Not-for-profit newspapers

Malcolm Turnbull gave a speech yesterday at the Centre for Advanced Journalism.

I don’t think there would be any enthusiasm in news rooms or in Canberra for government subsidies to go to newspapers. There is, however, the precedent of the public broadcasters, but their funding is entirely from government, locked in over a long term and buttressed by a strong culture of independence.
However, there would be some merit in considering whether some level of support could be given, in terms of deductible gift recipient status, to not-for-profit newspapers that committed to a code of conduct analogous perhaps to that subscribed to by the ABC.
I simply pose this as something to consider – at this stage the Coalition is looking for ways to cut expenditure, but in the interests of looking beyond the next few weeks or even next election, we should be looking hard at how we ensure the survival of journalism.

Yes, well – I’m not sure the idea of expanding ABC values to the print media will become Coalition policy. We’re only a short hop, skip and an jump from the idea of subsidy to ownership. Certainly expanded government ownership of the media is a very bad idea – especially in the print media.

… countries with greater state ownership of the media have less free press, fewer political rights for citizens, inferior governance, less developed capital markets, and inferior health outcomes (the last result being particularly important in light of the argument that state ownership of the media serves the needs of the poor). The negative association between government ownership and political and economic freedom is stronger for newspapers than for television. Although none of this evidence can be unambiguously interpreted as causal, it obtains with extensive controls and there is no empirical evidence of any “benefits” of state ownership.

Australia already has newspapers that don’t earn a profit and I’m not sure that sort of thing should be encouraged. For people who can demonstrate a business need newspaper subscriptions are tax-deductible while Foxtel subscriptions are not (I use my Foxtel subscription to watch the news channels). So we already have something along the lines of gifts to the print media. At the same time, I suspect the government is the single largest advertiser in the country and so is a major client of the media already. All up while the need for good journalism is apparent, it’s up the media itself to come up with viable business models – government has no special role to play.

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32 Responses to Not-for-profit newspapers

  1. Rabz says:

    not-for-profit newspapers

    Well, that’s fairfax in a nutshell…

  2. John Comnenus says:

    Turnbull loves talking about the trendiest issues in his electorate. Unfortunately they usually involve spending tax payers money on industries strongly reprentated in his electorate, either from the producer and or consumer perspectives. Nor do they necessarily have wider interest in the electorate.

    I can’t believe he is actually against the NBN. Speaking of which, has he actually said anything about the recently revealed blow out in NBN costs and collapse in take up rates? Isn’t that his actual portfolio? Turnbull is rapidly becoming a liability unable to land a blow on intellectual pigmy Stephen Conroy. Shades of the constitutional convention again – Turnbull is just too remote from the Australian mainstream.

  3. johno says:

    Turnbull is a lefty who should be in the Labour Party. The threat he poses through either destabilising the Coalition or, heaven forbid, returning to the leadership, is to scary to contemplate.

    Serious question. Which would be the worse outcome of the next Federal election – Gillard returned as PM or Turnbull as PM?

    Look at his track record;
    Supported KRudd’s cap and trade scheme!
    Praises the ABC’s code of conduct and calls for more State media!
    Can’t lay a glove on Conroy!
    Is completely clueless about the task confronting the Coalition in tackling Labour’s debt and deficit legacy as evidence by this statement -‘the Coalition is looking for ways to cut expenditure, but in the interests of looking beyond the next few weeks or even next election’.

    Wrong Malcolm! Cutting expenditure will be THE priority for at least the first term of a Coalition government. Think Howard and Costello’s first term tackling ‘Beasley’s (extravagated) black hole’, back in the days when the Coalition could claim the title of fiscal conservatives.

  4. Feral Abacus says:

    What a silly idea. If newspapers aren’t making a profit, then it’s up to them to find ways to make money, innovate, broaden their appeal etc. It certainly doesn’t herald the death of journalism. And it’s definitely not the government’s job to start pumping money into “not-for-profit” bolshie rags just because The Age is seldom used for anything other than wiping shit.

  5. ar says:

    not-for-profit newspapers

    Yeah, we need more Green Left Weeklys…

  6. Winston Smith says:

    Seriously, this Turnbull loose cannon hasn’t fired an effective shot for the Coalition whilst rolling around the deck, upsetting the balance of HMAS Australia.
    It’s time find out the truth: Is Turnbull flotsam or jetsam?

