A frontrunner in the race to become next president of the United States has unveiled a plan to save journalism in America.
This week, Democratic primary candidate Bernie Sanders penned a column for the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) that the Vermont senator says will restrain corporate monopolies, even the playing field with tech companies, and inject new tax proceeds into the U.S. media landscape.
“Real journalism requires significant resources,” Sanders’ column reads. “One reason we do not have enough real journalism in America right now is because many outlets are being gutted by the same forces of greed that are pillaging our economy.”
North of the border, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proposed an aid package for Canada’s similarly ailing news outlets last November. But whereas Sanders’ plan consists of a range of policies, Trudeau and the federal Liberals’ only suggested a relatively straightforward bailout of $595 million implemented through tax breaks and tax credits.
Sanders’ proposed package of laws and regulations gives a lot of attention to corporate mergers and monopolies.
“In the spirit of existing federal laws, we will start requiring major media corporations to disclose whether or not their corporate transactions and merger proposals will involve significant journalism layoffs,” it begins.
“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,” it continues. “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.”
Sanders’ plan also includes an emphasis on the need for strengthened unions in the media sector.
“We will pass my Workplace Democracy Plan, which will boost media workers’ laudable efforts to form unions and collectively bargain with their employers,” it reads.
The proposal then moves on to the new goliath in the battle for American advertising dollars: the tech sector.
“When it comes to Silicon Valley, I will appoint an Attorney General as well as Federal Trade Commission officials who more stringently enforce antitrust laws against tech giants like Facebook and Google, to prevent them from using their enormous market power to cannibalize, bilk, and defund news organizations,” it reads.
“We must also explore new ways to empower media organizations to collectively bargain with these tech monopolies, and we should consider taxing targeted ads and using the revenue to fund nonprofit civic-minded media,” it continues. “That will be part of an overall effort to substantially increase funding for programs that support public media’s news-gathering operations at the local level—in much the same way many other countries already fund independent public media.”
Sanders’ column also includes a depressing summary of the state of American journalism today.
“Two Silicon Valley corporations—Facebook and Google—control 60 percent of the entire digital advertising market,” it reads. “They have used monopolistic control to siphon off advertising revenues from news organizations. A recent study by the News Media Alliance, a trade organization, found that in 2018, as newspaper revenues declined, Google made $4.7 billion off reporting that Google did not pay for.
“At the same time, corporate conglomerates and hedge fund vultures have bought and consolidated beleaguered local newspapers and slashed their newsrooms—all while giving executives big payouts,” Sanders concludes. “Over the past 15 years, more than 1,400 communities across the country have lost newspapers, which are the outlets local television, radio, and digital news sites rely on for reporting. Since 2008, we have seen newsrooms lose 28,000 employees—and in the past year alone, 3,200 people in the media industry have been laid off. Today, for every working journalist, there are six people now working in public relations, often pushing a corporate line.”
Yesterday (August 26) a new national poll by Monmouth University found that Sanders and Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren are now tied with 20-percent support among Democratic voters, both just one point ahead of former vice-president Joe Biden.
The U.S. presidential election is just 434 days away.