According to a recently released proposal it has highlighted that the federal government wants to get far more involved with local news outlets.
In a report from the middle of last week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) put forth the idea of creating public policy to assist with the subsidizing of local journalism and combat what they call misinformation. The GAO issued a report that explained that the lack of economic viability of local news outlets was the issue that was forcing 2,000 local newspapers to shut down since the early 2000s.
“[T]he market may not produce public interest content sufficient for a well-informed society,” explained the GAO. “Experts conveyed that the main goal of journalism is to have a well-informed society, and policies that aim to support this goal need to be innovation-friendly, forward-looking, and inclusive.”
The GAO issued a proposal for various tax credits and incentives, direct government funding, federal loans and grants, government advertising, and even government intervention with respect to dominant internet platforms to prop up local nonprofit news. Their statements also brought up that the government should establish policies to protect certain “public interest journalism” from failures of the market.
“According to literature and participants, direct government funding and tax incentives supporting nonprofit news organizations can be useful in addressing market failure if there are sufficient safeguards to ensure independence,” explained the report.
The GAO also admitted that there exists no universal definition of “public interest journalism.” However, they explained that they mark “public interest journalism” as that which deals with issues of “public significance to engage citizens and inform democratic decision-making,” which includes the carrying out of investigation on “civically important topics.”
The GAO went on to add that “public interest journalism” works as a kind of “public good” for everyone and “generates positive externalities.” They also defined the term as the power to create benefits for society in a way that outweighs what both consumers or local news media outlets “internalize.” For example, the agency pointed to reports that slow down the spread of COVID.
The group indicated that the desire from consumers for the government’s standard of “public interest journalism” may not exist due to consumers not seeing the full scale of the benefits.
“[W]hen consumers do not perceive or internalize the benefit of this information to them, or when they expect to receive it for free, they are not willing to pay for this type of journalism,” concluded the GAO.