No American BBC

I just don’t understand Columbia University’s apparent obsession with handing over portions of the press to government subsidy, giving up on the free market. I haven’t given up on it. Have you?

The latest raised palm comes from Columbia President Lee Bollinger in tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal, of all places. This could send BBC-hater Rupert Murdoch to his grave so he can spin there. Bollinger proposes that we start an American BBC by pooling (merging?) the resources of the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, PBS, and NPR.

He repeats the old saw that American media is already government subsidized. Except postal subsidies are meaningless as print and the post office decline. Legal ads should be going to the web for free to save taxpayers money anyway. I wish PBS and NPR did not rely on any government money so it would not be put under government pressure and could operate with true independence. And I do think broadcast spectrum should be sold so it is not seen as public airwaves (broadcast itself becoming meaningless) and so it is not subject to government censorship (see today’s victory for the First Amendment).

Bollinger argues that we’re getting the BBC thanks to the British taxpayer. Well, yes, the BBC has funded its world service for years to extend its empire; their choice. But I pay a fee on Sirius to hear them. And its TV channels in the U.S. are ad-supported, as is its web site. As BBC budgets are attacked by the Tories, I’d say it’s more likely our marketing economy will subsidize their free news — if Murdoch doesn’t stop them.

When Columbia presented its plan to save journalism — which included government subsidy — I had this discussion with Bollinger and he pointed out that I am subsidized by government as a professor at a state university. Touché. But I’d rather raise money to support my work from foundations and companies and revenue-generating activities. “Indeed,” Bollinger writes in the Journal, “the most problematic funding issues in academic research come from alliances with the corporate sector.”

Bollinger then questions the editorial integrity of the American press he wants to save, saying: “To take a very current example, we trust our great newspapers to collect millions of dollars in advertising from BP while reporting without fear or favor on the company’s environmental record only because of a professional culture that insulates revenue from news judgment.” Who has mishandled BP more — the press or the government?

Shockingly, he mentions as models of state-supported media, not just the BBC but also China’s CCTV and Xinhua news and Qatar’s Al Jazeera. In what sane world is the Chinese government’s relationship with news a model. What would Google do?

Bollinger suggests taking down the prohibition on beaming propaganda broadcasters VoA and RFE into the U.S. “This system needs to be revised and its resources consolidated and augmented with those of NPR and PBS to create an American World Service that can compete with the BBC and other global broadcasters,” Bollinger concludes. “The goal would be an American broadcasting system with full journalistic independence that can provide the news we need. Let’s demonstrate great journalism’s essential role in a free and dynamic society.”

I think we can demonstrate and build that independence by teaching tomorrow’s journalists to build strong, sustainable, and independent businesses. We just disagree.

: SEE ALSO: George Brock of the other City University (London) and Roy Greenslade of the Guardian and City as well.

Brock and I agree. The rational Greenslade wants to agree but the emotional Greenslade doesn’t. He, like Brock (and me), respects the talent, value, and experience that is trapped in dying institutions and so he, unlike Brock and me, wants to overcome what seems to be his better sense and agree with Bollinger that we should consider government rescue.

With respect, I think Greenslade’s logical leap illustrates the problem with Bollinger’s thinking: They assume that the business model of journalism is hopeless. I do not. That is what needs discussion.

Quite to the contrary, I believe — based on research, which is one of the values we add from a university — that journalism could well be more sustainable, accessible, and accountable than before because of the efficiency brought by specialization (do what you do best, etc.), free platforms (see John Paton‘s Ben Franklin Project), networks (see Growthspur), collaboration (or Alan Rusbridger would call it mutualization), not to mention the casting off of industrial ways and expenses (in the pressroom as well as in the newsroom).

Greenslade acknowledges that government support would be a regrettable idea and so he can come to it only if he believes — as he says he does — that the web is not sufficient “to act as a competent watchdog.”

