The press has always been thought of as an important facet of any liberal democracy. The press in Canada has always played an important role in educating the population about the events and news of the day. However, for the press to truly perform its task in a liberal democracy, it needs to be independent of the government and special interests. These two groups in society began entering the picture in the 1950s and 1960s. We saw it with government in the 1960s as the popular press in Canada was clearly presenting the news in a way that was favourable to the Liberal Party, and we began to see it with special interests as the media came under the control of fewer and fewer people and entities. (Kesterton, 1967: 251). Since then the issue of who controls the media has been an important topic of discussion, as the media is only as good as those presenting it, so it is important to understand media and the press from a broader perspective.
[...] This essay began with an introduction of newspaper ownership in Canada. It was clearly shown that from about the 1950s, special interests, whether political or business, have played a significant role in the way the news is presented to the masses. There were many Royal Commissions done to bring this concern to the forefront of public consciousness, and it culminated in 1980 with the Royal Commission on Newspapers, or the Kent Commission which expressed great concern over the way media is largely being controlled by few, and how this poses a great threat to the fabric of our democracy. [...]
[...] The process of ownership acceleration had begun in the 1970s. In Canada, Corporations like Thomson Newspapers and Southam Inc. were quickly gaining control of the nations newspapers. Southam ended up as sole owner of the only English-language daily in each of Montreal and Ottawa, and the two Vancouver dailies. Thomson Newspapers on the other hand, with their Free Press, became the sole daily in the valuable Winnipeg market. They were alleged to have conspired to create this monopoly. Though no convictions came of it, the government was very interested in the events that led to this acute control of the nations printed media. [...]
[...] Newspapers are now uniting with television interests, and because the government has a strong hand in television, it thus makes the newspaper industry accountable to the government, through its interests in television. For example, BCE is a large corporation that controls both television and newspaper holdings, including The Globe and Mail and CTV. As such, BCE must be careful what it prints in its newspapers so as to not jeopardize its ability to renew its broadcast licence. (Kent, 2002: 26). [...]
[...] The most significant development occurred in January 1980 when Thomson purchased the newspaper group FP Publications, which at the time was the third biggest English-language newspaper conglomerate in Canada. With this move, Thomson assumed control of eight of the country's finest dailies, including the Toronto Globe and Mail, the Winnipeg Free Press, and the Times and Colonist in Victoria. This move also prompted closure of the Ottawa Journal, the sale of the Calgary Albertan, and the sale to Southam of Pacific Press and Gazette interests in Vancouver and Montreal respectively.” (Osler, 1993: 182). [...]
[...] While reputable dailies in Canada have not made a stark shift toward catering to the television audience in the post-Kent Commission era, their publishers have gone to great lengths, often at the expense of traditional journalistic values, to move them toward attracting a more television- oriented modern generation. One of the best examples of this is USA Today, which of course is an American paper, but it has a high circulation in Canada as well. USA Today has been said to be quintessential corporately planned and packaged, market-driven paper. [...]
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