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FORSETH – News media must remain free from political interference

LAST WEEK I received two emails, and coincidentally they were both on the same topic…. the News Media.

The first was from Leah who said to me … PLEASE DO A BLOG ON THIS!!!

By the way, that was her HUGE BOLD FONT not mind – I just copied and pasted to show her emphasis.  The request was in reference to a story “Justin Trudeau Buying the Media in time for 2019 Election.”

Then there was the second email.  It came from Conservative Party of Canada Ontario MP Peter Kent who stated:

I would like to apologize sincerely for suggesting yesterday that – based on government messaging – the Liberals were going to offer legacy media organizations a $50 million bailout package in an election year.  I was wrong – they are actually giving them a $595 million bailout package.

It is highly unlikely Peter Kent is going to read this piece, but Leah likely will.  Likely because my response to her yesterday was to say, “So much has been written on this; and I agree that at the very least there is an impression of the media being bought off.  I don’t know what more I might add?”

I have changed my mind because there is something I believe can be said, which is different to what has already been stated.

There are now very few areas of life that the government has not intruded – that, to the point where there is so much reliance on government, nothing that might question the motives of what they do, can safely be questioned.

Years ago, government carved off many areas in social services that they dealt with.  For example … direct services to the vulnerable … mental health services … youth services … those dealing with the homeless … substance abuse problems … life skills programs … new immigrants … community groups and clubs.  On and on the list goes.

The societies, and agencies, that deal with these and many other important support services in our communities do valuable work … but they are all vulnerable to the whims of government.  In fact, their very continued existence is dependent on continuing to receiving funding for the services they provide … each and every year.

I know from personal experience in writing this blog, that questions many times go unanswered — they do for one reason, and one reason only.  A fear of losing funding should the very government agencies I, and others, ask questions about, decide they don’t like what they hear.

Is that a real fear, or a perceived fear?  Honestly, in my opinion it does not matter.  The fear alone is enough to make many with stories to tell, and issues that need being uncovered, clam up.

That brings me back around to Leah’s email to … PLEASE DO A BLOG ON THIS!!!

IF government does end up providing funding to the very media outlets that report on them, the same real – or perceived – fears will surface there as well.  After all, what Editor or Publisher is going to risk have a reporter or Op / Ed commentator say something that ruffles the feathers of government.  As the old saying, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you” certainly comes to mind.

IF, media is going to survive as a true Fourth Estate (or Fourth Power), then it MUST remain free of political interference.  The ability to truly advocate for those who need advocacy … to frame political issues in ways that may not being pleasing to government … or to try and shape, questions, and influence you and I in a way that is contrary to where government want us to think and look … will otherwise be forever lost.

Throughout history time has continued to march on, and the ways in which we do things have changed.  That is certainly happening right now in the news media industry.

It is up to the news media industry to figure out how to make themselves relevant again, in a way they can continue to be viable. That way however, must not, and cannot, depend on a financial bailout from government.

Alan Forseth is a Kamloops resident and former member of the Reform Party of Canada and the B.C. Reform Party, and a past and current member of the BC Conservative Party. His blog is My Thoughts on Politics and More.

 

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About Mel Rothenburger (6243 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

9 Comments on FORSETH – News media must remain free from political interference

  1. Have to say I have never read “The Shattered Mirror, News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age” — please let me know where I might be able to fin it.

    That said, directly, or indirectly, media is being stonewalled far to often in searching out answers, because the long arm and tentacles of government reach farther and farther into every day life. When NGO’s … community associations … non-profit agencies … and the like are all receiving major subsidies from government, they are NOT going to bite the hand that feeds them

    Nor will media outlets, by and large owned by mega-corporations, be likely (as I said) to bite the hand that feeds them, should they also become the recipient of government grants and supports. For the media — soon to be recipients of government subsidies say otherwise, is a complete fallacy — even if THEY say so themselves.

    Already now newspapers, TV, and radio print and broadcast practically word for word government media releases (the same ones I also receive so I know this to be true)

    Corporate Canada destroyed community and regional radio — the federal government will drive the final nail in its coffin — along with all other media. No one, except the naive, will believe a word that is said. Why should they when those reporting on the news, and events of importance, have been reduced to a pittance.

