Journalist David Leigh laments in the Grauniad that too few of the punters are prepared to dip into their pockets and give a little for those less fortunate – the struggling newspapers. But, be on your guard, as David has a cunning plan, and while you nod your head in sympathy to the sorry tale of Polly, who had to let her gardener go, his hand is snaking towards your wallet.
Leigh’s solution is to use the violence of the state to confiscate private wealth and redistribute it to newspapers, which cannot sustain themselves from sales to the public. Leigh blames this on the internet, hence he deduces that internet users should be forced at point of sword to pay for what they don’t want and don’t need.
The justification is thus; “When the day comes that the newspapers are forced to stop printing altogether, it will be a disaster for democracy.” A bald assertion, that sweeps past various facts. Who or what will force a newspaper to stop printing? It is simply a matter of perceived economic viability, that the money coming in will not cover the money expended. The only force is the market force, and this isn’t really a force, so much as an absence of one, like the absence of wind to a sailing ship. If newspapers wish to survive they must provide something which people are willing to buy at a price they are willing to pay, and the notion that they deserve a pension for services rendered in the past, or for the cultural enrichment they deliver now, is absurd and offensive.
The plea for protection will always fail if grounded on the general welfare (protection for everyone is protection for no one), so better to point to other examples already existing, which then moves this question; “they have it, so why shouldn’t we?” For David, he can point to the BBC, that monstrosity of state interference, which relies on a compulsory poll-tax on TV owners, and thus is insulated from the vicissitudes of its plebian consumers. There has never been an equivalent of the BBC for newspapers in any country considered free or democratic. Indeed the only reason there is one for radio and television is an accident of history, wherein the development of the technology coincided with the rise of the total state in the mid-early 20th century. Had scientists got their act together 50 years before, the very notion of a state-funded broadcaster would have horrified our Victorian grandfathers, but their descendents, blasted senseless by the Great War, were not so vigilant. The BBC provides no justification for further protection. Rather, let us take away the BBC’s privilege, and certainly not extend it.
Hat tip: Anna Raccoon