Well, all four of us — Bollinger, Brock, Greenslade, and I — teach in universities. If we do not together believe that we can equip the next generation of journalists to build the structure that creates that competent watchdog, then perhaps we should not be teaching journalism, as it would be irresponsible to do so. But I don’t think any of us believes that, for we all teach or support the teaching of journalism. So I say the question we should be investigating with all the rigor and diligence we can muster is how to build that future. Perhaps Bollinger does indeed believe that the only solution is to seek government rescue but I say it is far too soon to resort to what Greenslade acknowledges should not be a first resort. We have a lot of resorts to go through first.

: AND MORE: Reason attacks, as do Mark Tapscott and Claudia Rosett, who says: “If, as Bollinger suggests, the provision of adequate news coverage cannot be entrusted to the market, then what about such vital matters as shelter and medical care?”

I’ll just bet we’ll soon hear from Bollinger or his allies that at least he sparked a discussion. But he sparked the wrong discussion. We shouldn’t be debating which desperate move to take having given up on the sustainable future of journalism. We should be discussing how to build that sustainable future, damnit.

  • http://thirstyworld.blogspot.com rmbjspd

    take rupert murdoch. sure he hates the BBC, but I bet he also *hates* his competitors in other markets. but look at the outcome of the competition between, say, Sky and the BBC, versus the competition between Fox News and MSNBC or CNN.

    In the first case, Sky was up against a state-funded news agency with clear mandates to deliver quality independent journalism. Now, I live in the U.S., so don’t watch much Sky News, but I don’t get the impression it’s very sensationalist or ridiculous, like some of Rupert’s other franchises. Sky’s had to compete on an uneven playing field, and try to succeed against a news organization that was delivering quality journalism, and apparently it’s found the best way to compete against that is to deliver the same or better caliber of journalism.

    Now take Fox. I feel like I don’t need to say much about it, but when the mission of all of your competitors is to make money, and the easiest way to do that is to chase eyeballs, you get a total degeneration of journalistic quality almost across the board. even when you see a decent report from christiane amanpour on CNN, it’s usually cluttered with awkward attempts to integrate technological gizmos (CNN’s replacement for ideological contamination). Rupert’s competing on his own terms, and dragging everyone else down with him. There’s no stake in the ground standing up for quality journalism, and chaos ensues.

    Now, I completely agree with you that it’s possible for innovation to thrive and for quality journalism to survive without government subsidy. It’s an interesting, Prisoner’s Dilemma-esque problem. You can either produce quality journalism or crap; quality journalism is hard, but pays off to the maximum if everyone does it (if only you do it, you go out of business because, hey, I could be watching hot blondes on Fox News right now!). Crap is easy to produce, but nowhere near as fulfilling. Still, it pays off a bit, even if all the journalists are miserable. In a world with no BBC, everyone produces crap, because the risks of producing quality journalism are too high. With the BBC, though, I know my competitor is going to produce quality journalism regardless of the cost. All of a sudden, it looks like I should produce quality journalism, too! I’m not going to run him out of business, since he’s subsidized and entrenched, so if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

    This is a very rough, contrived attempt at making a point, but I don’t think I’m completely off base here. I’m optimistic; I think there’s a lot of ways to generate a positive feedback loop that results in good journalism everywhere. I think that innovation is one possibility. I just also think that a subsidized government entity, dedicated to quality, in the middle of the competitive market is also a decent possibility. Most importantly, I don’t see the harm.

    Unless you believe the BBC and NPR are hopelessly biased, even half as biased as corporate-funded news channels. In that case, it would never work.

    • http://djbentley.net Daniel Bentley

      “I don’t get the impression it’s very sensationalist or ridiculous, like some of Rupert’s other franchises.” No trust me it is, especially with recent events such as the election (where Murdoch’s bias came through heavily) and the Raoul Moats manhunt. It was downright goofy.

      I love the BBC but the government don’t fund it, I do. I make a compulsory payment of £120 a year to watch television, any television not just the BBC. It’s the law.

      The BBC operates independently from the government and independently of other branches of itself. Often the most fervent criticism of a scandal involving the BBC comes from the BBC itself.

