Be careful what you wish for. That is the message from Former FCC Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth to those backing public support--and he says implicit control--of media.
In a new paper being published by The Media Institute and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, Furchtgott-Roth says it has become "alarmingly chic" to talk of government funding of the media beyond what he labels the limited and peripheral funding of public broadcasting.
He points to proposals for public-funded media in two studies from Columbia and the Knight Commission, as well as a Senate hearing and Federal Trade Commission workshops.
All of that concern was driven by the tanking newspaper industry and a broadcasting industry that is hurting big time as well.
Furchtgott-Roth warns that the all the eulogies for traditional media prompt "desperate searches" for remedies. So, why not provide government intervention as with the car companies, banks and insurers?
"Even if government intervention works for some industries-a dubious proposition-it does not work for media and journalism," he says. "One of the hallmarks of good journalism is the ability to report on any matter and to criticize any individual. Yet it strains credulity to believe that a media outlet will scrutinize with the same judgment a government that provides financial subsidies for its survival as it would a government that does not. The line between government support and government control is impossible to determine."
Furchtgott-Roth is head of Furchtgott-Roth Economic Enterprises in Washington.