Funding Canada's print media?

Posted 1.29.19

SHAWVILLE, QC | Recent emergency federal aid for print media has proven to be a productive decision, so far. This support is nowhere near federal support for petroleum, pipeline, ship-building, and a few other industries. Yet it seems proportional to the size of each sector's difficulties -- and to their economic and social importance.

This support is actually making up for very destructive decisions already made by the federal government (started by the Harper Conservatives): to end using public media to inform Canadians of everything from health threats to product recalls. The feds are bandaging the very wound they themselves inflict; the provinces, equally short-sighted in cutting use of genuine community media for public information, have yet to recognize their blunder.

Fortunately, Gatineau's municipal leaders are not following their superiors into this quagmire of decapitating the very information sources needed and favoured by much (even if not all) of the population. The Quebec Liberals' Bill 122 gave municipalities the right to NOT inform their citizens, and those municipalities which opted to end publication of meeting notices and so on, are starting to feel the backlash from such "money-saving" decisions. The Municipality of Pontiac, for example, is presently convulsed with citizen backlash over the municipality's decision not to publicize last December's budget deliberations.

Perhaps we should look to long-term improvements, not only emergency bandages. Obviously, the better decision is not to plow ahead insisting everybody be on American social media platforms -- or else sit in the dark. Public-private partnerships (PPP) are in the news for bridges, tunnels, light rail, even highways and schools -- why not our media?

This is not to gloss over the very spotty history of PPPs, especially in the US. Nor does this idea suggest ignoring the mythological "market forces" so loved by believers in unicorns and dragons.

Why not a PPP approach to supporting professional public media? It makes room for "the market".

Very few people would want a government-controlled media; that's totalitarian and Orwellian. (Although why is corporation-controlled media okay?) Not the CBC model -- that's an attempt to eat the cake and still have it by public funding an arms-length-managed media, which has been a patchy success; it has generated a bureaucracy (the arms-length management) that the private sector could certainly not afford. Rather, use the private sector's fiscal responsibility and eliminate funding the superstructure and featherbedding so blatant with bureaucracies like the CBC. Media PPPs, favouring professional community media is the idea, not funding giant media corporations controlled, in fact, by NYC investors.

Why not a contractual arrangement between government which supplies part of the funding and the private sector which supplies the actual hard work and tight fiscal oversight? Rather than subscriptions for the affluent, all citizens receive the media and pay for it indirectly through their taxes, twenty-five bucks or so a year. Government funding oversight plus private sector fiscal tightness and know-how could create and support thorough and investigative journalism. Win/win?


Copyright © 2019 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/1.29.19