Media System Advancements
Table of Contents
Summary of public policies to advance our media system (details on pages 357-371 of The New Enlightenment)
Our Media System Requires Radical Reform
A media system dominated by a few huge, powerful, and manipulative corporations that control almost all that we learn about our society is a barrier to the widespread awareness of the accurate, unprejudiced information we need. When facts are distorted or obscured, as they have been, it creates conflict and makes problem-solving impossible. We need accurate, unprejudiced information and fact-based public policy solutions, clearly, widely, and commonly expressed to best deal with our many serious problems
Our media system requires radical reforms for a far more constructive content and tone of our democratic discourse, and for instilling a sense that we all must learn about important public issues so we can best serve our role in our renewed, well-functioning democracy.
“Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree.”[i]
“Their minds must be improved,” largely, by a greatly improved media.
[i] Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XIV, 1782. ME 2:207
Best Use Of Our Regulatory Power Over Air Media Corporations
The airwaves are publicly owned allowing us regulatory control over air media companies to ensure our airwaves best serves us. Instead, we have allowed the wealthy corporate elite now dominating our media environment to use it in ways that have contributed to our social decline. We will be best served by media corporations controlled by people far more representative of the majority. New Enlightenment policies ensure that media corporations are controlled democratically by the workers in them.
Broadcast licenses come up for renewal every eight years. With regulations mandating it and the availability of sufficient financing, workers of local stations will take ownership and management control of their stations at license renewal time. Corporations owning more than one station will divest them to local worker-owners. The federal government will provide loans at the Federal Reserve Discount Rate for the worker buyouts at the eight-year license renewal time. The social benefits of democratic control of air media by their workers will be immense.
News Media Subsidies
Advertising dollars have proven to be a dysfunctional and inadequate support of news media enterprises. New Enlightenment news media company financial supports include federal subsidies for full-time journalists and editors in broadcast, print, and Internet media companies. Any existing company supplying news and educational content on public policy related issues to local outlets and consumers directly that becomes an independent worker-owned, WSDE structured, non-profit enterprise will receive an $18,000 per year journalist and editor subsidy. (Click here for information on WSDEs and how we can widely establish them.) The subsidy policy will also require media companies to have semi-annual public forums where company representatives will take questions and comments from community members.
The resulting competitive advantage that the subsidies will create will motivate media companies that are part of conglomerates to divest and be a WSDE. Existing media companies would have previously defined who journalists are, and it is unlikely that they would commit fraud to claim that other employees are journalists after initiating the subsidy. It will be a felony to do so.
Groups of ten or more journalists who seek to establish a new broadcast, print, or Internet media company structured as a non-profit WSDE can receive federal loans and grants to support their establishment. To be eligible, they must meet the requirements for start-up financing that I detail in my worker ownership proposal. Federal financial incentives motivate local credit unions, local banks, or the city government to provide some of the funds needed to establish new WSDEs based on their evaluation of the probability of success of the enterprise. The grouping of at least ten people and the oversight during WSDE formation by local lenders and the federal government that supply any remaining necessary funds for worker ownership would minimize the possibility of fraud to get the journalist subsidy.
To further support news media, all citizens over 18 years of age will be encouraged to donate at least a federally supplied $20 news media vouchers. Additional donations to WSDE structured, non-profit media companies will be tax-deductible.
Advertising May Support Other Than News Broadcast Programs
On WSDE broadcast media with news and other types of programming, revenue from regulated advertising will only be allowed to support other than news programming. In some cases, tax-deductible donation support will be sufficient to support this programming without ad revenue, freeing the company to choose non-commercial status. Most consumers will appreciate having content that is ad-free and the removal of influence from advertisers in programming decisions. Non-commercial status also eliminates the need to devote resources to dealing with advertisers. When advertising revenue is necessary, stations will raise funds with sponsor content possibly slightly more extensive than current public media sponsor content if it has accurate informational value. Content devoid of relevant information of the kind that now exists on commercial media with “the goal of undermining markets by creating uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices.” will not be allowed valuable airtime. (Noam Chomsky’s accurate description)
Ensuring Public Funds For Media Will Be Well Used
We will establish an analogous organization to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the Corporation for Democratic Media (CDM), to distribute the subsidies to media companies with the required WSDE structure, worker-ownership and non-profit corporation status. The CDM will develop and publish for public review and comment guidelines for performance for subsidies to be maintained to specific media companies based on peer review and number of consumer criteria.
Advancements In Public Broadcasting's Structure And Support
More public funding and a more democratic management structure are also needed in public broadcasting. I propose we institute a WSDE governance structure on the local and central content producing level. Workers would determine policy on the local station and the central content producing level using democratic processes. Local public broadcasting stations will have their representatives participate in the programming decisions of public media’s national content producers.
Government Costs for the Media System Transformation
The broadcast media journalist subsidies, plus subsidies for other journalists, and the news media vouchers will total about $6.3 billion per year ($1.3 billion in direct journalist subsidies and $5 billion in citizen news media vouchers). $6.3 billion is small compared to the $30 billion per year we spent in current dollars supporting journalism during the country’s early decades, but it is sufficient news media governmental support for our times, due to improved efficiencies of information gathering and communication. It is more than 2.5 times all journalist’s pay combined in 2015. Costs to support journalism exist other than journalist pay, but the substantial federal support with additional voluntary public support will result in vigorous news media. Voucher funds not used in a year will increase the journalist subsidy and voucher amount the following year.