12 May 2010

"Freedom of the press belongs to those rich enough to buy one."

American journalist A.J. Liebling's famous observation rings true again as a group of wealthy creditors led by Paul Godfrey, former CEO of Sun Media, buys up the Canwest Global newspaper empire for over a billion dollars. Passing from one group of the very rich to another is a huge chunk of Canada's daily press, including the major dailies in every major city west of Manitoba. The nation's principal public forums are the property of the rich, to be bought and sold as mere commodities, the public interest incidental. The West is particularly deprived, its major centres in three provinces largely dependent upon a press owned by one tiny special interest group.

Healthy democracy needs a broad and balanced range of news, something the Canadian press is ill-equipped to provide, beholden as it is to its capitalist masters. As long as Liebling's aphorism applies, that will not change. Freedom of the press is crippled without equal access to the press. Here lies a critical democratic challenge: the daily press remains our major public forum -- how do we ensure that forum provides equal access for all, including those not blessed by great wealth or corporate favour? Until we meet that challenge, democracy will be obliged to continuing sharing the stage with plutocracy.

1 comment:

  1. The Internet, which everyone has equal access to, will go a long way to addressing your concerns. That's why it's the most important innovation in communication in 3,000 years.

    Of course, it will take a few decades to come to fruition.