    Sorry to say this Mel, but I cannot for a moment believe that subsidizing the already shattered newsrooms of the media will improve things. Bailouts of the past to government favorites such as Bombardier and the auto-industry — only end up being failures, as GM just today has proven.

    • Mel Rothenburger // November 27, 2018 at 8:58 AM // Reply

      As I’ve said, Alan, I don’t support government subsidies for the media, either, but for different reasons.

  2. Tony Brumell // November 26, 2018 at 3:04 PM // Reply

    I am so naive I guess.When I aw the offer of money for the printed media I was less concerned with government interferance than I was of owner/editorial interferance. i believe that concentration of media ownership is far more incidious than outright financial influence.If a news media has the integrity that it should have then there are 10,000 environmental and social issues that should be covered and covered objectivley .
    I and many enviros out there are absolutley distrustfull of owner interfeance because we see so many issues that are not repoted on with any indepth investigation or are not covered at all.Environmental issues are my main concern for lac of reporting.IE In Kamloops last fall Dr. Suzuki,Naomi Klien, Maude Barlow and Chief Iron eyes came to town within a week or two of each other and not one forum was coved by any media, except Mel who came to Chief Iron eyes (of DAPL fame) and tried to report on his message.These forums took place at TRU and were very revelatory but I believe that the media owners did not want their messages given any news space.These events drew 700 to 900 people ,including satelite rooms for overflow crowds so the argument that they wern’t worth reporting on was spurious.
    The coverage of Site C was almost derisive and incomplete.Same with pipeline issues about our local protests with no coverage at all when chief Stewart Phillope attended.Dsmog was at that one but no locals showed at all.This has led many of my ilk to distrust media .Even comments on your blog do not get the attention they deserve.I think that there may be 10 other individuals who seem the take part with little public discourse or discussion.I was banned from our local newspaper because I critisized some editorial content and havn’t had a letter printed since.(Nearly 3years ) Much coverage was attended on the Ajax issue and the public interest was fairly well served. but so much is not.
    I was naive when I saw the offer of money for printed media, in that I did not question it.Now you say it was intended to influence the news output.I do not know who is right but what I do know is that important news items are not being covered and the public is kept in the dark about the goings on of gov’t and industry.
    Outlets like Narwal(Desmog ) and the Tyee are trying .Did they get any support from gov’t .Not that I know of .Maybe thats why I trust their reporting because of it’e independace.Where do we go from here?
    Straight editorials are important and should bring personal values to the fore but others not of the media should be given editorial space as well.
    I believe that go’v must be able to support the media without “strings ” attached and media ownership must be hands off or arms length as to content.

  3. Beverley Thies Campbell // November 26, 2018 at 9:18 AM // Reply

    Sadly,our Government Leader and the leader of the Unifor Union have stamped DONE on the face of our beloved print media, when the Union head says that he will be Andres Scheer’s worst nightmare leading up to and during the 2019 federal election and he then receives a substantial amount of money from the leader of a specific political party, ALL IS LOST.

  4. But, and a big but, the media companies went to the government on bent knees asking for what is being offered. That would make them complicit in reducing “freedom of the press”.

  5. Perhaps political interference is less of an issue…money interference is a bigger issue. And almost no one is immune to the “subtle” persuasion of money. For example, during the peak of the Ajax mine euphoria the local media was generally a joke thanks to “sponsorship” money from KGHM. Good thing Mel got into retirement when he did!

    • Agreed Pierre … and in so doing they will become accomplices in their own complicity of exploitation and bribery

      • Mel Rothenburger // November 26, 2018 at 9:43 PM //

        Alan, I don’t know if you’ve ever read The Shattered Mirror, News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age. If you haven’t, you should — it’s the report generated by the media that has resulted in the subsidies now being offered by the federal government. It is an excellent report and makes a strong case for the importance of media to democracy. As I wrote in my Armchair Mayor column on Saturday, I don’t agree with subsidizing media but the idea that the media will somehow become toadies of the federal Liberals is hogwash generated by the opposition Conservatives.

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