In all the attention that has been given to the idea of an Internet tax on news aggregation sites and on tech equipment -- trial balloons that would obviously be shot down -- very little attention has been focused on the expenditure side of the proposal -- the subsidy of news organizations.
But The Wall Street Journal reported six months ago that Leibowitz had commissioned a study to determine "whether the government should aid struggling news organizations which are suffering from a collapse in advertising revenues as the Internet upends their centuries-old business model." Among the steps under consideration are changing "the way the industry is regulated, from making news-gathering companies exempt from anti-trust laws to granting them special tax treatment to making changes to copyright laws."
These are exactly the kind of subsidies that could and would trigger government oversight and control.
Look at how radio stations squirm when their licenses are up for renewal before the FCC. We can imagine news organizations pulling their punches in order not to antagonize the hand that feeds them.
The Leibowitz study, and the subsidy proposals that are likely to emerge from it, represent a chilling threat to the First Amendment and to our civil liberties.
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