Missing the point

I often wonder how many of today’ media “products” — yes, those things that we used to think of as “journalism” outlets — have gone from aspiring to straight reporting to routinely reporting everything from a premise that our society ought to be run on principles of Economism, a libertarian and free-market perspective that everything is for sale and every public policy decision is about the bottom line of profit-driven corporations. (Disclosure: I am a fiscal conservative and consider myself a centrist.)

What got under my skin was the Ottawa Citizen’s take on this week’s CRTC hearings — an absolutely perfect example of why CanWest, which has rid itself of numerous journalists and columnists who do not have a neo-conservative bent, should not dictate the state of Canada’s journalism by being allowed to run a near-monopoly in many regions.

The story on the Citizen web site does not indicate whether the analysis by Deirdre McMurdy is a report or an opinion column. Perhaps all readers of Canada.com, or the Citizen, know that she’s the Chief Political Columnist for the Ottawa Citizen and a business journalist. Better yet, the Citizen should tell readers her role.

A search shows there’s nothing else on the Ctiizen site so far this week about the hearings, so I assume the Citizen relies on McMurdy’s piece to tell its readers what’s going on. Her piece discusses the alarm in the markets about the prospect of CRTC regulation of publicly-traded media companies. The piece questions the need for this week’s CRTC examination of media consolidation and ownership concentration, and the diversity of voices: “…having summoned the circus to town for five days, the federal regulator has now created the general expectation that a) there is a problem and b) something must be done about it.”  It goes on:

“But the question that many insiders — including those in CRTC ranks — are now asking each other, is just what that problem might be.”

The only thing more nerve-racking for a publicly traded media company than a government regulator looking for a problem, is the one that goes out of its way to create a new one. And given the jumpy state of capital markets, that — at least according to a confidential report from investment analysts at Credit Suisse — is the real danger in this hearing.”

The Citizen piece asserts the common argument that the diversity of the voices in Canadian media “has never been greater” because, in part, of new media and specialty channels, and says there’s an overwhelming consensus among broadcasters on this. in their CRTC submissions this week. (That outright ignores the entire CBC. A correct phrasing would be there’s a consensus among commercial broadcasters with a stake in the lack of new regulations.)  It goes on:

…. All of which leaves the CRTC with three basic options: do nothing, do something, or do nothing and make it look like something. And that’s precisely the sort of soggy turf that the devil likes as a playground.”

The devil’s playground? What about the fact that ownership of Canada’s media playground is the most concentrated in the developed world? The only nod the story gives to the outpouring of concern about journalism in Canada — from the CBC, from journalists, from journalism organizations, from the Senate report, etc., — is quoting Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa talking about net neutrality.

McMurdy’s summary, her last line summing up the
piece, seems to be the Citizen’s definitive word about the CRTC hearings dealing with Canadian journalism — which many of us believe to be a pillar of Canadian democracy. So what nuggets of wisdom do Citizen readers take away after reading the piece? Says McMurdy: “Money, after all, is the universal language.”