Media concentration too high: CBC

“The level of consolidation in the Canadian media industry has reached levels that “in any other country would be considered unacceptable,” Canada’s public broadcaster told regulators Monday at the start of federal hearings into the state of ownership concentration in broadcasting,” reports the Globe and Mail’s Grant Robertson, live online. ““Our view is, generally speaking, the level of concentration is too high,” said Richard Stursberg, executive vice-president of English language operations at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.”

Predictably, Stursberg’s comments were instantly contradicted by the  Canadian Association of Broadcasters, which wants no new rules. Robertson’s story quoted Glenn O’Farrell, president of the CAB, which represents the industry, including commercial broadcasters such as CTV, Global, TVA and others.: “We see no diversity deficit in the Canadian system.”

In Vancouver, where I live, citizens subsist largely on a commercial diet supplied by CanWest, which for years has controlled three of the four daily papers (Sun, Province, National Post), two of the main provincial television stations, most of the other dailies in the province including Victoria’s Times Colonist, nearly all of the free “community” newspapers (ie, wrapping for large piles of flyers) that land on local doorsteps, and has been involved in the still-evolving transit newspapers. It’s not quite a CanWest monopoly — options include the Globe (not easily available in  many outlying areas), CTV, CBC in its various forms and a handful of alternative papers and not-quite-mainstream television broadcasters — but anyone who claims there’s no diversity deficit is plain wrong, especially in British Columbia.

BTW, kudos to the Globe and Mail for consistenly reporting on this issue; there has been a deficit of reporting about it in most CanWest papers. (In the past six months the Globe has run 200 stories citing Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, compared to 76 in CanWest’s National Post, which is that chain’s paper of record on financial and national stories. The Toronto Star — which is the country’s largest paper but can be partly excused because it doesn’t claim to be a national paper of record, ran 49 stories.) I think the failure to report on this, including failure to report without bias, is a dereliction of duty and shows why CRTC regulation is needed. Media — specifically journalism  — is of critical public importance and the fact that it’s often almost ignored as a subject by Canadian media, with a few outstanding exceptions, weakens our democracy.