Saturday, October 31, 2015

Democratizing The Corporate Media


A lot needs to be done to re-establish democracy in this country. Murray Dobbins writes that the place to begin is with our corporate media. They almost universally endorsed Stephen Harper. That was, perhaps, a blessing:

But the newspapers perhaps did us a favour in the last week of the campaign with their inane endorsement of the Harper autocracy for yet another four-year term. Post Media -- the most recent iteration of the Conrad Black coup in 1999 -- and the Globe and Mail without an iota of embarrassment or shame actually managed to write editorials justifying the re-election of a man turfed from office by a tsunami of voter revulsion.

The shamelessness extended without a pause to outright untruths in the Globe and Mail and the National Post editorials -- both of which declared their support because of Harper's economic record. The Globe declared: "The key issue of the election should have been the economy and the financial health of Canadians. On that score, the Conservative Party has a solid record." And the National Post: "Harper's commendable record in office cannot be dismissed. Our economy is in good shape..."

Obviously, the majority of Canadians weren't listening -- or reading. Nonetheless, the blanket endorsement of Harper underscored whose interests the media were serving:

Those who run the country's daily newspapers reveal themselves to be as contemptuous of democracy and society as the party they endorsed. They reveal themselves as concerned only about "the economy" but for them this is just a code word for the corporate elite, the 1% -- not the economy of ordinary wage and salary earners.

The irony of this endorsement is the endorsers' fundamental belief that government -- and by extension, the voting rabble -- should not be interfering in the economy at all. It is something to be clinically separated from the exercise of public policy. Government should simply facilitate economic growth by "getting out of the way" of business by signing "trade" deals, gutting corporate and wealth taxes, and driving down wages.

In the last thirty years, ownership of Canadian media outlets has been concentrated into a few hands, even as readership declined:

Today we can take some solace in the fact that the same demented "free market" ideology that continues to play havoc with the real Canadian economy (the 99%) is helping to weaken the newspaper industry in Canada. Newspapers that continue to ignore the wave of contempt that swept the Harperium from power will deserve their fate.

Reading the Postmedia papers is a demoralizing experience given that nowhere do you find Canadian values reflected in their reporting or opinion pieces. But when you learn that the National Post's paid subscribers (2014 numbers) total only 83,671 out of 24 million-plus eligible voters it sort of lifts your spirits (though they do get an additional 100,000 digitally). The Vancouver Sun, another Postmedia paper, manages just over 86,000.

People are going elsewhere for news. Online media experienced a big bump in visits during the election. The Tyee saw a 70 per cent jump in visits to their site during August to October as they ramped up election coverage, and's increased by 50 per cent -- with 880,000 individual readers and close to five million page views -- demonstrating voters' considerable appetite for "fact-based" journalism.

If the corporate media are to survive, they will have to be democratized. They will have to re-learn the definition of the phrase, "we the people."


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the place to start democratizing the media is at the CBC. Replacing the anointed cons with real newsies would be a start.

Anonymous said...

Anti-trust laws are on the books to break up the sort of media concentration we have in Canada. But when laws aren't enforced, they may as well not be there at all.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Anon. The tools are there. But politicians must have the courage to use them.

Owen Gray said...

An excellent suggestion, Anon. After all, the CBC is supposed to be a "public" broadcaster.

ron wilton said...

Likewise with TV.

CBC does a creditable job in spite of the harper effort to destroy it and listening to the harper appointed president plead for his job when he realized harper was hanging on the ropes is laughable.

CTV has come into its own with quality news and reportage(even Dan, sometimes) and often displaces CBC in my viewing.I hope they pick up Evan Solomon in some capacity if CBC doesn't bring him back now that harper is gone.

Global is embarrassing in their national political reportage and just barely adequate overall with their non news news stories and regional politicising is downright awful.

I don't know how eastern TV fares but out here in LaLaLand we have to take what we hear and read with a spoonful of salt.

ron wilton said...

Owen Gray said...

The CBC took a shellacking even under Paul Martin's Liberals, ron. It's time the CBC got quality support. Such support would be the underpinning for quality journalism.

Owen Gray said...

Conservative communications these days has been reduced to blowing dog whistles, ron.

Mogs Moglio said...

Economic record is that not one of the many reasons we turfed little boy child Harper?

He spent more on advertising himself than any other government in history is that the modern face of economics? Putting advertising firms and newspaper ahead of the rest of us another reason. Kow-towing to the 1% another his spite for First Nations veterans elderly abused disabled those in dire need. Oh he said in his infamous little speech to American right wing red necks "Canadians are a third world Northern European welfare state and proud of it. I'll fix that the rich are welcome everybody else FO bro Ho Ho while I steal billions for my corporate con pals and hire criminals to help me do it...

