8.4 Government Intervention

Some big news organizations and their corporate parents have latched, sadly, onto a much more alarming, anti-capitalistic notion: government (read: taxpayer) help. They’ve talked about changing copyright laws to prevent what they call “free-riding”—the notion that online media aggregators are taking the value from their use of the information from other sources without giving anything in return. They’ve talked about direct subsidies, and more.

There’s a long history of government assistance, including but not limited to licenses to use the airwaves for broadcasters as well as postal subsidies for mailing newspapers and magazines. Most of what’s being proposed today, however, is ill-advised or even counterproductive. We need to let the marketplace work before concluding that taxpayer intervention is in any way necessary.

This isn’t to say that politicians and bureaucrats couldn’t improve key laws and regulations that have an impact on media. In copyright and a number of other areas—notably broadband policy—we can do much better. I’ll discuss this in Chapter 11.

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