  7. What’s the bet Peter van Onselen will take up this idea? He seems to be a Turnbull cheer-leader.

  8. papachango says:

    I used to like Turnbull. Undoutedly a smart guy, and a genuine, free-market small “l” liberal, without the social conservative baggage of Tony Abbott.

    I never understood why his ratings were so disastrous as Liberal leader.

    But I can only agree with other Cats here – he’s clearly ten times smarter than that idiot Conroy, so why the F^%#$% hasn’t he crucified him on all things telco related. Because he’s too busy sticking his nose in other trendy leftwing issues?

  9. papachango says:

    I also note a lot of my lefty friends are sick of Gillard’s alleged right wingery and desperate for Turnbull to form his own party so they can vote for him. says a lot about his relative politics nowadays.

  10. Token says:

    not-for-profit newspapers

    Well, that’s fairfax in a nutshell…

    What does this smell of???

    Let me paint a vision of the future, Fairfax finally goes into receivership, the administrators start talking about massive restructure and downsizing of The Age, SMH & Canberra Times…

    …in steps Conroy to nationalise the papers and giving them to the ABC to run in an expanded government media organisation.

    To me it is no surprise that the ex-Bulletin journalist, Malcolm “Left of the Labor Party” Turnbull, is talking on the issue.

  11. Lloyd says:

    Yet another Turnbull brain fart.

  12. Infidel Tiger says:

    Praising the Chicoms one day, suggesting government subsidised newspapers the next. For a classical liberal he sure is a commie c**t.

  13. C.L. says:

    Turnbull again demonstrates that he is unfit for any leadership position in the Liberal Party.

  14. Woolfe says:

    What’s the bet Peter van Onselen will take up this idea? He seems to be a Turnbull cheer-leader.

    Thought that this column by PVO was interesting and worrying!

  15. dakingisdead says:

    “Yet another Turnbull brain fart.”

    I totally agree.

    For the life of me I cannot see where Turnbull is supposed to be extremely intelligent. Unless he is like a few professors I have known who could memorise half the human genome but would struggle to tie their own shoelaces.

    The best thing the liberal party could do is throw this guy overboard. They could then concentrate on, and be able to focus on, their message instead of having it bastardized by the likes of Turnbull.

    There is no way he would make a great leader and I find it very doubtful that he could have even come close to Abbotts performance in the last election.

    As for not for profit newspapers…that should be an oxymoron. And in any case there are plenty of “not for profit” rags out there: Think every Greenpeace, Union, Socialist organisation (and even the odd “conservative” one) etc newsletter or rag.

    It is not the responsibility of govt to prop up “good Journalism”. They already do more than they should with their speech writers, infomercial post outs etc.

  16. Infidel Tiger says:

    Thought that this column by PVO was interesting and worrying!

    That’s a good column by PVO (aside from the statist possie on the Australia Network). A particularly scathing closing line!

  17. Leigh Lowe says:

    Forget Betty.
    I am more worried about Malcolm.
    ”I simply pose this as something to consider – at this stage the Coalition is looking for ways to cut expenditure – but, in the interests of looking beyond the next few weeks or even next election, we should be looking hard at how we ensure the survival of journalism.”
    So, Malcolm is linking Government spending (or tempering spending cuts) with “the survival of journalism”.
    Is he suggesting that a Coalition Government would FUND the Age and the Silly to run campaigns against them?
    If so he should be turfed out of the LNP right now!

  18. Gab says:

    Is he suggesting that a Coalition Government would FUND the Age and the Silly to run campaigns against them?

    Yes but he knows they wouldn’t run a campaign against the much-beloved lefty Malcom. Only the “others” in the LNP.

  19. Token says:

    PVO starts an article like this…

    ACCORDING to the World Bank, as a place to do business, Australia has slipped from 60th to 65th place in the past 12 months. This puts us alongside countries such as Turkey and Paraguay. For context, our biggest trading partner, the US, is ranked ninth. Our closest ally culturally and geographically, New Zealand, tops the list.

    The specific category the World Bank graded us on was “protecting investors”, and it’s no wonder Australia just keeps getting worse. Even Italy, on the brink of defaulting on its loans, ranks higher than us.

