in a progressive manner such that millionaires pay far more to have an ad than a poor joe with little money.

Just some examples.

Posted by: lauren2010 | February 4, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

The fear of a propaganda outlet for the government is a legitimate one, and many countries face just that problem. We, however, don't. NPR is miles better in both the content quality and style than any of the TV networks. The BBC is a valuable source of real news that's not hyped up fluff designed to snag short-attentioned viewers.

Posted by: MosBen | February 4, 2011 2:27 PM | Report abuse

"Sarah Palin's "death panel" comment was self-refudiating, but it galvanized a fruitful discussion about rationing Medicare spending and end-of-life choices."

On what planet have you been living??

Posted by: AZProgressive | February 4, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Could we please stop with the Derek Thompson articles?

That's two of out three that were simply absurd in two days. To argue in this day and age of information transfer that EXCEEDS the speed in which news organizations work, it is simply ridiculous to think that government has to support the news.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 4, 2011 3:05 PM | Report abuse

"That's two of out three that were simply absurd in two days. To argue in this day and age of information transfer that EXCEEDS the speed in which news organizations work, it is simply ridiculous to think that government has to support the news."

There are two ways of counter arguing. First: just because it doesn't have to, doesn't mean it shouldn't.

Second: what do you mean it doesn't have to?

On the first: there are various grounds for supporting a publicly sponsored news organization even with a multitude of private sponsored organizations. First, there may be need to counter those very organizations, since the incentives they face in covering the news may not lead to quality coverage. This could happen either through the downplaying or failure to show stories harmful to their corporate sponsors (the same fear people allege to have vis a vis a governmental news organization and the government) or because market pressures force them to continually water down their product, leading a crucial public service undone.

The second argument largely, or at least seems to right now, depend on the answer to the subcomponents of the first. Is corporate-based news so corrupted? Does it lead to substandard products? Does it ill serve the public good? If the answer to one or all of those questions is yes, then the "have to" is directly challenged.

Posted by: y2josh_us | February 4, 2011 3:29 PM | Report abuse

And the fact remains that NPR (and PRI and the other content producers) produces a good product. The news is better than any of the major news networks, and the style of presentation is not geared towards hyping non-stories or instilling fear in the consumer.

Posted by: MosBen | February 4, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

lauren:

You may not be a jihadist, but you sure know how to throw bombs! LOL

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 4, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

--*Articles about cars and celebrities regularly attract more attention with less effort than articles about foreign affairs and public policy.*--

In other words, you want to be able to continue to write your cheap propaganda, even if no one is willing to pay for it.

Posted by: msoja | February 4, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

y2josh wrote:

"On the first: there are various grounds for supporting a publicly sponsored news organization even with a multitude of private sponsored organizations. First, there may be need to counter those very organizations, since the incentives they face in covering the news may not lead to quality coverage."

No there really aren't. That's one of things the First Amendment was about, the free interplay of information. "Quality coverage" is a nebulous term meaning your views are prominently displayed and the other guys' not so much. (note I'm not accusing you of being on the right or left)

If you or I get suckered into believing anything Glenn Beck says, it's because we're jugheads who aren't interested in the facts, which are easily available online. Someone like that would never watch government supported news.

Here's a piece I wrote for another blog that applies directly to this post:

"I was watching Hannity last night.

He had Michelle Malkin on, and though I have heard the name before, I knew nothing about her.

She crticized Obama, which I later learned is her bread and butter, and then he asked her what we SHOULD be doing in Egypt.

The question surprised me because, I wondered how I missed what her previous role in government or business was.

Anyway, her answer was, forgive me for paraphrasing, we should support the government of Egypt, Mubarak, and our allies in Israel and at the same time support all the true freedom loving people in the area. I'm not kidding, it was THAT junior high school/ Miss America contestant!

So I did a little research.

Malkin is a writer, and that's about it. An English major from Oberlin College, she's never held a government position, nor been in the military, nor run for office, nor run a business, nor done anything whatsoever but dispense her opinion on things of which she has no personal knowledge.