      It has a separate arm, the BBC Trust, which governs and regulates the BBC in the interests of the licence fee payer. Were the BBC showing government bias, they’d incur charges from the BBC Trust.

      Point being Jeff, it’s not seen in the UK as the government owning the BBC. The BBC, the Beeb, or as she is lovingly known “Auntie” is very much owned by the people.

      In terms of it working in the US, no it wouldn’t. The BBC is in the position its in historically, from times when commercial operators were illegal in the UK. Far more interesting a model is Channel 4 which is a government owned channel but run independently with it’s own independent and commercial charter.

      • Scot

        “I love the BBC but the government don’t fund it, I do. I make a compulsory payment of £120 a year to watch television, any television not just the BBC. It’s the law.”

        Because “it’s the law” is exactly the reason why the BBC IS government funded. I know the BBC likes to make a song and dance about how the licence fee keeps them “independent from government”, but it’s the government who sets what the fee is and how much of it the BBC gets (part of the fee is now being diverted to digital switchover and once that’s done it looks like some of it is going to go into a fund to increase broadband coverage). Most importantly, it’s the government that prosecutes you if you don’t pay the licence fee and watch TV. It’s also the government that runs the jails that people are sent to if they want to watch TV and they can’t/won’t pay for the licence and can’t pay the fine when they caught (even if they never watched a second of BBC content). If the government wants to to squeeze the beeb then they can.

        I’ll never understand how people buy into the BBC’s big lie that they’re not government funded when they so clearly are.

      • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

        I just love that British hair-splitting. Hate to break it to you but YOU PAY A TAX FOR TV. It’s a tax administered by the government (that’s why they can threaten to change the rate).

      • Cassandrina

        The BBC was taken over 15 years ago by the socialist left, which is why we have had 13 years of Labour propaganda including vitriolic attacks on the present government during the election.
        As such they have never conformed to their mandate.
        An example would be that Spitting Image was stopped because the Labour Party did not want it far too caustic for them.
        Lyons boss of the Trust only now admits his job is to act for the license payer and not simply support BBC management – but this is only because he wants to keep his job. Both he and the CEO Thompon should lose their jobs and the BBC reformed to clear out all the bias and misinformation, and bring its reputation back to what it was more than 20 years ago.
        An American style BBC would not work for exactly the same reason, the left would infiltrate it and gradually take it over.

    • http://evilpundit.mee.nu/ Evil Pundit

      The BBC does not produce quality journalism. It produces left-wing propaganda.

      If it produced anything of quality, people would pay for it voluntarily, instead of being forced to pay by the government.

  • http://everything-everywhere.com Gary Arndt

    If media were subsidized, it would end the concept of the 4th estate.

    If Bollinger thinks that taking BP money makes one biased, then why would we ever expect to see any honest reporting on the government by the press if the government is the source of all its money?

    Journalist who want subsidies are just people who want a job without having to worry about messing things like circulation, advertising or business.

    Not only should we NOT subsidize journalism, we should cease spending money on the VOA, Radio Free Europe (relics of the Cold War) as well as PBS and NPR. PBS and NPR only get about 10% of their budget from the federal government. Many PBS shows make millions from product sales (Sesame Street).

    • Tyler

      In fairness, PBS doesn’t own “Sesame Street.” Sesame Workshop does, and profits off the merchandise.

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  • Brian Steffen

    Jeff, you write that Bollinger:

    “[P]ointed out that I am subsidized by government as a professor at a state university. Touché. But I’d rather raise money to support my work from foundations and companies and revenue-generating activities.”

    You might rather do that, but the reality is that most universities and faculty can’t do that because the market simply won’t support education of the breadth and depth that we need to sustain a democracy. We decided a long time ago that education (and many other public functions) was too important to be left entirely to the rules of the market: I’m not certain that we should treat journalism as a concept any differently.

    There have been innovations in market-based journalism. There will continue to be, even if there is public support of the media. One won’t necessarily kill the other.

