FTC gears up for journalism confab


The Federal Trade Commission is teeing up a comprehensive, no-holds-barred two day session on the pitiful state of modern journalism 12/1-2/09. Called “From Town Criers to Bloggers: How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?” The event will feature workshops that “will bring competition, consumer protection, and First Amendment perspectives to bear on the financial, technological, and other challenges facing the news industry…” brought about largely by the availability of free info on the internet.

Noting that even as the internet siphons away advertising cash, traditional media companies are saddles with ever-more difficult-to-handle debt loads, the FTC lays out the situation like this:

“Several large daily newspapers across the country have declared bankruptcy in the past year, and others have imposed significant cuts in staff and other expenditures to lower their costs dramatically, although some smaller community newspapers may continue to have local monopolies. News magazines also have seen significant drop-offs in advertising revenues, despite relatively stable circulation numbers. Broadcast television news and radio news broadcasts have lost audience shares over the past decade, while cable and Internet audiences have grown. The news media and the practice of journalism are in transition, as evidenced by multiple innovative models for journalism that have emerged in the past few years.”

It plans to look at numerous possible antidotes to the problem, including some uniquely available to the government, such as antitrust, copyright, and tax policy. Witnesses will be invited from all involved spheres – journalists, academics, watchdogs, you name it.

RBR/TVBR observation: Every media company with a journalism shop in America, indeed in the world, has been trying to solve this problem for several years now. Do you have any confidence that the FTC will do it in two days? We don’t – but it probably won’t hurt to get stakeholders together and take an organized stab at it.