Media merger tax. Some media or communication company mergers should just be flat-out blocked on anti-competitive grounds. But others might be allowed on the condition that a portion of the transaction value—one fourth?—would go toward efforts to insure that the public—including the nonprofit sector, Americans of modest means, educational entities, and nonprofit news organizations—would benefit.
Nonprofit fast lanes? Some have suggested requiring fast lanes specifically for news sites, perhaps limited to those with .news web domains. I’m sympathetic to this, in theory. The founding fathers subsidized periodicals, through lower postal rates, because they viewed a well-informed citizenry as essential to democracy. But I’m skeptical that it could be done in practice. How would we define “news” for those purposes? So I lean toward something that promotes competition and assists the nonprofit sector, which is easier to define.
There may, however, be some ways that these public interest remedies can indirectly or directly help journalism. Requiring cable TV operators and ISPs to underwrite a revolution in public access to the workings of government will help journalists (pro and am) better monitor government. More directly, some of the funds generated by the above schemes could actually go to subsidize nonprofit journalism. I know this is a controversial topic; there’s broad resistance to fees or tax dollars going to journalism. But there’s a safe way of using these funds to help media ecosystems: give the money to local journalism schools, on the condition that they have programs to support local journalism.
None of these ideas would be politically easy. They each disrupt a status quo system that’s working well for a handful of companies. But it’s time to think more broadly about which policy levers can advance the public interest in the internet age.