It all started a few weeks back with Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin bemoaning the state of print media in Canada. Then Martin who never saw a government spending solution in search of a problem he didn't like followed with a suggestion that newspapers should be subsidized by the government.
This was followed by the CBC's announcement they were getting into the news publishing business (online) and its condemnation from the gang over at the Rebel Media (born out of the ashes of Sun TV) crying foul over CBC's move into the (digital) newspaper game.
Brian Lilley recorded a monologue about Canada's heavily subsidized broadcaster muscling in on the private enterprise, and supposedly at-arms-length from government, newspaper business. Except its not true, not even remotely. Canada's newspaper media has the most monopolistic ownership of any industrialized democracy... okay, we're about on par with Venezuela, wonderful, how proud we should all be in our fourth estate (yes heavy sarcasm implied).
The fourth estate was born from the advent of newspapers and pamphleteers (the bloggers of the 17th & 18th centuries) when newly widely available printed media gave voice to the people and could challenge the power of the state and the clergy.
In the latter part of the 20th century we watched that ideal slowly erode, and accelerate dramatically in the 21st. And in Canada especially so.
Now back to Rebel Media's crusade against the CBC.Yes CBC news is clearly not much more than the advertising wing of the Liberal Party. However if the Rebel really championed the free market, which it vociferously insists that it does, where's the criticism of Canada's heavily subsidized print media duopolies? I can perhaps excuse Lilley for his ignorance since, if you'll excuse the ad hominem attack, he doesn't strike me as much of a critical thinker (I remain open to being disabused of that notion). Rebel Media founder Ezra Levent however (full disclosure I used to write for his magazine Western Standard) has admitted to taking government subsidies, he clearly knows how corrupt the media game is in Canada, so his attacks on the CBC are completely hypocritical and dishonest, in fact on a hypocrisy scale of 1-10 (with ten being the highest) he's at about 100.
Let's stick a pin in Ezra and Rebel Media for a moment and jump ahead to another 'champion' of a free press, Andrew Coyne. I use the ironic quotes because in his most recent column in the National Post (February 25) He calls for print media to remain at-arms-length from government, which he states, subsidies to the press would make all but impossible. Once again, major newspaper chains in Canada are already subsidized by the government. And I know he knows this since he was standing next to me listening intently when I asked (then) Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff about newspaper subsidies in 2011. So he either has a poor memory, is willfully ignorant or both.
Now dear reader I feel background on the Canadian newspaper business is in order so you won't feel as if I'm making wild unsubstantiated claims: We have three major chains, Postmedia/Quebecor, Torstar and Transcontinental. Plus two slightly smaller companies both linked to the former, Glacier Media and Black Press. Between them they control almost all printed (and a substantial portion of digital) English language media between Quebec and B.C (and most of the Maritimes).
Postmedia is part owner of Glacier and Torstar is part owner of Black Press. If Torstar gets its way and takes over Postmedia (and don't think it won't happen, they've tried already, and as Postmedia's fortunes fall...) that would effectively mean Canada's print media was under the control of one company.
These chains already illegally collude (yes illegally) and the government turns a blind eye. They lie to the public publishing 'independent' alternative newspapers, like Absolute Underground and the Georgia Straight that they in fact control. This is something that should be challenged as it is now, let alone allow to continue unhindered, as paid hypocrites write sophistry about protecting the 'free press.'
Again, let's get back to Rebel Media, who, as they say, are fiercely independent, champions of the free market and yet not a peep about the job killing, journalism destroying, anti-entreperenurial, government subsidized media monopolies. Why? My best guess is because if they want to be allowed to keep jabbing sticks at Rachel Notley, PM Selfie and fringe leftist groups, then this is the one subject they have to stay clear off.
Speaking of premier Notley and her socialist cadre in Alberta (there's a phrase I never thought I'd be writing) After attempting to ban Rebel Media from public press conferences (and then finding out that that damn pesky Constitution guarantees a free press (in theory anyway) has put forward the idea of creating a media consortium (cabal) that would determine who qualifies as a journalist.
Now despite having called Ezra Levent a colossal hypocrite (which he is) he still, in at least some areas, serves as the 21st century version of the pamphleteer. A government controlled (and don't kid yourself it wouldn't be anything but) consortium that sat in judgement of those who wished to enter the field of journalism would put us behind even Venezuela in terms of press freedom, we would then be on par with North Korea and Cuba (and no I don't think that's an exaggeration.)
So this is where we are in Canada, we have only the semi-corrupt to keep watch on the completely corrupt. Who wins in that game? Well certainly not the people, who increasingly have no voice against the powers that be. Liberal MP Hedy Fry perfectly summed up the Canadian approach to a so-called free press, when she lamented in Commons, "anybody can just publish anything they want." Gasp, how have we allowed this in a free society? And here dear reader I am going to succumb to vulgarity, since there comes a time when those with totalitarian impulses simply don't get the message otherwise (so for those of you with more tender sensibilities stop reading now) for the rest of you, Hedy - fuck you and the horse you rode in on!