To answer the unasked question, yes it WOULD be just as ridiculous to hear the loathesome Keith Olbermann give his opinion about what we should be doing in Egypt too.

So anyway I find Hannity a lot of fun some nights like tonight, I'm just astonished that there are people on both sides in the viewing audience who take the commentators on Fox and MSNBC for experts, experienced in the field.

I have been listening to Mohamed El-Erian of Pimco, a terrific businessman and Egyptian by birth. However I woonder about my own trust in his opinion because he is exactly the sort of Westernized charismatic person who appeals greatly to Americans in all non Western nations. It makes me wonder does he really know what the Egyptian public and government is thinking/planning or is he too far removed?

I think it's symptomatic of the bad with the good side of the 24 hour news cycle today, that we're inundated with opinions, not knowledge.

Somewhere (for you old timers) Phil Donahue is smiling, triumphant at last!"

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 4, 2011 4:05 PM | Report abuse

--*NPR is miles better in both the content quality and style than any of the TV networks.*--

In your opinion, MosBen, in your opinion.

It's yet another issue, though, where those with snooty opinions feel justified in forcing their fellow citizens to subsidize their druthers.

Posted by: msoja | February 4, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

msoja, you realize that Derek doesn't work for NPR, PBS, or some other government related outlet, right? And that this post is on a for-profit company's website?

And besides, while I agree that the threat of a government-funded news outlet turning into a propaganda machine is a real concern, it simply hasn't happened in any Western democracies that I can think of, and certainly not at NPR.

Posted by: MosBen | February 4, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

msoja, you realize that Derek doesn't work for NPR, PBS, or some other government related outlet, right? And that this post is on a for-profit company's website?

And besides, while I agree that the threat of a government-funded news outlet turning into a propaganda machine is a real concern, it simply hasn't happened in any Western democracies that I can think of, and certainly not at NPR.

Posted by: MosBen | February 4, 2011 4:28 PM | Report abuse

--*Malkin is a writer, and that's about it. An English major from Oberlin College, she's never [...] run a business*--

Well, except for launching HotAir.com (which she sold a year ago, for an undisclosed sum) and managing her own brand quite successfully.

Posted by: msoja | February 4, 2011 4:36 PM | Report abuse

johnmarshall5446, ""Quality coverage" is a nebulous term meaning your views are prominently displayed and the other guys' not so much." I'm sure that's true for some people, but not nearly everyone. Some people like the news to simply be the news, with an honest attempt to present all relevant sides of an issue while ignoring the factually inaccurate or misleading. And yes, even good news organizations make mistakes from time to time (NPR included), but there's a clear distinction between organizations that purposefully present a point of view (Fox) and those that attempt straight reporting (NPR).

msoja, fine, I'll admit that "better", on its own, implies my opinion. It is not my opinion, on the other hand, that NPR's programing contains less "news entertainment" in the vein of an O'Reilly or Beck, and has few, if any, problems keeping editorial direction out of the news coverage, unlike Fox. In the question of which I like better, the subjective answer is NPR. In the objective question of which does a better job reporting straight news, the answer is also NPR.

Posted by: MosBen | February 4, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

--*msoja, you realize that Derek doesn't work for NPR, PBS, or some other government related outlet, right? And that this post is on a for-profit company's website?*--

Of COURSE, MosBen. But he's moaning that the kind of stuff he writes isn't in particularly high demand. He says it takes "less effort" to write about NASCAR, etc., than the allegedly high brow stuff that he thinks we need more of, ie., he's not being paid as much as stupid NASCAR flunkies earn, and the government should help him out, just to insure that even when NO ONE wants to read his drivel, he'll still have a job.

Posted by: msoja | February 4, 2011 4:43 PM | Report abuse

msoja:

Point taken, and I have no small admiration for the business skills of people like Hannity, but that's really not in anyway translatable to conversations about the economy or business in general.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 4, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

--*implies my opinion*--

And, also in your opinion, even people who find no value in NPR or its derivatives or affiliates should still be *forced* to support those things in order to satisfy the vanity of your opinions. Is that about it?

