The Tawdry Politics of “Fat Cats” Canadian Journalism

di Joe Volpe del May 28, 2019

TORONTO - It’s the whining season among Canada’s “fat cats” media giants. The rest of us who strive to make sense of this country for the 7,000, 000 newer Canadians who function in a third language (according to the latest Census Canada statistics published in August of 2017) and whose historical perspective may differ from theirs are reduced to watching from the sidelines.

How dare we propose to oヘer a view or “demand our rightful place”? Or indeed a rightful share of Government “largesse” which we finance?

Who is offended that the Government of Canada finally recognizes that it should play a part in sustaining a vibrant (sometimes critical) press and media sector? Surprise, surprise… Media giants like Postmedia and Rogers.

It is no secret that Governments have NOT been utilizing existing press and media outlets to inform the citizenry about the various programmes through which they either use or misuse taxpayers’ dollars. They have demonstrated a propensity to go to foreign giants like Google and Facebook to design and propagate ads to targeted audience.

Revenues from ad agencies and private companies follow suit. Local designers, graphic artists programmers are being laid-oヘ by the thousands. Publishers are hard-pressed to stay afloat. They lay-oヘ journalists etc. And, they turn to governments for “assistance”.

There are no exceptions. Torstar, owner of the Toronto Star, and Postmedia, the owner of the National Post (in some circles, referred to as the Jerusalem Post in deference to the weight it gives to Middle Eastern issues), both made submissions to the relevant House of Commons Standing Committee in an eヘort to attract government changes. We did likewise.

It appears that Postmedia is lamenting the success of the initiative. Through a column authored by Chris Selley, on May,22, the National Post fulminates that "Canadian media are bought and paid for by the Liberals”.

Selley (The National Post?) is offended that the government has set up a committee of “interested parties” to consult/determine how the allocated resources are to be divided. He is particularly outraged by the presence of Unifor (a union representing journalists, writers and employees) on the committee.

He seems equally skeptical of the presence of News Media Canada’s role. While he acknowledges that …“it most definitely represents the interests of [its] outlets’ publishers” (102 of the of the 1032 mastheads it represents are owned by Postmedia), he laments that “having successfully obtained a taxpayer bailout for their struggling companies, they now get to decide the terms. Nice.”

Postmedia is majority owned by a New York vulture fund; therefore, arguably not Canadian. Last week, it made headlines for its bid to join Premier Kenny’s Conservative Party “war room” to conduct its political campaign against the Federal Liberals’ carbon tax and pipeline construction “plans”.

Why does it have representation on a committee to determine allocation of Canadian resources? The national Post, through Chris Selley, patronizingly accepts the presence of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council (NEPMC) of Canada, because [they] “get relatively inoffensive votes”.

Hello. A vote is a vote. Maybe, just maybe, their membership produces product that people (Canadians) read.

Another Media giant accustomed to having its way with the taxpayers’ money is Rogers Media group. Last March, it decided to sell off it print media – periodicals, generally. Its signature magazine, Maclean’s, a “current affairs” review and analysis periodical, has seen its distribution and readership plummet for years. The size of the magazine is a skeletal representation of its former self. It now publishes only monthly.

Despite the fact that its numbers are now down to 225,963, annually, it still receives $1,492,069 from the Aid to Publishers Program. That’s $6.60 for every unit that comes off the press. Maclean’s sells at face value for $6.99 a copy, but you can order it on-line for $1.00 a copy.

Rogers also publishes Chatelaine (English and French versions) for which it receives a further $1,565,616 annually. Add to that Today’s parent, a bi-monthly, which attracts a further $258,435. The three combined distribute less that Corriere Canadese sells, on an annual basis – and, being an “ethnic” daily, it receives zero dollars. Others “ethnic’ language publications either equal that nil amount or struggle to receive relative “pennies”.

Yet, Rogers a multi-billion-dollar corporation, needs public monies to survive (sarcasm may seem intended). It recently sold its print media sector (and the public funds it attracts) to media company that survives and thrives on Government largess: St. Joseph printing Corporation (SJC).

SJC publishes Toronto Life, a monthly, and Fashion Magazine among others. Last year, Toronto Life distributed 88, 000 copies and received $571,903 from the Indulgent Taxpayer; Fashion magazine a further $480,684.00.

Toronto Life ads online say that a one-year subscription – 12 copies - will cost the interested party a mere $23.99. as an inducement, they will throw in one year’s free subscription to Fashion and coupons for purchases elsewhere.

This is by no means a complete list. Maybe Chris Selley can ask his assignment editor to check out other ‘injustices” in the distribution of wealth in the media sector while he hunts down the “Liberalization” of “Press paid and bought for” by governments of Canada.

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