  • http://blog.canal.cl Ign. Rodríguez (@micronauta)

    Valid concerns. Then again, goverment and the State are not the same thing. If modern democracies count on at least a certain independance between Justice, Legislation and Executive powers, I am sure we can figure out a way to keep journalism independant enough, especially if it has to compete with commercial journalism for attention. If it has worked well for the brits and for the french (mind the date, BTW) I can’t see why it would not work for the rest. There are much better examples than China and Cuba.

  • Roman Huber

    As european – Austria – I grew up with statet-owned media. But the state-hold media did not harm the publishers. As a matter of fact Austria hast 72 % daily newspaper readers. So I am not biased by our government and there is critical journalism.

    On the other hand, media in USA clearly confess to one party – democrats or republican. This would be a no-go in europe, because publishers want to be different to the state-media – who are of course biased by government.

    The only thing, that is important on state owned media is: do you habe a independent control? BBC has, so the critic is not really fair.

  • http://wehaveacoolsite.com sebsn

    I disagree with you. Just because something is government subsidized or owned doesn’t mean it is not neutral. I’m from germany and I grew up with gov owned media and as far as I can see that the government media (ARD, ZDF, Phoenix etc) is while not totally neutral far more objectiv than the private owned media. It is owned by the state and so by the people and not a party.

    I will not forget to say that lately I have my problems with the public owned media because of some incidents but in general I don’t want my news sources to have to compete on a market and choose to always do the thing that makes the most money…

    I hope you understand my english ^^

    • Andy Freeman

      > It is owned by the state and so by the people

      I started to write “How cute” but it’s actually “how horrible”.

      State ownership does not provide useful ownership. You can’t opt out. You can’t sell. You pay even if you prefer something else.

      > I don’t want my news sources to have to compete on a market

      Govt sources do compete on a market. It’s the market of folks who lobby, who go into govt “to make things better”, and so on.

      The problem is that the rest of us are forced to pay for their choices. If I decide that I don’t like ABC, I can make sure that it doesn’t make any money from me. I can choose a source that behaves as I’d like, even if most people prefer something else. I don’t have that freedom with govt news.

      • SeekTruthFromFacts

        “If I decide that I don’t like ABC, I can make sure that it doesn’t make any money from me.”

        Assuming you mean the American ABC, this is absurd, unless you are planning to grow your own food and skin animals for clothes…. Ever heard of advertising? Who do you think pays for it?

        When did you last vote for the head of ABC?

        BBC license-fee payers have pretty indirect control over the BBC, but something is better than nothing

      • Andy Freeman

        > Assuming you mean the American ABC, this is absurd

        What’s absurd? ABC sells advertising. If I don’t watch ABC, its advertizers can’t reach me via ABC. At some point, they’ll stop paying ABC to reach me.

        > When did you last vote for the head of ABC?

        I can choose to vote for the head of ABC by buying stock. Or, I can vote elsewhere with my investment dollars.

        The BBC gets its money even if I do nothing but watch DVDs.

      • ohachi

        This is a reply to your below comment (no reply link), but a common misconception about the TV license is that you have to pay even if you don’t watch TV. That’s not true – http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/faqs/FAQ8/

        And by the way, you completely (conveniently?) ignore sbsn’s main point which is that publicly-funded TV is a lot more neutral than so-called independent commercial TV.

  • http://wehaveacoolsite.com sebsn

    One more thing… the private owned media is more likely to be biased towards market centric parties which is a bad thing… but again we migh totally disagree on social market vs. open/free market ;)

  • Jose G.

    Why are we making journalism so difficult? I think the clearest problem with journalism is two parts. Bias and emotion. What we need clearly is a new generation of journalist educated in logic to report exactly what happened. We don’t need analysis. I think the over analysis of the news is part of the problem. The overuse of soundbites is another problem. People on both sides of the spectrum altering or inflating the story to suit political purposes. Broadcast journalism today has become too much political cat-fights, mindless speculation, the latest TMZ style footage, and useless 30 second sound-bites.