Posted by: msoja | February 4, 2011 4:48 PM | Report abuse

msoja, that's really not what he's saying at all. He's saying that in-depth coverage of politics, foreign policy, and the like are important for the social good, and the government should ensure that *somebody*, not necessarily him, is doing that sort of coverage. He also says that he thinks people are 100% justified in reading whatever it is that they want to read about. Nevertheless, we're all worse off if nobody is doing good, in-depth journalism because it's more profitable to do shows where people yell at each other for 25 minutes and then do a story about Charlie Sheen.

Posted by: MosBen | February 4, 2011 4:53 PM | Report abuse

mosBen:

But why should the government subsidize the broadcast into your home or on your radio of what is already there for free (included in your internet if you will).

You can't counter Fox, or MSNBC depending on your views, because the people who follow those networks WANT that presentation, not McNeil-Lehrer.

I could at least buy the argument 30 years ago, but now it is simply as anachronistic as the printing of the huge Federal budget books, destined for recycle.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 4, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

--*Point taken, and I have no small admiration for the business skills of people like Hannity, but that's really not in anyway translatable to conversations about the economy or business in general.*--

Agreed. I detest Hannity intensely, though I listen to him occasionally. He's too dogmatic and bullying for my taste, even if he's reliably conservative. O'Reilly is detestable on all levels. Malkin is okay, and she's good for tying farflung stories together, etc., but she's not on my daily rounds of reads.

That said, trying to compare those few to "NPR News" is apples/orangish. I'd match O'Reilly against Diane Rehm, for instance. In fact, has anyone ever seen them together?

Posted by: msoja | February 4, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Well, paying taxes for social projects is pretty much how we fund everything. We can't object to a military action and ask that our taxes be directed away from that expense or decide that we don't like paying for interstate highways in places where we don't live. That's how government works. It's constitutional, and though there are plenty of flaws with the tax system we have now, as a general principle it is indeed fair.

Now again, I'm not saying that everyone should pay for my every whim. If that were the case there'd be a lot more National Star Trek Appreciation Initiatives. But where we identify things which benefit society, or jobs that the market is not fulfilling but which are nevertheless important, yes, the government can step in and yes, everyone pays for it.

Posted by: MosBen | February 4, 2011 5:03 PM | Report abuse

msoja:

I wasn't comparing them to NPR for credibility purposes, but rather pointing out that people get their information from a source they choose, not one the government chooses, and will continue to do so, no matter who gives money to whom.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 4, 2011 5:15 PM | Report abuse

--*msoja, you realize that Derek doesn't work for NPR, PBS, or some other government related outlet, right? And that this post is on a for-profit company's website?*--

Oops. Just remembered that, in fact, the Washington Post's parent company derives a substantial amount of of its revenue from the government. Sample the news for stories on Kaplan University, or the Stanley H. Kaplan Co., and you'll get an eyeful, including allegations of recruiting suckers who have no hope of paying off their government loans, along with other thug-type endeavors.

Posted by: msoja | February 4, 2011 5:21 PM | Report abuse

"The case for government-funded journalism", brought to you by an associate editor at The Atlantic.

Rent seeking much?

"the government can and should close the gap between the individual value and the social value"

There is no social value. There are only discrete individual values. Putting "social" in front of another word is a great way of destroying its meaning, well detailed by Hayek in The Fatal Conceit.

"Nick Denton could make a compelling argument that each individual viewer is 100% justified in preferring to read about McLarens than Medicare. But is society better off if each individual viewer makes that choice?"

Yes. I (and probably most other people) are far happier reading about topics of interest than whatever someone else has determined is important. If I want to read about McLarens and not Medicare, I am worse off if someone snatches my "Car and Driver" and replaces it with "The American Prospect".

"close the gap between the great need and small demand for in-depth reporting."

Great need and small demand? Please. If people really wanted want you say, you wouldn't be troubled with low demand. People in general simply don't value in-depth reporting. You can try persuading them that they should value such reporting, but if they continue not to value it you don't get to provide the service anyway and then confiscate the funding for it.

