Citizens' news vouchers: $200 for everyone?

Author: Irene Wu
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, 20554, United States

Would you get more of the news and information you want if the government let you direct $200 of taxpayer money toward your favorite media outlets?

This is the proposal most recently suggested by Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols in their new book The Death and Life of American Journalism (Nation Books, 2010), which builds on a proposal by Dean and Randy Baker. In McChesney and Nichols' proposal, every American adult would have a citizen news voucher in his or her tax return. On that voucher he or she could divide $200 among eligible media outlets. Which media outlets would be eligible? Public broadcasters and not-for-profit media, for example. In return for the government subsidy, McChesney and Nichols suggest eligible media should be required to forgo advertising and to make all their content public domain, in other words, not covered by copyright. The goal of the voucher system would be to increase funding for public media that citizens want to see flourish, including start-up web-journalism, without getting the government involved in evaluating the viewpoint of the media receiving the subsidy. McChesney and Nichols refer to the postal subsidies the federal government granted newspapers in the 1700 and 1800's. This helped newspapers and magazine of all political viewpoints by lowering their distribution costs and creating a vibrant public debate in the early days of the republic.



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