The Federal Trade Commission is trying to save journalism and it posted it’s finding as the New FTC Staff Discussion.
Perhaps the most interesting and distressing part of the entire 47 page document is the ommission of any new innovation with news (see CUNY New News Ecosystem). In fact, Jeff Jarvis notes that the word “blog” is only used once and only parenthetically.
Like any good government document, there is 47 pages of not very much. There are lots of suggestions, some extremely alarming, but the document does not end up endorsing them.
Despite the lack of endorsement, it’s the perspective of the document that should worry everyone - technologists and journalists alike. The document focuses on newspaper, asking for forgiveness for ignoring broadcast, and simply ignores all else.
The FTC presents, “Additional intellectual property rights to support claims against news aggregators,” going so far as calling aggregators “parasitic”. The document rails against search engines but does not touch the new link economy. Neither Digg, Twitter, nor Facebook appear within the document.
The FTC further looks at extending copyright and limiting fair use, “difficult line-drawing being proprietary facts and those in the public domain.” Please explain to me what exactly a proprietary fact is! Are we going to be able to own facts now?
Going directly against their own Competition Mission, the FTC proposes allowing news organizations to set prices to consumers and aggregators and other antitrust exemptions.
For better or for worse, the FTC also discusses government subsidies, creating a journalism AmeriCorps, funding local news, tax credits for employing journalists, citizen news vouchers, grants to universities for reporting, postal subsidy, adding a tax on ISPs to be redistrubted to “selected news purveyors”, a tax on cell phones, a tax on the broadcast spectrum, a tax on advertising, creating a new tax status and hybrid “flexible purpose” corporations, and getting government to make information open and available.
Obviously it’s not all bad, but there’s still much to be concerned about in the document for technologists, journalists, and bloggers. Are we so sure the legacy institutions are the best solution going forward? Do we really need to be so proactive to protect them? Is there no better solution that works for everyone involved?