Columbia University President Champions 'More Public Funding' for Media

With the World Cup over, the vuvuzelas have silenced but another horn is still being blown: the journalism bailout horn.

In a July 14 Wall Street Journal op-ed, liberal Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger called for increased public funding for the media. Columbia is home to one of the most well-known journalism schools in the United States, a school that also publishes the Columbia Journalism Review. While this is not the first time Bollinger’s called for a publicly funded media, this time he acknowledged that “the idea of public funding for the press stirs deep unease in American culture” but did his best to calm this “deep unease:”

“The press is a kind of public trust, a fourth branch of government. Can it be trusted when the state helps pay for it?”

The short answer: no, it can’t be trusted, as has been documented by the Business & Media Institute and Newsbusters on various occasions.

Bollinger continued sounding the horn by warning against complete market control of the press:

“Trusting the market alone to provide all the news coverage we need would mean venturing into the unknown – a risky proposition with a vital public institution hanging in the balance.”

Bollinger cited public universities as examples of institutions where “state support does not translate into official control.” Furthermore, Bollinger argued that more problems arise from corporate funding than public funding:

“Indeed, the most problematic funding issues in academic research come from alliances with the corporate sector. This reinforces the point that all media systems, whether advertiser-based or governmental, come with potential editorial risks.”

On the contrary, corporate competition motivates media companies such as News Corp. and Time Warner to compete for television ratings and readership. Additionally, publicly-funded NPR and PBS have a liberal bias and aren’t exactly models of the “watchdog press.” As noted by Tim Graham, the MRC’s director of media analysis: “you can’t fix the newspaper readership problem just by keeping a failing business on life support.”

The MRC has warned against journalism bailouts again and again and again, but liberals continue pushing for them.

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