Does concentrated ownership of media help render Canada a “Third World” nation? Elizabeth May thinks so — but her reasons and where she lays blame are contentious …

Elizabeth May’s new book “lets loose” on the concentration of media power, writes Lawrence Martin in a Globe and Mail column. Excerpts:

If Canadians heard about a country where a handful of people
controlled all the news media, where the state police could
deliberately interfere in an election … where the prime minister
enjoyed excessive power, we would justly picture a Third World nation
that languishes behind modern democracies…



She revisits previous commissions on mass media that decried the trend
toward too much power in the hands of too few media owners. The 1981
Kent commission said the situation had become deplorable. But if it
were deplorable then, Ms. May makes the case that it’s even worse now,
with media monopolies crowding out independent voices. The public again
is badly served. Governments won’t move on the problem because the
corporate media owners “tend to be the friends and power base of the
parties most often in power.”

I’m
not convinced by her comment that governments won’t deal with media
concentration because media owners are politicians’ friends and a power
base. That reason smacks of conspiracy theory, and I’m always skeptical
of claims that humans are smart enough to conspire effectively for very
long — and media concentration has been increasing here for a very
long time.

I suspect Canada’s media concentration exists because of combined and numerous causes including, perhaps:

  • dangerously simplistic free-market ideology
  • extreme public apathy
  • politicians expediently picking their battles
  • worst of all, Canadian journalists too lazy, selfish, short-sighted, stuck in a jobs mindset or timid to fight for journalism.

The hard question is who — other than May and others with little to lose — would be sufficiently motivated to fight media concentration?

[node:ad]