Media concentration hurts by Harvey Oberfeld

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Media Concentration Rob Canada’s Regions of National Voice

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By Harvey Oberfeld

Keeping It Real…

January 27th, 2016

 

Canadians from coast to coast are paying a heavy price for the CRTC’s and federal government allowing massive concentration of ownership by the huge print, radio and television media corporations/networks.

What we are now getting … increasingly and increasingly … is “national” coverage of “national” issues as seen by “national” reporters and analysis/commentaries by “national” pundits all based in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal  … in other words the news/views of what’s important in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal, told by reporters in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal … and reacted to by supposed experts in/from Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal.

The exception: Peter O’Neil of The Vancouver Sun, who still brings a strong BC presence to Ottawa/Parliamentary coverage; but I do wonder for how much longer?

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Chantal Hebert

Meanwhile,  no one has been standing up for those of us in the “regions” … exposing how media concentration has diminished the “regional” profile in our capital and reduced attention there to OUR issues and problems… except for, recently, for one solitary voice: Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hebert!

Yes…a Toronto writer/commentator.

Kudos to Hebert for drawing attention to a GLARING gap in regional presence and priorities in Canada’s media.

“The parliamentary press gallery is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Its make-up is a lot more diverse than when I first joined it a few decades ago.,” Hebert wrote in a recent column.

“But when it comes to reflecting Canada’s regional diversity the trend has gone the other way with many regional news organizations leaving the Hill, and with other outlets coming to rely on skeleton crews.”

Hebert pointed out that in 2006, a Senate committee (in an example of very good work by the Senate)  sounded the alarm: warning that media concentration in Canada was being permitted to an extent ” that most other countries would find worrisome”.

You can/should read Hebert’s full article HERE:

Not only did Canada’s politicians (from ALL parties) do NOTHING to stop the concentration growth, they have allowed to get even WORSE.

I am very proud of the fact that I was BCTV’s first full-time reporter sent to Ottawa specifically to cover and PUSH BC issues on Parliament Hill.

At first, I usually only had occasional access to a CTV camera/editing crew for a couple of hours a day …sometimes less. BUT what we produced was so successful … and I presume so IMPORTANT for BC … the station then spent a fairly large sum of money to hire/equip our own first-class full time camera operator and full-time sound person/editor.

We not only gave BC a HUGE presence in Ottawa but I like to think (and apparently our viewers agreed) we raised the bar for reporting “real” news so much in and around the capital …. instead of wall-wall boring talking-head crud many others served up)
that many other CTV stations across the country started regularly running our BCTV stories in their own newscasts.

Sure, we covered the “major” issues of the day, but we also kept it real: with stories on the heavily subsidized very finely stocked Parliamentary dining room; the Parliamentary barber shop where politicians and bureaucrats got free haircuts (now closed; the Public Service warehouse, where government experts doled out briefcases and desks and even seat cushions in CAREFULLY regulated sizes and thicknesses … according to status; and, I never forget the $95 a day service the government paid for to have a company pick up a few copies of The Sun/Province, deliver them to the airport in Vancouver and fly them EXPRESS to Ottawa …  while I just bought mine daily (after 1 p.m.) for $1.35 each from the newsstand on the Sparks Street mall, right across from the National Press Building.

And we asked TOUGH questions…especially relating to BC: getting the last “fuddle duddle” from Trudeau before he left office when he didn’t like a story on Expo 86 housing problems; chasing Mulroney and Chretien down the halls demanding answers on several BC issues/projects; and who could forget the pursuit of answers from Bloc Quebecois Leader Lucien Bouchard … in BOTH official languages … on the terrible economic implications of separatism and his own slurping at the trough!

I knew my pursuit of politicians and BC issues in Ottawa would never get me an Order of BC or Senate seat (LOL!!) but I did think it alone had such an impact there and at home it could earn an Order of BC!!   Not!

But it showed how the regional media presence in the capital IS important …but it has been largely killed off under media concentration and cuts.

The BCTV bureau has been long-closed; CFTO Toronto’s reporter on the Hill is no more; CFCF Montreal’s bureau in Ottawa is no more. And many newspapers that had regional reporters covering regional issues in Ottawa were also killed off.

Kudos to Hebert … from Toronto … for shining the light on what has been happening.

Too bad OUR regional media and our regional MPs and even our BC politicians and government have said nothing and done nothing about it.

Harv Oberfeld

 

 

 

1 COMMENT

  1. Right on Harv. Radio and television and newspapers in every community survived nicely on their own, it may not have been a lot of money, but they survived and covered their respective communites well. The Big Corporations take over, cut back and coverage is now lacking.

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