Big Brother Gov't Could Own the News

A new Senate bill that would give government funding to struggling newspapers could result in complete state control of the press, critics say.

Democratic Sen. Benjamin Cardin of Maryland proposed a bill this week that would allow newspapers to operate as tax-exempt nonprofits in order to keep the sinking industry afloat.

The government funding could make participating papers less likely to criticize the administration in power - a problem for a democracy that's founded on the freedom of the press, those who oppose the bill say.

"It would de-claw participating newspapers, which couldn't endorse candidates or freely question the party in power," Ken McIntyre, a media and public policy fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, told Fox News.

"Reporters and editors are supposed to be wary skeptics of politicians and bureaucrats on behalf of readers -- not beholden to the government's favor," he said.

The new legislation would prohibit the papers from making official endorsements of any political candidates. This could cause a problem for the outlets' editorial pages, which frequently make explicit reference to which candidate or cause the paper supports.

Editorial sections aren't mentioned specifically in Cardin's bill.

"Since the Bill of Rights was passed, the government has never had a voice in the press. This is a very dangerous provision," blogger Alan Mutter told Fox.

"It's very unhealthy," he said.

Cardin said the bill could be the only option for newspapers who are close to shutting their doors.

"This may not be the optimal choice for some major newspapers or corporate media chains," said Cardin, "but it should be an option for many newspapers that are struggling to stay afloat."

No other Senators have voiced public support for the bill.

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