    People are going to believe their own personal biases irregardless of the facts. So let’s take the pundits & the news commentary out of the equation. Throwing that out of the way, leaves more time to report on local & international events.

    What we really is factual, point of fact, brief, and straight to the point journalism. As journalism was intended to be was reporting the facts without bias or the journalist becoming personally involved in the story. Instead of the scoop, the conservative vs liberal nonsense, or the salacious story of the moment…. We need to go in the opposite direction. Where the events are reported in complete neutrality and then you personally make the choice.

    • Brian Austin

      This is an absurdly terrible idea. The only reason journalism has ever gotten better and not worse is due to analysis. Imagine a town council meeting at which, in the consent agenda, the town unanimously approves a building for commercial use. In your world, that’s really all you can say about that action. You can’t say that this was the third time in a month that the town had given the same company a lease that kept the company from having to pay property taxes. You could never do an investigative story describing the way the town was using systematic incentives to increase property values, bolstering public tax revenues that they hoarded into ever-increasing health benefits and salaries for their own town council members. Or, if the situation were flipped somewhat, and the town council announced the sale of a public building, you can’t describe what the sale of the homeless shelter will do to the streets of the town. You can’t say there will be more homeless people begging for change, more homeless freezing to death, and likely more robberies and B&Es as a result. You can’t say that the building was sold for 40 percent less than market value, and you definitely can’t tie that discount to campaign donations to the town council. Because none of that is what happened. What happened was that the town made a public action on a building. That’s it.

      Analysis is good. Analysis is what gives the news meaning. Even if you don’t like it, making sense of “what happened” is good for democracy and good for the public. NPR is one of the best organizations at contextualizing information like that, and you should be glad they do the service that they do. I think the nonprofit model makes sense for journalism, and I disagree with your analysis about the BBC. The problem of a nonprofit model is that the news is still beholden to its benefactors, whether it’s George Soros (like ProPublica) or China (like Xinhua). The Beeb steps around this by being beholden directly to its Foundation, and indirectly to all the people in Britain. If that’s not who you want the news responsible to, I don’t know who it is.

    • Andy Freeman

      > The only reason journalism has ever gotten better and not worse is due to analysis.

      The problem with the following rant is that it lists facts that could be reported and asserts that they can’t be reported under a “just the facts” theory of journalism.

      That’s clearly wrong.

      The problem is that the original poster wrote “analysis” but meant something closer to “opinion”. That word choice is reasonable because “analysis” is the label that journalists often apply to their opinion.

      It’s interesting that the example included “bolstering public tax revenues that they hoarded into ever-increasing health benefits and salaries for their own town council members.” A “typical town” has been doing something very different – namely larding up public employee salaries and benefits.

      Even the “analysis” example included an opinion….

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  • CUGrad

    “I just don’t understand Columbia University’s apparent obsession with handing over portions of the press to government subsidy, giving up on the free market.”

    Lee Bollinger is one of the most dangerous people in NYC. His idea of bailouts for so-called “journalism” should come as no surprise. Columbia just got the state of NY to sieze private property, under eminent domain, from local property owners so Columbia can move in and buy up the land at ridiculously low prices and continue its plan to destroy West Harlem.

  • lms10045

    While an “American BBC” is impractical, I disagree that ALL government subsidized media is bad. Let’s take PBS. Their children’s programming is much better than the “free market” channels for kids up to grade school age. While I have my problems with the PBS News Hour, they deliver far more international news than any of the network or cable news channels (except, ahem, BBC America which has a nice news program in the evening). NPR is really the only place on the radio dial to actually get real news, and they have a stellar music website for which I have discovered a lot of great music that would never have gotten airplay on commercial radio.

    This does not mean I eschew privately owned outlets. In fact, I consume more private media than public, but I really like having the choice. How about more choice, not less? Which is why merging PBS and NPR would be a bad idea. But eliminate them altogether or privatize them? That would be a mistake.

