by Sylvain Comeau
Moderator Dave McLauchlin, Foreign Correspondent for the CBC, opened
the panel by discussing the sea change that has swept Canadas media
in three decades.
The Quebec government asked the Commission to look at issues of
media concentration because of print media transactions. But I think that
we are mistaken if we look only at the press. We have to take a larger
view, because Canada is one of the countries which has permitted the creation
of new kinds of enterprises: cross-properties, she said. Beachamp
is also the spokesperson for the official opposition in matters of culture
However, some of the insights to emerge from the report by the Commission,
which held public consultations on the issue of media concentration, are
not altogether negative on the issue.
We stated that every democratic society has to maintain a necessary
distance between the political universe and the media universe. That is
why we unanimously decided not to pro- pose government interventions through
legislation. We also noted that media concentration is not necessarily
unhealthy. It can provide newspapers with greater financial resources
for hiring journalists, especially foreign correspondents.
Mike Gasher, a Concordia professor of journalism and co-author of Mass
Communications in Canada, said there is less risk from government
regulation than from the current situation.
Without regulation, Gasher says, the recent behaviour of the media giants
points to continuing abuse of their power.
In this country, and particularly in Quebec, we are faced with
a situation in which the governance of the media is largely in private
hands. Radical views contrary to owners views are rare, and sometimes
not even tolerated.
At CanWest, we have seen journalists fired and suspended, columns
and editorial cartoons being pulled. This is pretty outrageous stuff.
Frédéric Dubois of the Conseil des Médias Alternatifs
du Québec went further, calling for tough new laws to rein in media
We need anti-cartel laws to stop cross-ownership of media, and
government funding for independent media in rural areas. We also have
to look at criminalizing things like national editorials printed throughout
a newspaper chain.
Dubois picked up on an unintentional double meaning in Dave McLauchlins