Diane Francis, "Newspapers: rescue us too," National Post. 29 Jan. 2009.
The media business model has been imploding globally and the fallout has grave ramifications for democracy, business transparency and, selfishly, grave impacts for those like me who practice journalism.
The old model has been that news, both print and broadcast, is subsidized by advertisers who want to peddle their wares to our readers or viewers. Now the audience is fragmented across the Internet and other media platforms, a negative factor in addition to the current credit crunch.
Every network and newspaper in the world is suffering. So we all are casting about for a better business model while fighting to keep our audiences and advertisers happy.
While over-stated, there is some concern in journalistic quarters, such as those I occupy, about this higher purpose or the protection of democratic freedoms.
There is some validity to this anxiety. Frankly, specialty channels, reality TV and the blogosphere are very entertaining but they are hardly bastions of our freedoms, values nor are they purveyors of facts that have been well-tested and curated by professional content-providers who occupy editors' and producers' chairs.
All of which has led me to conclude that perhaps, for a change, France may have come up with the absolutely best business model for my business: Nicolas Sarkozy has given France's newspapers a €600 million subsidy over three years—including a free subscription for every 18-year-old Frenchman—on top of the €280 per year it gives them now. He's also directed governments to step up their advertising.
Britain is considering similar measures for regional papers and there's talk even in the U.S. Meanwhile, Canadian taxpayers support the CBC and perhaps should prop the rest of us up too.
Just kidding? Only sort of.
Somehow someone who wrote this opinion piece above seems to like the idea of a hostile public being forced to pay for state-sponsored propaganda. Nice trick if one can get away with it. Ah, some do. As Ms. Francis points out, it happens even in Canada. Here's my point: If I have to buy the Canadian version of Pravda, please don't spit on it. I use it wrap my lunch in.