Purely Political, By James Buckley
Part of the Build Back Better mega-spending Act wheedling its way through the halls of Congress is an appendage called the “Local Journalism Sustainability Act.”
Democrats who’ve put together this $1.9-billion media protection boondoggle apparently think government will always be on their side. Why wouldn’t they believe that? Even when the presidency is in Republican hands, the state apparatus remains firmly in Democrat control.
Besides, who could possibly be against handing out cash to not just “struggling” media companies, but to all media, despite and regardless of their size (up to 1,500 employees) of the institution?
No need to guess which candidate those papers are likely to support.
Whether you are CNN, Fox News, NBC or The New York Times, you’ll be in line to receive payments from what were once quaintly called “taxpayers,” but now that our government is more in the business of printing money rather than collecting it, we’ll have to admit that cash would be coming from “government.”
Anyone who’s paid any attention at all over the past, say, three decades — give or take a year or two — realizes that both local and national print media, other than the few giants left — The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and a handful of others more regional in scope and coverage — are in trouble.
What had been the monetary muscle for most local papers — classified advertising — has been defanged and destroyed. At first, by the free classifieds available to any and all on Craig’s List, and then by the ubiquitous world wide web that allows even the smallest advertiser to reach more people at a far smaller cost, and coincidentally way more efficiently too.
Then national advertisers and merchants in smaller cities and even smaller towns found it more productive to put an ad on the internet than it was to attract a limited number of eyeballs to a print ad. One by one, in a not-so-slowly cascading waterfall of closures, mergers and bankruptcies, messaging via print went out of style.
Naturally, media companies of every shape would be drawn to support a Local Journalism Sustainability Act. That’s understandable, but even a cursory glance at the act’s provisions should inform them of what it portends if passed: complete government control of everything printed or reported on their pages or on the air.
Here’s how it works: As much as 50% of a reporter’s salary (up to $25,000) will be paid by the U.S. government, and up to 30% of that same salary for the next five years. No doubt, if this bill ever gets passed (and some form of it is likely to, as the idea of subsidizing media has been batted around in D.C. for the past decade), the dollar amount of the subsidy will go up over the years, perhaps even with some kind of inflation-adjustment, as happens with nearly all such carve-outs and no one barely notices.
Once “journalists” are granted government subsidies, it will ultimately be government types deciding who is or isn’t a “true” journalist. Troublemakers such as Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Joe Rogan, James O’Keefe, Glenn Greenwald and other muckrakers, would most likely not qualify. Not only wouldn’t they be eligible for subsidies, they would probably be banned entirely.
The “news” would become — and in many cases is already — just another product produced and packaged by political hacks stationed in Washington, D.C. and major media centers. An editor’s or reporter’s job would be to simply reprint press releases issued directly from a senator’s office, the speaker’s desk, the White House briefing room, via a CDC infomercial or via other “official” channels.
No doubt, once some failing government program hoping to continue paying big government salaries beyond its expiration date, a bevy of subsidized reporters will line up in support of the government’s desires and declare “Insurrection!” when and if a group of actual citizens objects.
If you are one of those who enjoyed the suppression of, say, the truth about the Steele dossier (and the Hillary Clinton campaign’s part in it) and President Donald Trump’s “collusion” with the Russians (particularly Vladimir Putin), or the suppression of the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop, or the condemnation and canceling of anyone opposed to mask and or vaccine mandates, or the positive aspects of Ivermectin (“It’s a wormer for horses!”), or hydroxychloroquine, or were a true believer when told that the COVID-19 virus that’s killed nearly one million Americans and millions more around the world could not possibly have originated in the virology lab in Wuhan, China, then you are going to love the “news” that Local Journalism Sustainability government-subsidized reporters are likely to regurgitate for you.
Passage of anything close to this will endanger freedom of speech and spell the end of a free press in the United States. Not that anyone comfortably ensconced in today’s mainstream media would notice or care. Most have already abandoned professional integrity, so selling one’s soul to the highest bidder no longer seems like a big deal.
Heaven knows, government is where all the money is anyway.
James Buckley is a longtime Montecito resident. He welcomes questions or comments at email@example.com.