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EDITORIAL – Canada’s media shouldn’t decide their own bailouts

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

FEDERAL TAX SUBSIDIES to the media no doubt began with the best of intentions but they promise to end badly.

Eight news organizations have been invited to sit on a panel to decide which media outlets will be eligible for support valued in total at $595 million. Apparently, the people who consume the news don’t qualify for this group.

How a panel made up entirely of representatives from the industry that’s going to get the lolly is supposed to be impartial, I have no idea. Certainly, the media should be represented, but not to the exclusion of the public

There’s no doubt mainstream media are struggling. Revenues are down as people rely more and more on non-traditional news sources. That, in turn, has led to drastic cuts in newsrooms, which impacts the quality of reporting.

Accusations that the Liberals are trying to buy off the media with these subsidies in hopes the government will get favourable news coverage ahead of the October election are somewhat ridiculous. Respectable media don’t work that way and, if I know anything about the media, if anything they’d be more inclined to be extra critical to ensure the appearance of independence.

But that doesn’t make the idea of subsidies any more palatable. If the mainstream media are to survive, they should be doing it on their own without bailouts. Let them provide the kind of product people want. Let them explore new business models that bring in the public as full partners.

A free, responsible and healthy press is more important now than ever. But giving them hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits and incentives — and letting the media themselves decide who will be eligible — isn’t the way to get there.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

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About Mel Rothenburger (6874 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.

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