Public Policy and Funding the News

A Project of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy

Government Funded

  1. Create national endowments for investigative journalism:
      where “[e]ach national endowment would subsidise investigations on a strict mathematical formula based on the number of citizens who actually read their reports on news sites.” (Bruce Ackerman, Yale Law). There could be matching government grants for foundation funding. (Freepress)
    • where alternative forms of journalism are targeted. (Ted Glasser)
  2. Create journalism fellows within the Americorps programs. (Eric Klinenberg, SaveTheNews.org)
  3. Reorient public radio and TV by CPB, to provide more local news coverage in each community where public stations exist. (Leonard Downie and Michael Schudson, Jr., Colombia Journalism Review)
  4. Open up government databases for more access for news reporting. (Leonard Downie and Michael Schudson, Jr., Colombia Journalism Review)
  5. Provide a joint distribution subsidy, where newspapers receive money per copy distributed via joint distribution system with competitor. (Exists in Sweden)
  6. Provide a production subsidy via a tax on print advertising (could also tax online presence if internet tax rules were relaxed). (Exists as print tax ad in Sweden)
  7. Provide loans on favorable terms to struggling newspapers so they can improve their technology. (Exists in Sweden)
  8. Develop a creative-commons-esque opt-in model where newsmedia gives up copyright protection in order to receive government funding “as a public subsidy to promote and protect access to public expression.” Two-tiered model would provide subsidies to organizations that give up legal rights to their work at the first level, and would provide a second level of support to groups or individuals “engaging in practices–transparency, accountability, dialogue, reliability, and collaboration–that increase the overall quality of journalism.” (Michael Annany and Daniel Kreiss. A New Contract For the Press: Copyright, Public Domain Journalism, and Self-Governance in a Digital Age.)
  9. Municipal ownership. (Freepress cites historical example of Los Angeles Municipal News)

    First and foremost, do no harm. A cycle of powerful innovation is under way. To the extent possible, government should avoid retarding the emergence of new models of newsgathering.

    Second, the government should help promote innovation, as it did when the Department of Defense funded the research that created the Internet or when NASA funded the creation of satellites that made cable television and direct radio and TV possible.

    Third, for commercial media, government-supported mechanisms that are content neutral — such as copyright protections, postal subsidies and taxes — are preferable to those that call upon the government to fund specific news outlets, publications or programs.

  10. Increasing government, private and philanthropic funding of public service media predicated upon reforms in the areas of local programming, diversity, and interactivity. In Rethinking Public Media: More Local, More Inclusive, More Interactive by Barbara Cochran calls on public media organizations to:
    • develop innovative models for delivering more local news coverage and, collectively, to invest $100 million to add 1,000 public media reporters to boost local coverage;
    • seek new ways of engaging diverse and traditionally underserved communities such as youth and minorities by expanding the diversity of news and information staff at both the national and local levels, partnering with journalism schools to engage young people, and supporting the expansion of a Public Media Corps to promote digital literacy in underserved communities; and
    • invest in efforts to improve digital delivery, including the development of meaningful metrics, and seeks ways to connect public media content through a shared digital platform.
  11. Understanding public media systems from democracies around the world to look for positive policy prescriptions, from funding mechanisms to citizen engagement and governance structures, for the United States. These public service models provide insight into challenges and varying approaches in remedying the failure in the production of quality, independent, commercial-free journalism. (Rodney Benson and Matthew Powers Public Media and Political Independence: Lessons for the Future of Journalism from Around the World)