Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Waxman: U.S. Government Must Help Resolve Journalism Issues

A top Democratic lawmaker predicted today that the federal government will soon be involved in shaping the future for struggling U.S. media organizations, according to reporting by John Poirier of Reuters.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman of California said that quality journalism was essential to U.S. democracy and that eventually government would have to help resolve the problems caused by a failing business model, according to the report.

Waxman, other U.S. lawmakers and regulators are looking into various options to help a newspaper industry hurt by the shift in advertising revenues to online platforms.

Tweaks to the tax code to allow newspapers to spread losses over a greater number of years, providing a nonprofit structure to allow for public and foundation funding, and changes to antitrust laws are being considered by lawmakers and policymakers.

"Eventually government is going to have to be responsible to help and resolve these issues," Waxman told a conference hosted by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission on the future of journalism.

Free Press, a public interest group, said the search for solutions to the crisis in journalism should be premised on the idea that news-gathering is a public service, not a commodity.

Waxman's "indication that government has a role to play is both bold and soberly sensible," said Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott on the sidelines of the FTC conference.

At the Federal Communications Commission, officials are embarking on a quadrennial review of the state of U.S. media. The study, which is mandated by Congress, seeks to determine whether current rules should be changed to allow for a more vibrant media industry serving a diverse audience.

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