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   Canadian Politicians Confront Issues Related to Media Consolidation

OUR NEIGHBORS TO THE NORTH:

Canadian Politicians Confront Issues Related to Media Consolidation

On July 19, Shawn McCarthy, Ottawa bureau chief of the Toronto daily Globe and Mail, filed a story about how the publisher of Ottawa Citizen, Russell Mills, was fired by the conglomerate that owns his newspaper because he wrote an editorial without clearing it with the big bosses first.

It seems that Canada, like the US, is experiencing a trend of media mergers, with similar homogenization of views. But, unlike in the US, the Canadian government is seeking to slow or reverse the trend.

"Konrad von Finckenstein, the federal Commissioner of Competition, said the government should consider amending the Broadcast Act to require the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to protect the diversity of voices in print when dealing with media ownership," reports McCarthy.

Finckenstein is quoyed as saying, "Their mandate is, preserve Canadian culture. Canadian culture is based on a democratic system and you can't have a functioning democratic system which works at its optimum unless you have diversity of voices."

Imagine it! The Canadians have a Competition Bureau! This government agency is restricted to dealing with issues related to whether concentrated media ownership is anti-competitive. It does not deal with content-related issues.

Geoffrey Elliott, vice-president of Canwest Global, which owns Ottawa Citizen, dismissed complaints of media concentration or abuse of press freedom, saying his company's newspapers comprise no more than one-third of the market by circulation and reach about 15 per cent of Canadian households.

Elliott confirmed to McCarthy that Canwest requires its major metropolitan newspapers to carry only one national editorial a week, and stipulates that these papers cannot contradict that editorial with other editorials. He noted that Canwest newspapers' op-ed pages may carry opposing ideas to Canwest's canned national editorials.


Check out The Toronto Globe and Mail.

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This story was published on July 3, 2002.
  
JULY 2002
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