US newspapers are grappling with declining print advertising revenue, falling circulation and the migration of readers to free news online, while several major US publishers have declared bankruptcy.

These conditions have led Senator Henry Waxman (D-CA), to declare the newspaper industry is suffering “market failure” and the government will need to help preserve serious journalism essential to democracy.

Waxman, chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has jurisdiction over the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

During a meeting on journalism in the Internet age hosted by the FTC he had this to say:

The newspapers my generation has taken for granted are facing a structural threat to the business model that has sustained them. The loss of revenue has spurred a vicious cycle with thousands of journalists losing their jobs. The depression in the media sector is not cyclical, it is structural. While this has implications for the media it also has implications for democracy. A vigorous free press and vigorous democracy have been inextricably linked. We cannot risk the loss of an informed public and all that means because of this market failure.

Acknowledging that talk of government support for the press raises “red flags,” Waxman stressed it is not the job of Congress to “deny the evolution of media.”

As we look at these various solutions, government’s going to have to be involved in one way or the other. Eventually, government is going to have to be responsible to help resolve these issues and our whole society depends very much on reaching some resolution of the problem.

Without endorsing any proposals, Waxman noted various proposed remedies, including new tax structures for publishers, providing non-profit status, changing anti-trust regulations or eliminating a law that bars owning a newspaper and a television station in the same city.

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