In the wake of student protests in Quebec, the Canadian media has become a shadow of its former self by going the way of the United States

2010-01-31-breakingnewsNoam Chomsky once said “Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the US media.” For Jean Charest, the embattled Quebec Premier, the English Media in Canada must seem like a wet dream come true.

Every news broadcast/newspaper I’ve seen in the last month has labelled the students protesting tuition fees and bill 78 as “rioters” “criminals” or “entitled students” at one time or another. Adding insult to injury, the nights the protests have been peaceful have gone unnoticed and underreported. If there are no broken windows, there is no breaking news.

The Canadian Media at times has given the impression that the tuition hike was a mere $325 a year; they fail to mention that the amount is cumulative over five years. I can’t tell you how many arguments I’ve gotten into regarding the amount alone. That’s what happens when we are subjected to infotainment instead of information, a trivialization of the news.

Speaking of information, they have yet to mention the real reason behind the strikes; debt. Last year, the Quebec Liberals tabled a budget that would tackle the province’s growing debt. One of the methods they decided on was to raise college tuition by $1625 over the next five years.

The students justifiably got upset about the provincial government trying to hand down its own debt onto them; those who can least afford it, rather than the corporations who profit the most from their education. Galvanized by the 99% movement and the Arab spring, they decided to act.

The root of the problem concerning the Canadian media can be traced back to the United States. Although we are a sovereign nation, our government, institutions and corporations have a bad habit of emulating the goings on south of the border.

Back in the “me” decade, also known as the nineteen-eighties, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) abolished the “fairness doctrine.” A move supported by Ronald Reagan who vetoed its opposition.

The fairness doctrine required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in “a manner that was honest, equitable and balanced.”

In order to insure that the fairness doctrine was followed, broadcast companies used the proceeds from other shows to pay for their news programs. The news was more balanced and fact driven rather than money driven with very little conflict of interest.

Just to add fuel to the fire, Bill Clinton’s Telecommunications Act of 1996 deregulated the media industry. The bill was supposed to foster competition, instead the media shrank from more than fifty national media outlets in the 80s to the six that remain today.

Since these two acts, journalists, reporters, even news anchors have been at the mercy of their corporate overlords. Take the case of Steve Wilson & Jane Akre who were legally fired for not falsifying the news for Fox or news anchor Dan Rather being fired for airing a piece on George Bush’s desertion in the National Guard.

Macleans-cover-383x512Because a corporation is a person under the law and a person has a right to free speech, it is perfectly legal for a corporate owned news firm to knowingly lie to the public.

What we get as a result of all this, is infotainment, sensationalism and opinion as a substitute for the news that actually matters. Investigative and fact based journalism is a thing of the past; instead we are subjected to this:

In Canada, it is still illegal to knowingly lie to the public (the main reason why there is no Fox News Canada). However, nothing prevents Sun Media (Rogers), Bell Media or Shaw Communications from fluffing the truth or the entire story itself.

Canadian Media Corporations are now following the same wealth driven example as their American counterparts. These companies are not going to pursue an important story at the risk of losing a sponsor. The stories they do cover, now have their own interests in mind instead of the people who tune in. Corporate interests in general are geared against regulations, they are anti-tax and anti-labour. It’s no surprise then to see the Canadian media come down so hard on the students and not Bill 78.

The only media company in Canada that doesn’t have to answer to anyone (the CBC) is being defunded by the Conservative Government which shouldn’t have financial power over a public broadcasting company. The Government can’t tell the CBC what to report, but they can take away their funds if they don’t like what they see.

For those of you who think the internet is a safe alternative, think again. The internet is as profit driven as any media company. Internet companies (Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc.) look at your browsing history, E-mails and other preferences to better guide you to places they feel you’ll be interested in and of course the advertising that comes with it.

In effect, people with conservative tendencies get exposed to conservative sites and those with more progressive tendencies get exposed to progressive sites. No one ever sees what the other side is thinking.

If you took a political activist and a man who likes to travel and told them both to Google Montreal, the activist would get all sorts of news articles on the student strike and Bill 78, the traveler would book a vacation to Montreal never knowing the protests were taking place.

One final example of how low the media has gone, the self identified “most trusted name in news” Fox News was the subject of a non-biased nationwide study. The results released last week revealed that people who watched Fox News regularly were less informed than those who watched no news at all. Is this what you want Canada?  Cause this is where we are heading.

Leave a Comment