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Tipsheet

As Part of Media Plan, Sanders Suggests Tax to Fund Journalism

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has a plan to deal with what he calls a “crisis” in American journalism.

In an op-ed published Monday in the Columbia Journalism Review, Sanders discusses several trends that have resulted in the “decimation of journalism,” including mergers that he says have led to “just a small handful of companies control almost everything you watch, read, and download.”

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"Given that reality,” he continued, “we should not want even more of the free press to be put under the control of a handful of corporations and 'benevolent' billionaires who can use their media empires to punish their critics and shield themselves from scrutiny."

Part of his plan would be to undo the processes that have made corporate media mergers easier.

When our administration appoints new, progressive leadership at the FCC, we will reverse the Trump administration’s moves, which have gutted longstanding media ownership rules. What Trump has done allows cross-ownership of newspapers and television or radio stations; he has also given the green light to owning multiple stations in the same market.  […]

In a Bernie Sanders administration, we will do the opposite: we will reinstate and strengthen media ownership rules, and we will limit the number of stations that large broadcasting corporations can own in each market and nationwide. We will also direct federal agencies to study the impact of consolidation in print, television, and digital media to determine whether further antitrust action is necessary.

He also proposes “taxing targeted ads” to fund “nonprofit civic-minded media”—or rather, media that would advance his agenda.

“After all, TV networks that rely on $4.5 billion a year of pharmaceutical ads may be thrilled to sugarcoat our current dysfunctional health care system—but they will never provide a consistently fair hearing for something like Medicare for All…”

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Sanders also took aim at The Washington Post, arguing the paper cannot be counted on to cover some issues fairly due to the ownership of the paper. 

"[N]ews outlets owned by Disney and Jeff Bezos may happily tout Disney films and Bezos’s plans for space exploration, but we cannot count on them to consistently and aggressively cover workers’ fight for better wages at Disney- or Bezos-controlled companies," he writes. "In fact, in one instance, we saw that The Washington Post, which Bezos owns, tried to punish a reporter because he spoke out for better wages at the newspaper."

Earlier this month WaPo's executive editor fired back at Sanders who said the paper's negative coverage of his campaign was a result of his criticism of Bezos. 

"Sen. Sanders is a member of a large club of politicians — of every ideology — who complain about their coverage,” Marty Baron told CNN. “Contrary to the conspiracy theory the senator seems to favor, Jeff Bezos allows our newsroom to operate with full independence, as our reporters and editors can attest.”

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