Controversies over the role of the press are almost as old as the press itself (Sánchez-Tabernero, 2006). Controversies over taxes also have a long history, and for the media industry it dates back to protests against the British stamp duty that was introduced on newspapers in the early 1700s. The Examiner, started in 1808, consistently labeled the duty a “tax on knowledge”, and this slogan is still used by the media industry today. Some publishers refused to pay the stamp duty, claiming that the tax restricted circulation of journals to people of high income. Incidentally, there is some evidence that the tax was used at least partly to obstruct the radical press, and thus to reduce newspaper circulation (Simkin, 2012). Modern press policies typically have the opposite objectives. A major aim is to increase circulation and educate the people. After World War II, a large number of countries started to subsidize domestic newspapers. In particular, press subsidies have been used to halt newspaper mortality since the 1960s and 1970s (see for example Picard, 2006). According to Krumsvik (2011, p._69), government support to media is perceived as a prerequisite for a free press in social democratic countries, while it is perceived as an obstacle for a free press in more market oriented countries. The background for Krumsvik’s claim is an early study by Picard (1985) and more recent studies such as Hallin and Mancini (2004). The latter analysed public policies towards the media sector in 18 countries in Western Europe and North America.
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