Tax-supported content is taxpayers’ content

Gannett and Wisconsin high-school sports bodies are in a fight over streaming games. As more and more people can broadcast even from their mobile phones, I think there’s an important principle at work here and it should be: Tax-supported content is taxpayers’ content. That means that anyone should be able to broadcast public events paid for by the public. This also should include government meetings (which are usually covered by local open-meetings laws). Otherwise, we are going to find governments, bureaucrats, and private bodies trying to stop us from sharing what we see because of commercial interests (or using those interests as a means of control). The problem with my doctrine is that companies that invest in broadcasting events will say they will not be motivated to do so when they don’t hold exclusive rights. It gets very complicated – and expensive – at a university level, I know. But as a matter of principle, I am uncomfortable with government selling control to information we paid for, from research to maps to field hockey.

  • I wrote a similar post recently arguing that taxpayer funded data must be freely available to the public. The UK seems to be more progressive about this issue than Australia or the US.

    • Oliver

      In the case of maps, the reverse is certainly the case. The US government has a smaller role in map data gathering, but what it does have is made freely available (TIGER data has been a major source for the openstreetmap project). As you’ll see from the link Jeff posted above, the UK’s Ordnance Survey is the complete opposite – set up as a profit-making agency. The UK Royal Mail even protects and tries to sell postcode (ZIP code) data – see for innovative crowd-sourced workarounds). That may be a legitimate funding model but the real issue is that it stiffles innovation.

  • Kyle

    I really appreciated this post. I agree whole-heartedly.

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