Timothy M. Denton

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Saving obsolete economic forms

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An article in the invaluable CARTT newsletter speaks of the decline of local television news. On the same day an article in the Washington Examiner bemoans the death of hard news in the newspaper business. So what is to be done? The answer is simple. Nothing whatever.

How many of you now read the news on a computer at the breakfast table? Is it a national crisis that you are distracted from political news by a video of a puppy dragging a stuffed toy into its sleeping box? Is it worthy of regulatory action that  your "newspaper" is a bunch of articles, videos and a set of hyperlinks to paid ads?

In the article on the death of local television news, the author points to Bell Canada's idea:

One option to fix the local TV and news dilemma, suggests the vertically integrated company, is for the Commission establish a local news fund (LNF) and that terrestrial BDUs begin contributing to the small market local programming fund (SMLPF). Money to set up the LNF would come from the $150 million that BDUs contribute annually to community TV. About $80 million would be shared by the LNF and the SMLPF.

Right. State subsidized news gathering. They have that in Europe. Imagine what happens to the political independence of the media when they are subsidized. The Islamic refugee crisis has revealed that the German media have become puppets of establishment opinion, even as the support for Chancellor Merkel's political party is in full meltdown. The media are already puppets of their owners; they now would become puppets of governments through subsidy schemes.  Brilliant!

What for? I subscribe to opera and the local baroque orchestra. They run on shoestrings, and they receive state subsidies that cover half or more of their expenses. Are newspapers and television news now going to enter the category of obsolete art forms that are worthy of state subsidization? Bach and Corelli versus Mindy Airhead on Channel 8? La Traviata to vie for funding with the local paper advertizer?


Is there any lack of news on the computer? Is there any lack of news coverage on the computer? Are we not already hyper-informed? Have you noticed that in Ottawa we have two fully paid-for and therefore free advertizer-supported newspapers that float around coffee shops?

The central difference is that television is regulated under the Broadcasting Act, and newspapers are not. Commissioners are constantly invited to concern themselves with the financial health of their sector. The lawyers at the regulator will solemnly attest that it a commissioner's legal duty to concern oneself with the financial health of the sector.

Nonsense. It is obsolete and has already  been replaced. Wake up and look around you. Think about how you actually live.

The claim to state subsidy for local news has no higher merit - and that is putting it nicely - than state subsidy for baroque opera.






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Timothy Denton is a lawyer by training who practices principally in telecommunications and Internet policy and domain name issues, with a strong concentration on explaining what the technology is and what it means.


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Guest Tuesday, 19 November 2019
You are here: Home Timothy Denton's Blog Saving obsolete economic forms