Posted by: justin84 | February 4, 2011 6:15 PM | Report abuse

mosben wrote:

"But where we identify things which benefit society, or jobs that the market is not fulfilling but which are nevertheless important, yes, the government can step in and yes, everyone pays for it."

I'm sort of ok with the general concept, but there is no way it could honestly be considered to apply to government sponsored journalism.

I don't think it has ever been tested in court, but there is a firm argument that support for things like NPR violates the First Amendment. If govnement funded christmas decorations contravene establishment of religion, then so on some level does money to NPR violate the 1st.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 4, 2011 7:00 PM | Report abuse

I had several posts on this that were in the links of Economist’s View. The first is here:

http://richardhserlin.blogspot.com/2009/10/lets-consider-monumental-externalities.html

The positive externalities are monumental, so economics clearly says there should be large scale subsidization, like tax credits, which could of course be done in an objective formulaic way, just as the government has a long track record of doing objectively with other tax credits.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | February 4, 2011 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Spamming again, eh, Richard?

--*The positive externalities are monumental*--

You'll miss the New York Times and its corrupt style of reporting, won't you?

Posted by: msoja | February 4, 2011 11:10 PM | Report abuse

--*NPR is miles better*--

Just this morning: "Despite the correction, the NPR Ombudsman continues her pattern of irresponsible journalism in order to smear Breitbart and his family of websites."

http://bigjournalism.com/retracto/2011/02/04/correction-requests-who-watches-nprs-watchdog/

Of course, NPR is almost completely fair and balanced, if one lives in its cocoon, or believes polls commissioned by NPR.

Posted by: msoja | February 5, 2011 8:26 AM | Report abuse

RichardSerlin:

Though we never agree on policy, sometimes your comments are quite representative of a particular school of thought.

However if we ever stole the "I" button from your keyboard, it's doubtful whether you would ever be heard from again!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 5, 2011 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Tune into a couple of days of streaming public radio here www.cbc.ca/radio to hear what well supported public radio sounds like. NO advertising at all is another sweet benefit. The Canadian radio network runs about 1100 stations cross country, in two languages, and costs a mere $330M per year. http://www.cbc.radio-canada.ca/about/pdf/who.pdf

In the past 40 years whichever government has been in power has wanted to reduce the funding and influence of the CBC, or have at least talked about it. Commercial broadcasters also have hissy fits about the CBC on a regular basis. But they carry on breaking stories that target the government (and many others) and producing excellent content for a fiercely loyal audience. Also, quite a lot of reporting and commentary focuses on events in the USA, from a very non-American point of view.

Check it out.

Noni

Posted by: NoniMausa | February 5, 2011 10:10 AM | Report abuse

nonimausa:

Why do you think that information is availble nowhere else but the CBC? If it is, then why should the government fund it?

As I put it in an earlier post, these arguments really come from another time when information was much more difficult to receive. I can't vouch for the CBC, but in this country there is nothing on NPR that can't be found elsewhere on the internet, usually BEFORE it hits NPR or PBS.

Broadcast television itself is on the way to extinction with an audience that has been dropping for 10-15 years, even as the population increases. Newspapers as physical things are terminal cases in bankruptcy in many areas.

"Over the last 10 seasons, PBS’s ratings have dropped 37 percent, from 1.9 in 1998-99 to 1.2 in 2007-08. The primetime weekly cume — the percent of all households that tuned into pubTV in a typical week — has dropped 35 percent to 19.9 in 2007-08. Viewership has declined even more rapidly over the past few seasons, according to Beth Walsh, director of research at PBS.

Network TV’s ratings are dropping just about as fast, of course. Over the same 10 seasons, NBC’s ratings dropped 37 percent, ABC’s 35 percent and CBS’s 33 percent, according to Walsh. Cable channels have experienced no growth or slow losses, says audience analyst Craig Reed at TRAC Media Services."


Note, the above indicates only 20% of TV viewers in a given week watch ANY public television. The viwership of news oriented PBS programs would be no more than half that number at best.

