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Online media matters

Main Page Rants

CRTC decision handicaps journalists

When this issue first appeared, I was planning on writing something about, but got distracted (I ended up mentioning it in a note for a LCKY entry). In fact, I had a good portion written...at home, and unavailable at the time this was written—it's in situations like these that I see the advantage of having one, universally accessible personal machine.

In an effort to secure its acquisition of Quebec's biggest TV network, TVA, Quebecor—the owner of Canada's second largest newspaper chain and the country's biggest content portal—offered to establish a brick wall between its various media newsrooms.

The CRTC, having no official control over newspapers or the Internet, eagerly leapt at the offer and ruled in favour of the Quebec media giant. Were the regulator to apply its decision as a condition of the licence renewal of CTV (property of BCE's Bell Globemedia which includes Sympatico and The Globe and Mail) and Global TV (whose CanWest siblings include canada.com, a number of community papers, and half of the National Post) it could gain control over all the major media outlets in Canada.

If any of those outlets allow their TV journalists to share stories with their print journalists, the CRTC can revoke the broadcasters licence, effectively shutting them down.

Multiplicity of voices

Ostensibly, the reason why Quebecor proposed the "division of church and church" idea was to anticipate the CRTC's concerns that media concentration would limit the diversity of stories being presented to the public. While the aim is noble, diverse media views have long been absent from the mainstream.

For example, the top stories from the morning of July 6, 2001 on the National Post, The Globe and Mail, CBC, CTV, and CANOE included those about:

There may be an argument to make that by separating the newsrooms and preventing journalist from sharing resources within the same company, more stories will be covered. More likely, given the pack mentality of commercial journalism, the same stories will be covered—but with less resources and depth.

Convergence's potential

In fact, by allowing a TV reporter and a print reporter to share resources, a more thoughtful piece could be produced. For example:

This is what is happening today in Tampa, Florida and is the goal of the recent drive for media convergence. Though I'm no big fan of these alliances, this kind of online journalism would be a tremendous step forward.

Though convergence may be pipe dream, the CRTC's decision has pretty much prevented this from happening anytime soon.

What will continue to happen could be more damaging to diversity: the CRTC has allowed Quebecor "to pursue projected synergies in all other areas, such as in advertising and media management". In other words, though the journalists won't be able to speak to each other, the managers and advertisers will be able to work to together and produce cross-media advertising campaigns and marketing promotion.

In the extreme, a corporation's various media outlets will share the same managers, with the marketing and sales people working together and the journalists muzzled.

Talk about this: