Andrew Coyne: It’s when you read details of media bailout that the chill sets in
If you weren’t careful, you might have missed it: a brief 160-word item, tucked deep inside the budget, labelled Supporting Canadian Journalism.
Mostly it was a rehash of the measures already announced in November’s Fall Economic Statement: a labour cost subsidy (in the form of a tax credit — presumably this sounds more palatable) for journalism organizations, a tax credit/subsidy for digital news subscribers, and charitable tax status for news organizations that register as non-profits. Only if you turned back further still, to an annex marked Tax Measures: Supplementary Information, would you find the details.
What you would discover, if you did, was how a bad idea in principle was likely to be infinitely worse in practice.
There are any number of objections to the government getting into the game of propping up failing news organizations: that taking money from the people we cover will place us in a permanent and inescapable conflict of interest; that it will produce newspapers concerned less with appealing to readers than to grantsmen; that it will not only leave us dependent on government, but without standing to oppose such dependence in others; that it will solve none of our problems, but only encourage us to put off dealing with them; that it is all so bloody unnecessary.
But the most potent objection is that, as the government cannot possibly bail out everybody — for in the internet age what was formerly a tidy little constellation of newspapers and other outlets has exploded into a vast universe of what could plausibly be called news organizations — it must inevitably get into choosing who should receive its blessing and who should not.
Whether this is done directly by the prime minister or by his designates, whether the preference is based on partisanship, or ideology, or connections, or mere incumbency, it is not an appropriate role for government in a democracy. Subsidizing speech the government likes is not materially different from suppressing speech it doesn’t like, and indeed may have much the same effect.
You might understand that in the abstract, but it’s when you see the details of how they propose to go about it that the chill really sets in.
Henceforth, if this goes ahead, the Canadian journalism business will be divided into two groups: on the one hand, a coterie of government-approved trough-feeders adorned with little merit badges identifying them as Qualified Canadian Journalism Organizations, and on the other, everyone else. Eligibility for QCJO status is ostensibly to be decided by an “independent panel” of journalists, but the government has already dictated a list of its own not-so-independent criteria in advance.
read full article here
Tax dollars going into corporate media pockets. Is that not what we are accusing China and Russia of doing? Government run media? How can you believe anything the mainstream media is telling you?
previous related post here