"John Boland, chief content officer at PBS, attributes the decline to fragmentation and the growing number of media platforms, not programming decisions or pubTV’s declining underwriting dollars. Ditto for the ratings of kids’ shows on PBS, which have been shrinking 4 to 5 percentage points a year for the past five years, according to Reed."

NPR's weekly listening audience (those who listen at any time for an unspecified duration) is by their own estimates, about 10% of all US adults. While this is good news comparatively within the industry where radio executives windows are bolted shut to cut down on suicides, it says that 90% of all US adults get their news from some other source than NPR.

You can see there is simply no reason to offer financial assistance to this industry. Like CNBC, it caters to a highly affluent audience and already gets the majority of it's revenues from non-governmental sources. It's listeners/viewers can easily keep it in business on the advertising or subscription models used by everyone else.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 5, 2011 12:45 PM | Report abuse

"...Why do you think that information is availble nowhere else but the CBC? If it is, then why should the government fund it? ..."

I don't think so, although sorting through and vetting online news is a full time job, one we normally pay media outlets to tackle for us.

But you don't notice what many people do not notice -- what the CBC supplies is quite different from what commercial stations supply.

Commercial content providers do not sell content to viewers, they sell eyeballs to advertisers. Sugar water with some food colouring is sufficient to do their job, and if it's sweetened with sugar of lead that's okay too.

Public TV (BBC, ABC, CBC and to a lesser extent NPR) provide content to viewers. Smart viewers, at that -- people who catch errors within milliseconds of them being aired. "Sugar of lead" sweetening and brainless content cannot stand for long, for that audience. Public media is not state-owned media; it's an arm's length service paid for but not managed by the government. It is a public service, and thus it's fitting that the public finances it.

Nor does the benefit accrue only to viewers. The information put out to viewers, the news stories dug up and discussions started, percolate out to the rest of the adult population via their friends or via other news outlets springing after the hares the Mother Corp has driven from cover.

Noni

Posted by: NoniMausa | February 5, 2011 6:10 PM | Report abuse

mosben: No way do I want the government subsidizing news organizations. NPR is full of so much leftwing bias, I gave up giving to them.

Their ObamaCare "coverage" was one long infomercial for ObamaCare. If you can find one isntance of Julie Ravner criticizing ObamaCare from a rightwing perspective, I'll eat my hat. Her only "criticism were along the lines of raising taxes and raising benefits. Never once did she point out why people were disgusted with the budget gimmicks and phony assumptions built into the cost.

I can't imagine how bad their "news" would be if they got more government handouts.

Posted by: ElmerStoup | February 5, 2011 7:25 PM | Report abuse

noni wrote:

"Public media is not state-owned media; it's an arm's length service paid for but not managed by the government. It is a public service, and thus it's fitting that the public finances it."

This is circular logic that has no internal consistency. If it's not managed by the government how can it claim to have any more accuracy than all the other media not managed by the government?

It's a public service to whom? I don't know CBC figures, but as I pointed out above PBS and NPR news has an audience of about 10% of the population, max.

The public DOES finance these stations as they are only too frequent to point out. The numbers I have seen say that PBS gets no more than 20% of it's money from the government and variably less than that.

It can also be argued that if they had any business sense PBS wouldn't need to have any pledge drives.

Do you realize that over the life of it's run on PBS the government has provided much more funding to PBS than has the licensing of Sesame Street products, despite the grossing of billions of dollars in merchandising revenue to the owner of the characters?(not PBS by the way) The same is true for Barney and many other cash cow franchises that PBS has developed and literally almost given away.

Sesame Workshop, (not PBS or it's affiliates)owner of the Sesame Street characters took in $145,000,000 revenue in 2008 alone, in a bad year! Disney owns the Muppet characters, so breakout figures are not avaialble for revenue from them specifically.

On every level, every argument made in favor of public funding is easily proven absurd.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 5, 2011 8:10 PM | Report abuse

"...On every level, every argument made in favor of public funding is easily proven absurd. ..."

