Capitol Hill tees up newspapers


John Conyers (D-MI) is used the House Subcommittee on the Courts and Competition Policy and the Internet, and John Kerry (D-MA) is using the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, to look at the woeful state of America’s print media. Kerry’s hearing will take place 5/6/09.

Briefly, testifiers at the Conyers hearing agreed that journalism is an indispensable part of a functioning democracy, and they also agreed that the internet and the economy in general are putting tremendous pressure on newspapers, with many on the brink of Chapter 11 and others already there.

Carl Shapiro, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Electronic, Antitrust Division at DOJ, said that in his opinion existing antitrust regulation was flexible enough to handle most cases when merger between two local newspapers is on the table. He suspects in the current climate that one of the two would most likely qualify as a failing entity, allowing an otherwise impermissible deal to go through since on merged entity is better than one function and another defunct one.

Ben Scott of Free Press argued that consolidation was not the answer, but that since quality journalism is an absolute necessity, suggested that stakeholders on all sides be brought together to examine routes out of the current mess, whether they lead to saving newspapers or replacing them with something else. He compared it to making a strong combined effort to solve other important issues such as health care or the environment.

RBR/TVBR observation: If there is to be a national conversation on the future of journalism, broadcasters must make absolutely certain that they have a prominent seat at the table. In a way it’s nice that Capitol Hill is making all this fuss over print – if nothing else, it shows that there are worse places to be than in broadcasting – but still, there’s some recovering to do in the airborne media as well.