By Tamara Baluja
Newspapers Canada is considering a plan put forth by the Ontario Press Council to establish a national press council. The decision comes after a Ryerson University study on the state of press councils in Canada, which concluded the press councils were ineffective in their present form and did not meet the geographical and digital realities of the publishing industry.
Although the plan is in its infancy stage – and the regional press councils haven’t even received official word of it – Newspapers Canada CEO John Hinds says the board is keen to explore the idea. Currently, two provinces and three territories don’t have press councils and the Atlantic region press council is being “restructured,” the report stated.
“The financial stability of press councils have taken a hit in recent years, with Sun Media papers withdrawing from the Ontario Press Council, Quebecor publications leaving the Conseil and publishers of individual newspapers such as the Edmonton Journal and the Winnipeg Free Press departing their respective councils as well,” the report said. “This hit is aggravated by the fact that, except in Quebec, Canadian press councils are entirely industry-funded.”
Rather than abolish the regional press councils entirely, Hinds said the national press council, if established, will likely keep its regional organization, but the infrastructure and financing will be national.
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“The Ontario Press Council is going to spearhead this idea,” Hinds told J-Source. “Our role is as a supporter and it’s all very early on in the planning.”
Don McCurdy, executive director of the Ontario Press Council, says a national press council would be more responsive than the regional press councils, which were established before newspaper digital operations took off.
“Let’s say there was a complaint in Alberta about an online article written by the Globe’s Edmonton reporter. That reader would have to go to the Ontario Press Council to be heard, because that’s the council where the Globe is a member,” he said. “It makes little sense.”