No trust in anti-trust

Back after some time off.

There’s a lot of talk about government intervention in to help save the publishing industry. Some have suggested a subsidy for publishers so newspapers can keep operating. Some suggest the recent French program that buys newspapers and redistributes them. And there are a bunch of other plans out there, too.

This is simple: government can’t directly subsidize news or its creation. That’s got too many horns on it, and they’re obvious, so I won’t go over them here. But government can do one thing that would really help: provide a limited anti-trust exemption to publishers.

As it stands, publishers can’t get together and devise a unified strategy for surviving in a new digital world. They can’t set prices for their content on e-readers. They can’t, as a group, go to any news aggregator and set terms for content payment. If they try to get together and even discuss these issues, they have to lawyers in the room to make sure they’re not saying anything that gets them in anti-trust trouble.

It’s time to relax the rules — not eliminate, but relax. Publishers won’t be able to continue to provide information if they can’t talk about a future pricing model and how that works in this new world.

The views expressed on this blog are mine alone.

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