This is certainly true if the arguer takes as a postulate the badness of public funding. When ones conclusion is the same as ones postulate, such an arguer cannot be opposed by argument, but only gently led away by kind people.

Noni

Posted by: NoniMausa | February 6, 2011 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Gov funded news?

Ezra should have finished grade school before being hired at the ComPost.

Posted by: illogicbuster | February 6, 2011 9:50 AM | Report abuse

noni:

The only possibly reasonable argument that has been put forth for government funding is that the news is somehow less partisan and more reliable. If you review the posts above, you will see that is the main contention.

Yet you yourself demolished that argument by pointing out that the government is hands off as to content. Therefore there is nothing inherently more reliable in PBS/NPR than it's competitors if the governmnet isn't monitoring it's "fairness".

No one has argued, unless I missed it, that they would not be able to survive without what we can all agree is a small part of their budget. What they REALLY enjoy is the illusion that the small government funding makes them somehow MORE responsible and more authentic than other news outlets. As I pointed out, you have demolished that argument.

I did forget to add one point (believe it or not LOL) You pointed out that money coming from commercial interests was somehow more tainted and influential than other sources, and would ruin NPR/PBS. Hopefully I am paraphrasing correctly.

In reality the opposite is true. It takes an extraordinary boycott to get advertisers to pay attention to content in any way, over ratings numbers. However the foundations, which are the lifeblood of PBS in particular, are much MORE likely to be interested, in a censurious way, in the content of the programs they sponsor.

Hey don't get me wrong. I have enjoyed this discourse with you and thanks for the replies!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 6, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

noni:

I like to be factual (as well as long winded LOL) so here is an example of my last point:

"In 2008, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation issued a $3.5 million grant to establish a TV production unit to report on global health issues for PBS' NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.(Columbia Journalism Review this week expanded on the inner workings of that partnership and how other media are already pulling their punches). Earlier, the foundation gave $16 million to other media operations and journalism schools, mostly to finance better global health reporting."

Chances of any negative reporting on Gates or Microsoft on PBS? You make the call.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 6, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

That well-known socialist, LBJ, would agree.

"The CPB (Corporation for Public Broadcasting) was created by an Act of Congress, which decreed that
the country required a newsgathering service and an educational body that
served not a corporate master but rather the public good." (excerpt from CPB appropriations request for FY2012-2013)

Posted by: melior | February 6, 2011 6:48 PM | Report abuse

It does not matter whether NPR is more trusted as a news source or not. Good and impartial reporters retire and the next generation of reporters is more interested in changing the world than reporting the news.

NPR should live or die with voluntary funding, not taxpayer support.

Posted by: JBaustian | February 7, 2011 8:17 AM | Report abuse

"Publicly supported media like the BBC, PBS and NPR are more trusted than "independent" news like Fox or MSNBC." FOX or MSNBC, aside, who, today, believes that the BBC, PBS, and NPR are unbiased? Many years ago that may have been true, but, they have been systematically hijacked, which is a terrible shame. However, in this day and age, we can find facts and truths, ourselves, by listening to speeches, reading actual quotes, and researching. Yes, that is more difficult than someone telling us what is true and false, but, unless you have supporting data, you are easily misled and appear the fool when asked to substantiate your statements.

Posted by: coffic | February 7, 2011 10:19 AM | Report abuse

It's a great debate about a valuable American institution, public broadcasting. I don't think the content makes the argument for government funding, but I think the non-profit mission does. By endeavoring to provide a free media service to all Americans via community ownership, the mission deserves *some* shared support. I would add to this now the need to help public broadcasting adjust to new media realities which don't change the mission but require significant technological investments.

Posted by: michvinmar | February 7, 2011 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Wait a second! If government supported media are more trusted, how come their actual audience is so small they need government money to stay afloat? Or is it that the author disingeniously threw in the BBC - a foreign medium - with NPR. We know that in the UK the telly was government controlled for a long time before private broadcasters were able to get in the act.
How unbiased is the government run media in Cuba, Iran or China?

Posted by: rightspokeBlas | February 7, 2011 6:33 PM | Report abuse

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