    …and still manages to sound like he is using a feather to beat the government up (of course PVO was true to form and managed to slate a good amount of blame onto Abbott).

    Hello Peter, did you read your own introduction?

  20. Adrien says:

    Cutting expenditure will be THE priority for at least the first term of a Coalition government.

    I expect Turnbull knows more about that than Abbott.

  21. Sean says:

    With regards to the tender process, they could have just done what the SA government does when they want to change hands. Put enough crap in the bid so that you can tell a company ‘you had the best package and experience’ to do the job, but in the ‘other’ criteria you are lacking. Make it hard to meet ‘other’ critera by simply putting in caveats to the current process because you know the current contractor has found them the most efficient method of operating via trial and error, hence they don’t want to change to less economic means.

  22. Adrien says:

    His solution to the shithouse that the Fourth Estate lives in, isn’t one.

  23. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B. says:

    He really is bonkers now. In my electorate too.

  24. Lloyd says:

    Classic case of Relevance Deprivation Syndrome,IMHO.

  25. Adrien says:

    He really is bonkers now.

    Oh yeah. An intelligent consideration of the future of the fourth estate. Moderate and modest (modesty from Malcolm?!).

    We don’t want that.

    We want fact-twisting, frothy mouths and fists-a-shakin’. Lashings of bile. Much better. Maybe some public burning of Fairfax newspapers too ‘ey?

  26. Sean says:

    Like this informed and intelligent Age reader eh?

    Im afraid Malcolm I don’t see a lot of your “honest and ethical, fearless and independent, responsible and accurate journalism”. Frankly we could without The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, The Herald Sun, and much of commercial TV and Radio. They don’t contribute in any way at all to democracy, to serious analytical discussion, just commerce. You are completely mistaken to put them up as some sort freedom fighters, on the contrary they poison our minds with the rubbish, and bigotry they spew

  27. daddy dave says:

    This is a dumb idea.

    No matter how bad, or blinkered, or biased, the independent media is (and that includes News Corp), the state can’t change that. The state cannot increase the quality of the media through direct funding.

    The best thing to do is remove obstacles to media ownership and let nature do the rest.

  28. Rabz says:

    Hi Alan,

    As a long time Liberal voter, I’ve been very worried about the precipitous drop in both the Fairfax share price and the circulation of the Sydney Moaning Herald and the Aged.

    However, I see that Squire Turnbull is also as concerned as I am! It’s a sad indictment of my fellow conservatives that they don’t seem to regard the inevitable collapse of Fairfax as a national tragedy.

    If right thinking Australians want quality, factual journalism free of ideology driven bunkum and endless negativity, they should steer clear of the Australian and those hate filled gutter tabloids and head back to their natural home, Fairfax.

    The worthy toils of barkin’ Betty Farrelly, Adele Horror, David ‘drugs are good, mkay’ Marr, Phil ‘bonehead’ Coorey, Unfunnybell Crabb, Ben ‘teh environment’ Cubby, Ross ‘the Git’ Gittins, Peter ‘the Pansy’ Fitzsimons, Laura Shamsey-Tingles and Jessica ‘Enemagirl’ Irvine are all demanding of their utmost consideration.

    And if conservatives won’t read them, then the government, as Squire Turnbull states, should simply subsidise Fairfax, just as it does the only other worthwhile provider of quality, bias free journalism in this country, the ALPBC.

    Love your work,

    Pearl from Parramatta

  29. Fisky says:

    Hi Alan,

    Despite previously writing off Turnbull as a failure, I promise to vote for him if the Liberals ditch Abbott.

    Professor Kwiggin

  30. Sleetmute says:

    The problem is that Hockey is no clueier than Turnbull. so if there is a change of leadership, it will likely be to a quasi-Labor man.

  31. kevin says:

    “…and buttressed by a strong culture of independence.”

    Since this applies neither to the ABC nor SBS, to whom is he referring?
    One belongs to the Labor Party and the other to the Greens.

  32. TimT says:

    Conroy is in charge of the official government department of Giving Free Shit to People. He’ll be gone by the time people work out that the free stuff they got is also shit. It’s not surprising given this Turnbull hasn’t been able to make headway on the NBN argument.

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