Monday, January 26, 2009

Sarko saves the Fourth Estate?

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (who passes for a conservative among Euro pols, BTW) has come up with a novel way to keep newpapers from folding: a government bailout!

From French blogger Frederic Filloux:

Young people reaching 18 are now entitled to a free subscription of the paper of their choice, the publisher providing the paper, and the government paying for the delivery. And, from a tax perspective, when you pour money into a newspaper this is treated as investing in a foundation. In the past, industrialists used the press as an ego booster, it has now become a charity business.

Such a thing would never happen in the U.S. (we hope), but the idea of providing direct government aid to news organizations not named NPR or PBS has gained some currency on the left, as in this recent LA Times op-ed.

The op-ed mentions postal discounts periodicals have received since the founding of the Republic as examples of government subsidies to the media. But expanding that subsidy would only help the handful of national outlets -- the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post -- that have a lot of mail subscribers. The lion's share of newspapers are delivered to people's doors by carriers who at least get a tax write off for the use of their vehicles. And it's the metro dailies rather than the national/international pubs that are collapsing in our midst.

Among the many problems (and there are plenty) with providing any additional government aid to the media is that a subsidized press is no longer a free and independent press. There will be limits to the amount of criticism allowed in media outlets that depend on direct taxpayer support for their survival. Genuine dissent won't be tolerated by the parties paying the bills and overseeing the distribution of the funding.

To paraphrase Jefferson, were it left to me to have government without newspapers, or newspapers funded by government, I would not hesitate to prefer the former.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Now they tell us

Democrats: Stimulus no quick fix for economy.

It's 20 degrees outside. Time for thoughts of spring

And Merlefest. Here's a 2007 performance featuring Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Bryan Sutton and Byron House -- an hour or so before they joined Elvis Costello on stage!

As Sam Bush said, "You get out of your house, the winter's over, and you go to MerleFest."