Arnold Kling  

The Future of Mass Media

Errors in Charitable Giving... Competitive Manipulation...

Jim Pinkerton writes,

Every country with ambitions on the international stage will soon have its own state-supported media.

...In addition, around the world, states will want to "help" their media. Not satisfied with what the free market is bringing about, politicians will offer to help out the invisible hand -- help it, that is, with their own iron fist.

Almost four years ago, I wrote,

The newspaper business is going to die within the next twenty years. Newspaper publishing will continue, but only as a philanthropic venture.

It had not occurred to me that taxpayers would be a major source of the philanthropy needed to sustain mass media, but Pinkerton's point seems correct.

One way to think of government is as a propaganda tool on behalf of itself. Mass media provide excellent vehicles for propaganda, so the model of politics as propaganda would predict high levels of government support. The inconvient truth is that we can expect in the future to see political PowerPoint presentations to be taxpayer funded. And you can be sure that government-sponsored media will not be telling us that we can get better education, health care, and retirement security without government.

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COMMENTS (3 to date)
Nathan Smith writes:

Russia is an interesting case here. Television is state-controlled, but newspapers are a bit more independent. And then there's the internet, which as far as I've heard can do anything it wants.

Suppose that a society has only state-run television, some state-subsidized newspapers but also independent ones, and complete freedom of expression in the blogosphere. Does this society qualify as having "free speech?" At a moral level, I think so. There is plenty of room for discourse and debate.

At a political level, not so much. There's a certain-- I apologize for the condescending term-- lumpenproletariat that gets its news from television, which will probably always, or at any rate for the foreseeable future, be more numerous than those who inhabit, in reading and writing roles, the blogosphere. The intelligentsia will be free but politically irrelevant.

Maybe not in America. We have certain traditions that may make us uniquely resistant... plus the sheer mass of our private economy would be difficult for state-run media to tackle. But we'll be unique, a curious, quixotic experiment in media independence. After all, even Britain has the BBC.

Matt C writes:

There's a spot of light in that article. The BBC is already wanting to push into the U.S., perhaps other foreign state broadcasters will follow suit.

I don't like state sponsored media, but if we had access to several different ones, say, Voice of America, BBC, Al-Jazeera, Mexican Radio, and an English version of whatever China comes up with, that doesn't sound so bad to me.

PrestoPundit writes:

Goverment in California channels is propoganda through the government union -- taxes support hundreds of millions of dollars in propaganda every election here, and the result is the union domination of the California budget.

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