Here Comes the Newspaper Bailout
The head of the Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday the agency will study whether government should aid struggling news organizations, which are suffering from a collapse in advertising revenues as the internet upends their centuries-old business model.
FTC Chairman Jon Liebowitz's comments came during day one of a two-day "workshop" sponsored by the agency that became a forum for arguments among the heads of a diverse array of news organizations over the future of journalism.
Mr. Leibowitz said his agency will examine whether government should change the way the industry is regulated, from making news-gathering companies exempt from antitrust laws to granting them special tax treatment to making changes to copyright laws.
The Federal Communications Commission is already reconsidering rules that prevent a company from owning newspapers and TV stations in a single market.
Mr. Leibowitz said other ideas include extending government subsidies to commercial news organizations, granting them special tax treatment or an exemption from antitrust regulations.
While cautioning that changes in the news business must be much better understood before any policy changes are made, Mr. Leibowitz said: "We should be able to take action if necessary to preserve the news that is vital to democracy."
Mr. Leibowitz's wife, Ruth Marcus, is a columnist for the Washington Post, a fact he disclosed during the meeting.
Media executives said they might welcome some relaxation of antitrust and tax rules, but they also expressed wariness of government intervention in the news business.
Told you there was a newspaper bailout coming eventually.
Does Leibowitz' wife watch Fox News? That's a great question. I don't.
Update: I also did this for my column today on Going Concern. You can check it out here.