Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more ➡
Download
Standard view
Full view
of .
Add note
Save to My Library
Sync to mobile
Look up keyword
Like this
3Activity
×
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Wrong Way to Reinvent Media Part 1 - Media Taxes [Thierer & Szoka - PFF]

Wrong Way to Reinvent Media Part 1 - Media Taxes [Thierer & Szoka - PFF]

Ratings: (0)|Views: 1,362|Likes:
Published by Adam Thierer
An essay from the Progress & Freedom Foundation (www.PFF.org) about proposals to
tax media devices or distribution systems to fund media content. The authors, Adam Thierer & Berin Szoka, argue that such media income redistribution is fundamentally inconsistent with American press traditions, highly problematic under the First Amendment, difficult to implement in a world of media abundance and platform convergence, and likely to cause serious negative side effects.
An essay from the Progress & Freedom Foundation (www.PFF.org) about proposals to
tax media devices or distribution systems to fund media content. The authors, Adam Thierer & Berin Szoka, argue that such media income redistribution is fundamentally inconsistent with American press traditions, highly problematic under the First Amendment, difficult to implement in a world of media abundance and platform convergence, and likely to cause serious negative side effects.

More info:

Published by: Adam Thierer on Mar 24, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See More
See less

03/24/2010

pdf

text

original

 
Progress on Point 
Volume 17, Issue 1 March 2010
1444 EYE STREET, NW
SUITE 500
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20005202-289-8928
The
Wrong
Way to Reinvent Media, Part I: Taxes onConsumer Electronics, Mobile Phones & Broadband
by Adam Thierer & Berin Szoka*
With many traditional media operators struggling, and questions being raised about how journalism in particular will be supported in the future,
1
Washington policymakers are currentlyconsidering what role government can and should play in helping media providers reinventthemselves in the face of tumultuous technological change wrought by the Digital Revolution.For example, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently kicked off a new
effort with a workshop on
.
Likewise,the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has hosted two workshops
asking
 
Meanwhile, the Senate has already held hearings abou
t “the futureof journalism,” and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D
-
MD) recently introduced the
,” which would allow newspapers to become
tax-exempt non-profits in aneffort to help them stay afloat.In a series of forthcoming essays leading up to the May 7 filing deadline for the
FCC’s
 
proceeding, we will discuss and critique some of the leading proposals being put
forward that would have the government play a greater role in sustaining struggling mediaenterprises,
“saving journalism
,
 
or promoting more “public interest” content.
 In this essay, we discuss an old idea that
‘s gained
new currency: taxing media
devices
or
 distribution
systems to fund media
content.
We argue that such media income redistribution isfundamentally inconsistent with American press traditions, highly problematic under the FirstAmendment, difficult to implement in a world of media abundance and platform convergence,and likely to cause serious negative side effects.
Adam Thierer is President of The Progress & Freedom Foundation. Berin Szoka is a Senior Fellow and Directorof 
PFF’s
Center for Internet Freedom. The views expressed in this report are their own, and are notnecessarily the views of the PFF board, other fellows or staff.
1
The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism
reports that: “
The numbers for 2009 reveal just how urgent thesequestions are becoming. Newspapers, including online, saw ad revenue fall 26% during the year, which bringsthe total loss over the last three years to 43%. Local television ad revenue fell 22% in 2009, triple the declinethe year before. Radio also was off 22%. Magazine ad revenue dropped 17%, network TV 8% (and news aloneprobably more). Online ad revenue over all fell about 5%, and revenue to news sites most likely also faredmuch worse. Only cable news among the commercial news sectors did not suffer declining revenue last year.
Pew Project For Excellence in Journalism,
Introduction,
T
HE
S
TATE OF THE
N
EWS
M
EDIA
 
Page 2 Progress on Point 17.1
The BBC Model: Taxing Devices
Taxing devices to subsidize media content has never gained much traction here in the U.S., butit
s been used by some foreign governments for many decades. Most famously, taxes onradios, eventually replaced by taxes on televisions, have sustained the BBC in the U.K. since itsinception
as the world’s first national br
oadcasting system in 1922. According to themost recent BBC annual report,the
annual “fee”
was raised to £142.50/year (currently$213.43) as of April 2009. Failure to pay the fee is, of course, a crime and punished with stiff fines up to £1000 ($1497.75)
and radio emissions from unlicensed televisions can be detectedby government vans that
rove Britain’s streets looking
for violators. The revenue generated bythe tax is then allocated among various BBC media products,with most of it going to the BBC 1 and BBC 2 television channels.The U.S. has taken a different approach. We
ve not embedded a tax in the cost of new mediadevices to pay for the content delivered over those devices. (Of course, that
s at least partiallybecause we
ve had a strong tradition of free markets in media ever since we revolted againstthe Brits and mercantilism, their system of state-directed economic planning!) Generallyspeaking, private media operators have been expected to pay their own way in this country andnot look to government for direct support.America has had some indirect subsidies in the form of reduced postal rates for print media, aswell as tax treatment for advertising. And taxpayer dollars have been channeled to theCPB/PBS/NPR regime, of course. But such public subsidy is small potatoes when compared toprivate media in the U.S.
For example, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s 
2010 budget is just $400 million.
2
 
