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article imageOp-Ed: Should local newspapers be subsidised?

By Alexander Baron     Jun 27, 2012 in Business
The June/July issue of 'The Journalist' reports that Conservative MP Louise Mensch has said the Government should consider subsidising local newspapers. Is she right?
The Journalist is the monthly newspaper/magazine of the National Union of Journalists, so obviously has a vested interest in seeing its members having their livelihoods subsidised. The problem though is that if everything is subsidised, who pays?
In recent years we have seen companies that were said to be too big to fail go cap in hand to the government - on both sides of the Atlantic - looking for subsidies, hand outs, bail outs, you name it. Private companies should make money, and if they can't make money, they should be left to die. Or should they? Perhaps not in this case.
The reason local newspapers are losing money and indeed closing en masse is not far to seek. The vast majority of people are now getting most or at times all their news direct from the Internet, and failing that, from television. National newspapers are also losing money, and some have erected paywalls on their websites, a measure that is doomed ultimately to fail.
Traditionally, newspapers - national and local - have made most of their money from advertising, which has also moved onto the Internet. For many small companies, including retailers, the Internet gives them free or nearly free advertising. Even your local cake shop has a website with its own domain; once that is in place, the search engines will do the rest, but a few messages posted to a local bulletin board or forum, Facebook, etc, and who needs paid advertising?
If though, local newspapers are not making money, they are still creating wealth by delivering a service not simply to the local community but to the whole world. Many of the stories published on this site originate with local newspaper reports, supplemented with photographs, interviews and such. If the government - any government - allows local newspapers to die, that will constitute a net loss of wealth. So what is the solution if not subsidies?
The solution was propounded a little while ago, but to date there appears to be but a single messenger. Local newspapers that publish their content on the web should be paid for their services, not with subsidies but with newly created debt-free Internet money, as indeed should the big search engines and websites.
Louise Mensch has identified the problem, but although she is not a socialist she has come up with the wrong solution, as would be expected of a socialist MP. What she should be campaigning for is not subsidies but a change in the law that will allow national governments, an international body, or perhaps an entirely Internet-based authority to create new money and pay it direct, debt-free to local newspapers, and to other creators of Internet wealth. The wealth is being created, there is absolutely no shortage of it, what is in short supply is the money needed to distribute it, or in this case to distribute the rightful rewards to the wealth creators. Once this principle is grasped, the solution follows, the biggest barrier to its implementation will be the banking mafia, whose members will of course be opposed to the creation of debt-free money which will not only strip them at first partially and then totally of their power over us but will leave the recipients of this new money free to invest it elsewhere and without them taking their unwarranted slice of the pie.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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