The PQ and media concentration


While concern grows over the concentration of media ownership in the hands of a few corporations, the only government in Canada responsibile enough to grapple with the threat is our PQ government. The sole federal party to criticize this monopolization has been the NDP--but since the corporate media rarely cover the NDP, few know of this critique. From the Parti Quebecois view, "the rest of Canada" has taken a big valium.

Grocery stores fill our fridges and shelves, but the media fills our minds--an important difference. We may abhor the chemicals in modern foods, but at least the labels identify the additives; the news does not come with the warning that "the news you are about to read is incomplete, ignores certain facts or stories, or is designed to promote a certain point of view." Most newspapers and newscasts should carry such warnings. They would be accurate.

The media gives us our big-picture of the world. We, ourselves, have no way of checking on Afghanistan or Parliament Hill. The media paints the emotional colours into our view of our own country, of our political choices, and of the important issues of our times. The media is not just another business. Grocery stores, big-box hardware stores, or merged airlines do not have this subtle ideologicial impact on our society and its future--thus, the control of the media by a few huge corporations is significant to us. These corporations own newspapers, television, radio, magazines, and other media forms; while not a monopoly, because there is more than one corporation in control, this fits the definiton of a cartel, control by a small number of powerful owners. If democracy is said to require a free and independent press, what does the cartel's control of our media say about Canadian society--beneath the socio-political happy-face hype produced by these same corporations?

The PQ has announced it will not attempt to dismantle corporate control of our media, but will encourage the growth, cooperation, and strength of independent media. What a simple and effective idea! They are not trying to police the industry (in a fading era of deregulation) nor are they setting up another bureaucratic agency which will itself suck up the funds. One million dollars is earmarked for assistance to a new association of independent media--probably AMIQ (Quebec Independent Media Association)--and a percentage of the advertising of each government department must be awarded to independent media. Advertising revenue is key to media independence. Now, most big-budget advertising is gobbled up by corporate ad agencies controlled by the media corporations. The PQ has found the right targets and a democratic process of effective intervention. Otherwise, all we have is CBC/Radio Canada.

For example, Gatineau

Look at our example in this new city of Gatineau: the three daily newspapers (all produced in Ontario) are owned by two huge corporations. Of the seven weeklies, only this newspaper and its sister, The West Quebec Post, are independently and locally owned--the others are owned by a single large corporation headquartered in Montreal.

However much we may question the PQ's entire agenda, we should all support our government's attempt to promote a healthy and diverse media in Quebec--and in Canada. The PQ appears to be the only government in this entire nation brave and far-sighted enough to do so.

Fred Ryan is publisher of Quebec's Aylmer Bulletin, West Quebec Post, and the Pontiac Journal. He is also a director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

Copyright © 2002 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/01.02