    • Andy Freeman

      > I disagree that ALL government subsidized media is bad.

      Quality isn’t the question – content and control is.

      > Let’s take PBS. Their children’s programming is much better than the “free market” channels for kids up to grade school age.

      If it’s so good, it must have been modesty that stopped you from telling us how much you personally donated. What? You value “much better” children’s programming so much that you didn’t pay a dime?

      > I really like having the choice.

      How much is “really” in dollars directly from your pocket? (If you respond with “it only costs each person $0.10″, I’m going to ask you if you’re willing to pay for other people.)

      I like good free stuff as much as the next person, but I don’t think that I’m entitled to it.

      • Jaap

        You pay for a service you do not have to use, same as roads and sidewalks or do you want people to pay for every walk on a pavement instead of a general tax.

        I don’t believe the selfish attitude of some comments here, We live in a community in which you sometimes pay for things you do not want. So what, get a life…….

      • lms10045

        I donate to my local NPR and PBS stations.

      • Andy Freeman

        Yes, I do pay via taxes for services that I don’t use. It’s unclear why children’s TV should be one of them.

        And, I don’t think that folks outside of a city should pay for that city’s sidewalks.

        > I don’t believe the selfish attitude of some comments here

        Ah yes, I’m selfish because I’m not happy to pay for things that you like. Meanwhile, I don’t see you volunteering to pay for things that I like.

        Why are you so opposed to paying your own way?

    • Andy Freeman

      > How about more choice, not less?

      How about you pay for your “more choice” and I’ll pay for mine?

    • Andy Freeman

      > Let’s take PBS. Their children’s programming is much better than the “free market” channels for kids up to grade school age.

      It’s quite likely that PBS’ existence is why there aren’t comparable “free market” channels.

      I agree that there’s demand, but why would the consumers pay full freight when they can get other people to pay?

    • http://evilpundit.mee.nu/ Evil Pundit

      > How about more choice, not less?

      Okay, I’d like to be able to choose not to pay for left-wing propaganda through my taxes.

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  • http://www.swlfest.com Richard in PA

    I’m with Bollinger on this one – even with the notion of combining NPR, VOA, RFE, RFA, Radio Marti, etc. into a single entity. Services like RFE and RFA are mistrusted because the government tries to influence the content. The BBC, like most public-funded broadcasters of the world (think CBC, Radio Netherlands, Deutsche Welle, Australia’s Radio National, New Zealand’s National Radio, I could go on…) maintain an institutional editorial independence outside of direct government appointment. Some will howl this leads to pro-Liberal bias, but a careful analysis of content will suggest otherwise.

    Commercial radio and TV news services in the USA stink. Period. They have become so polluted with political agendas and sensationalism in the mad scramble for ratings and advertisers that their quality and objectivity has suffered mightily.

    I am already a public radio supporter by being a member; I actually support two public radio stations most of the time. So I already put my money where my mouth is.

    Respectfully, Richard

    • Andy Freeman

      > Some will howl this leads to pro-Liberal bias, but a careful analysis of content will suggest otherwise.

      Yeah right.

      However, even if that’s true, it doesn’t tell us that a US equivalent would work the same way.

      For example, the US govt collects about as much per-person in taxes as the richer EU countries. You remember them – they’re the ones that provide much better services.

    • http://evilpundit.mee.nu/ Evil Pundit

      Public funded broadcast services around the world stink. They have become so polluted with left-wing agendas and political correctness that their quality and objectivity has suffered mightily.

      Let’s liberate the taxpayers from the burden of funding bloated, harmful monstrosities like the BBC and its ilk!

  • http://georgebrock.net George Brock
  • Tobe

    The press in America should be a marketplace of ideas. From the beginning media outlets have also competed in the marketplace. Digital technology has drastically reduced the cost of entry into journalism. The fractionalization of the audience has opened the opportunity for diverse voices, styles and content. There is NO compelling need for government funding in this environment. Federal subsidies will only prop up large and established media combines that have managed to squander their standing with the public. Trust the American media consumer to make their own choices based on their own needs, tastes and ideology. For better or for worse, that’s democracy.

  • http://chrismarsden.blogspot.com Chris Marsden

    If you get the democracy you deserve, maybe you also get the journalism you deserve. Ever since the 1960s, there has been little to no competition in local newspaper markets (New York excepted and Murdoch only made money there since he bought the WSJ). Whether that matters to you or not, its clear that the market won’t provide for quality journalism. That said, local TV journalism in the US is infinitely better than the UK equivalent, where we have more or less abandoned local TV journalism in favour of constant London-oriented navel-gazing (which also largely ignores our masters in Brussels).
    You might be better off free-riding on the BBC for your international news than wasting time trying to invest in a public service alternative funded by your corporate-bought Congress (I get BBC News 3 times a day on cable in Montreal via your Vermont PBS) and using their Discovery joint venture for your documentaries. If you deserve Fox News, may your gods help you!

    • Andy Freeman

      > Whether that matters to you or not, its clear that the market won’t provide for quality journalism.

      Oh really? Where was quality journalism tried?

      The most factual pages in newspapers are the sports and society sections.

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  • http://lakeuk.blogspot.com Dave

    BBC World Service is not funded by the BBC but by the British Governments Foreign and Commonwealth Office, a department responsible for promoting the interests of the United Kingdom abroad.

    As to the US having a BBC equivalent, I could never see it happening, they just wouldn’t have the resources to do quality programming 24/7

  • JPV

    “Shockingly, he mentions as models of state-supported media, not just the BBC but also China’s CCTV and Xinhua news and Qatar’s Al Jazeera.”

    I’m totally with you on CCTV, but you clearly haven’t watched Al Jazeera English. It is heads and shoulders above any American journalism broadcast (I would argue it regularly tops the BBC) in terms of the quality and volume of its reporting, its truly global coverage (there’s far more about Latin America, Asia, and Africa than the US,) its coverage of social and economic stories that usually go unreported, and its local angles by local reporters.

    Of course it’s biased when it comes to the Israel and the Middle East, and it generally holds the worldview of the developing world’s middle classes. The latter, at least, is a refreshing corrective to the America-centric perspective.

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  • http://BurlingtonBaby.net jake

    “We shouldn’t be debating which desperate move to take having given up on the sustainable future of journalism. We should be discussing how to build that sustainable future, damnit.”

    Amen, brother.

  • R.J. Moore II

    I want to know why BBC is so much better than American TV.

  • Brian Coyle

    “Government is evil!” Black and white thinking. Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Hume, Pierce, and on, those who ponder show how to think in shades, first grey, then color. Hamilton, Madison, Washington, Franklin sought nuanced ethics, laws, and politics. Yet lazy, black and white thinking keeps popping up.

    U.S. thinking is an outlier, and they want it that way. Diversity generates ideas. The U.S. has statistical diversity, but many put themselves in islands of sameness. They can’t compete against a diversity of ideas, so they choose outlier positions. “I don’t care what you say, because I’m completely different!”

    “Win the marketplace of ideas!” A game you can win has rules, refs, last-first drafts. Capitalist anarchists (a U.S. oddity) oppose regulations, judges, affirmative action. If you have money and power, that makes it easier to win. Which is why libertarianism is fascism: government controlled by and for large companies.

    Modern governments developed over the last few hundred years, have provided conditions for modern societies. “The welfare state will doom us!” Governments, through vaccination, clean water, and health care programs, are why people live long to be a burden. Who volunteers to die young instead?

    We’re at a crossroads. In Europe and especially the U.S. do we elevate the “marketplace” ideal, or Mussolini fascism, to replace flawed, semi-democratic governments? In Asia and especially China do they elevate “state capitalism,” or German facism, to replace semi-totalitarian governments?

    Mass media plays a huge role in future transitions. The U.S. lacks sufficient political transparency and public knowledge, has too many corporate constraints and rigid government units, to assemble an American BBC. Unless we change.