While many look to CPB to fund children’s programming (among
its manyother activities), its entire budget is no more than a quarter of the total amount of U.S.
advertising revenue produced by children’s programming from food and beverages productsalone: $1.6 billion in 2006 by the FTC’s
3
That comparisonillustrates thevital importance of advertising to media,
4
but subscriptions, direct sales, andprivate patronage have also been major economic engines of media in United States.But the idea of more direct government support for media (and journalism, in particular) hasalways been lurking out there. There
s long been a small but vociferous crowd of academicsand policymakers advocating huge increases in government spending on non-commercial orpublic media. And some of them have even toyed with a tax on technology to cross-subsidizethe media content that flows over those devices or networks. Most recently, Robert W.McChesney and John Nichols, authors of the new book 
2
Corporation for Public Broadcasting, FY 2010 Operating Budget,www.cpb.org/aboutcpb/leadership/board/resolutions/090915_fy10OperatingBudget.pdf . 
3
 
See
 
FTC’s 2008 report,
Marketing Food to Children and Adolescents: A Review of Industry Expenditures, Activities, and Self-Regulation
4
Adam Thierer & Berin Szoka, The Progress & Freedom Foundation,
The Hidden Benefactor: How AdvertisingInforms, Educates & Benefits Consumers
, PFF P
ROGRESS
S
NAPSHOT
 
 
Progress on Point 17.1 Page 3
 Journalism
, have proposed a 4-part tax plan to raise money ($18-21 billion) for a massive $35billion/year
public works
program for the press (with the remainder coming from othersources):
5
 a
5% tax on consumer electronics
(they estimate it would bring in $4 billion/year)a
3% tax on monthly ISP & cell phone bills
(estimated $6 billion/year)a
2% sales tax on advertising
(estimated $5 to $6 billion/year)a
7% tax on broadcasters
(estimated $3-6 billion/year)Similarly, Leonard Downie, Jr., Vice President at Large of 
The Washington Post 
, and MichaelSchudson, a Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, have
advocated the creation of a “Fund for Local News” that “would make grants for advances in
local news reporting and innovative ways to
support it.”
6
The Fund would make grants to newsorganizations through
“Local News Fund Councils”
and would be
financed by “fees paid by radio
and television licensees, or proceeds from auctions of telecommunications spectrum, or newfees imposed on Inter
net service providers.”
7
(Note: Proposals to impose fees on radio andtelevision licensees will be discussed in a subsequent installment of this PFF series. But forpurposes of this installment, we reference the Downie & Schudson plan because of its call forfees on ISPs as one method of financing media going forward.)
More Platforms, More Taxes
McChesney and Nichols don
t go into a lot of detail about their tax proposals, but the consumerelectronics tax they favor appears to be based on the 1967 Carnegie Commission Report,which called for a 5% tax on all new television purchases
—a variant on Britain’
s annual licensing fee.But instead of just taxing
televisions
”—
which would be very difficult in a world of technological convergence where consumers can
watch television
on any number of devices(PCs, mobile phones, portable gaming devices, portable media players,
etc
.)
they apparentlywant to tax
all 
consumer electronic devices. Thus, they seem to recognize the reality of convergence but their answer is to just tax
everything
!The British themselves have struggled with technological change: In 1971, the radio fee firstintroduced in 1922 was abolished, and in 1972, so was the
BBC’s
radio monopoly, withcommercial radio stations being allowed to compete with BBC Radio for the first time. Onemight argue that abolishing the radio tax and relying on a single tax (on televisions) to fund the
BBC’s television programming (67% of BB
C spending) as well as BBC radio (17%) was simplymore efficient
since most consumers had a television as well as a radio. Indeed, actuallyimplementing any media device tax in the U.S. could prove very difficult, since countering
5
Robert W. McChesney & John Nichols, T
HE
D
EATH AND
L
IFE OF
A
MERICAN
J
OURNALISM
(2010) at 210-11.
 6
Leonard Downie, Jr. & Michael Schudson,
The Reconstruction of American Journalism
, C
OLUMBIA
J
OURNALISM
R
EVIEW
, Oct. 20, 2009, at 92,
available at  
7
 
Id.
 

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->