At the dawn of the American Republic, the founding fathers envisioned a system in which the government would continually encourage the free flow of press, in order to ensure the existence of a well-informed electorate. They did so through post office subsidies that allowed any and all newspapers and magazines to travel with little to no monetary impedance; this came to an end in 1970, when Congress passed the Postal Reorganization Act, which placed the postal service under the control of nine presidentially appointed governors and has since resulted in numerous postage rate increases.
Independent magazines and newspapers failed to keep up with the rising postage rates. Many were forced out of business. Thus the free flow of information in this country began its steep decline.
Since that fateful reorganization, independent media only continued to struggle against a government that was decidedly abandoning them. No longer was a free flow of information one of our republic’s top priorities; in fact, it was quickly becoming a discouraged institution, one in which orthodox, corporatized media was increasingly privileged.
We as a nation currently find ourselves in a situation where public broadcasting institutions like PBS and NPR are denied adequate government funding, and therefore turn to corporate money to stay alive. Some numbers, according to FAIR founder Jeff Cohen (as of February 2014):
- Canadian public broadcasting received $30 per Canadian taxpayer per year
- British public broadcasting received $90 per taxpayer
- Countries like Norway, Finland and Belgium allocate over $100 per taxpayer to public broadcasting
In sharp contrast to these numbers, American public broadcasting only received $3.75 per taxpayer. The dismal situation pushed companies like PBS to resort to corporate funding, which had and continues to have a heavy influence on the kinds of stories they cover and, perhaps more importantly, how they cover it.
This puts us in a perilous position: a position in which our media is forced to pander to corporate interests, and the traditional orthodoxy is continuously privileged in an increasingly unfair system. The free flow of information envisioned by our founders is a thing of the past.