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Alternative funding models for news


In this lesson, students will learn about a different model for funding news: the publicly-financed model of the BBC Trust in the United Kingdom. Students will also explore how this model is like the PBS model in the United States, and the benefits and drawbacks to each type of funding model. Finally, students will learn about other models for the press, including the authoritarian (state-run) press.


  • Students will distinguish between the private and public model for media holdings.
  • Students will assess the strengths the strengths and weaknesses of each model.
  • Students will interpret how and why each model works based on respective examples.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1c Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1d Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.


50 minutes


Projection device

Internet access

Class set: YAHOO! Smog 

Lesson step-by-step

1. Introducing the concepts — 10 minutes

Today, we’re going to talk about different ownership models for the press. Across the world, there are many different models for who owns the press, what say — if any — the public has in how the press operates, and who pays for the presses to keep running. More specifically, we’re going to contrast the United States’ model with the model in Great Britain and also look at some different models in other countries, too.

But first, let’s talk about why it’s important to know about who pays for journalism. Ask and discuss with students:

  • Why do you think it matters who pays for journalism or for reporters to produce news?
  • How does this topic relate to our prior lessons? (They should be able to pick up on how this is more information about the business model, and we’re trying to track the profits of journalism, etc.)
  • Who do you think might be interested in owning the press besides major companies? What about governments? What about average citizens or the public at large? Why would these groups be interested?

After brainstorming some of these ideas, explain that they are going to learn about three different press ownership models (write on the board):

1. private/commercial model

2. public model

3. authoritarian/state-run model

As they take notes, ask students to create three columns on a sheet of paper, labeling each column with a different model. This will help them to compare and contrast the models later on.

2. Understanding each model — 20 minutes

Now, spend some time explaining each model more thoroughly. Use the table below to guide your explanations and discussion, pausing to ask students about any points of confusion or to ask guided questions as you go along. You might have to stop and explain these vocab words:




Private/Commercial Model
United States press
Public Model
BBC News Trust
Authoritarian/State-Run Model
Chinese press, North Korean press
  • Owned by private businesses
  • Ownership dependent on rules and regulations of the industry, but not directly dependent on government actions
  • Any person with enough money could buy into the system
  • Run like any other business: encourages high profits
  • Especially common in capitalistic economy
  • The news is a product meant to be sold, so consumers are the “target market”
  • Like other major businesses, private or commercial news businesses often have stakeholders, or wealthy business partners, who dictate certain profit decisions
  • Owned by the public, who pay a fee or a tax for the service
  • Government legislation directly influences the system
  • Ownership is governed by a board of trustees who make decisions on behalf of public
  • Run under specific profit guidelines that balance profit with “public interest”
  • Can exist in any kind of economy, but often present in a capitalistic one
  • News is a public service
  • Public vote dictates decisions
  • Owned and run by the government
  • All decisions on content, practice, are made by government officials.
  • Often used for the sole benefit of communicating government messages
  • Typically exists in an authoritarian society
  • News is secondary to the government’s message, and alternative views aren’t generally allowed
  • Government pays for costs

3. Examples — 10 minutes

Pull up the following websites on a projector or smartboard and spend some time looking over them with students:


In particular, take a moment to read through the items under the “Our Work” section of the BBC Trust. This helps explain to students how the BBC operates in the public interest via a governing board.

2. PBS:

Compare that with PBS in America. PBS is private, like other U.S. media, but it is non-profit, so it has different monetary goals than a traditional “market model” media organization. It is also supported in part by federal taxpayer money. In that way, it is sort of similar to the BBC. Emphasize here its editorial standards, and its argument that being nonprofit allows certain advantages:

3. Korean Central News Agency:

This is the website for North Korea’s state-run news website. It’s an interesting website to show because it demonstrates one of the main drawbacks to state media — variety of content. Lack of competition might also influence the fact that it’s not very user-friendly. Note: This website does not always load or populate correctly based on your Internet connection, filters and the status of the Agency’s servers. Check ahead of time to see whether it will load at your school.

4. Class discussion — 10 minutes

This is sometimes a confusing and high-level lesson for students, so a class discussion is a good way to bring students back to the topic and really think about the benefits or drawbacks to each type of media ownership model.

Pass out the YAHOO! article on smog in China, and give students a few minutes to read the short article. This is a perfect example of how authoritarian press, like the Communist-run press in China, can alter content and truth. Spend the last 10 minutes of class leading a discussion, asking questions like:

  • As a citizen, which model would you like to have access to, and why?
  • As a government, which model would you like to have in your country, and why?
  • Do you think having competition between news organizations, such as what happens in the private and public models, is good for the quality of news? Why or why not?
  • Do you think it’s worth it to pay tax dollars for the support of a media organization, like with the BBC? Why or why not?

5. Journal reflection — homework

Spend 15 minutes reading through different news on the BBC’s website. Then, write a reflection comparing and contrasting the BBC to whatever America news media you tend to use in the United States. What do you think about the quality of BBC news? As a consumer in Great Britain, would you be happy paying a fee to support this product? Why or why not?