Harper you have allot of splainin to do.

Owen Gray said...

It looks like Canadians are no longer buying his explanations, Mogs -- even though the corporate media are still peddling his snake oil.

Lorne said...

It is almost as if the newspaper industry is unaware of the many alternative sources available these days thanks to the Internet, Owen. While they can still play an important role, they first need to realize that their views influence few, as seen in the past election, and that only solid and wide ranging reporting can save them; otherwise, sources like the Tyee, Rabble, etc. will continue to leave them in the dust.

Owen Gray said...

They have their own websites, Lorne. But they fail to understand how their credibility has been compromised.

lungta said...

These individuals are in the grip of an intricate delusion that leaves them, in the words of Thomas Mann’s and Norman Ornstein’s description of the modern U.S. Republican Party, “unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science.”

Such cases have now been observed in sufficient numbers to lead one to the reasonable conclusion we are witnessing development of a new psychiatric disorder worthy of inclusion in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

the harper minions will run on belief and untested delusion regardless
it's pretty futile to talk sense to the insane

Owen Gray said...

We like to assume, lungta, that in a democracy, reason will prevail. The last decade offers proof that reason does not always triumph.

Anonymous said...

"Shameless" is the KEY word Owen. Nothing else need be said.

Besides blogs like this, the CBC is the only hope for viable, honest news gathering and reporting in this country.

But it first must be de-politicized.

Have an overseeing committee in charge of news and docs, maybe a group from the Council of Canadians.

Have rock solid funding for news and docs that's realistic and untouchable by government.

And we need a clear and simple set of ethics for the staff.

No speeches! Not even as an honored guest. Except maybe at your own retirement dinner.

We need journalists and honest opinion and debate, not shills for the Royal Bank or the petroleum industry.

Will Justin do this??? I'm skeptical.

Owen Gray said...

We'll have to see, Anon. Amanda Lang is gone. Perhaps the Shark Tank folks will be next. We used to get the CBC from an affiliate station in Kingston. It now airs CTV material. The nearest CBC outlet is in Ottawa. Too far away for us who get our programming OTA.

Mogs Moglio said...

So leave it to Brian and Mike. I say yes sir an idea whose time has come. Expose the reno for the entire Canadian populace so we can see what a rat and roach trap it has become due to negligence pure and simple.

I see Harper purposely left it that way in spite of warnings.

""I have the impression that there will be big problems in a dozen years. I look at the building here, the windows don’t hold anymore. All that because he is stubborn about not wanting to spend. It is a misplaced puritanism," said Duceppe.""

Well Mousier Duceppe you were not far off the mark eh?

And the cons blame Trudeau who has not been there since he was a child.

Owen Gray said...

Another example of how Harper was penny wise and pound foolish, Mogs.

The Mound of Sound said...

I guess you have to be of 'geezer vintage' to remember the Davey Commission (1970) and the Kent Commission Report (1999). This is an issue that has been thoroughly canvassed in our country. We explored the role of a broadly owned mass media in maintaining a genuinely "free press" in Canada and the perils that threatened democracy from concentration of ownership and media cross-ownership (as newspaper chains began devouring TV and radio licences). We had a clear understanding of how democracy depended on the public having generous access to the greatest number of voices delivering information and opinion across the widest political spectrum so that we could have a truly empowered, informed electorate.

This is a point I've been championing for years on my blog and everywhere else the opportunity came up to raise it. We've been obsessed with voting reform, proportional representation and such, without realizing that how we cast our ballots is less relevant to democracy when the electorate can be manipulated, even misguided by a media focused on representing interests other than the public's.

The Mound of Sound said...

Here are some pretty powerful recommendations of the Kent Commission:

prohibit the expansion of existing chains owning or controlling five or more daily newspapers;
prohibit any future chain from acquiring more than five papers;
prevent a conglomerate from purchasing a daily newspaper by prohibiting purchases where the value of the purchaser’s non-newspaper assets exceeded the value of the newspaper;
prohibit ownership of newspapers and radio or television stations where 50% or more of the radio/television market was within the paper’s market;
require the break-up of regional monopolies, such as that of the Irving family in New Brunswick, by prohibiting the ownership of two or more newspapers having 75% or more of the circulation, in one language, in a defined geographical area;
prohibit ownership of both a daily newspaper published in more than one province and any other daily newspaper (thus requiring Thomson to sell either the Globe and Mail or all of its other newspapers);
allow a minimum of five and a maximum of ten years from proclamation of the legislation for divestiture of newspapers whose ownership became illegal on proclamation; Editorialtxt

Owen Gray said...

The spade work was done long ago, Mound. The neo-liberals simply ignored it.