Cdn Media crisis and what we can do about it

I am reposting 2 blogs posts by Nick Filmore whom I think has the right idea

MEDIA IN CRISIS – 1:
Why feds should step in to
help democracy’s watchdogs

http://nickfillmore.blogspot.ca/2016/02/media-in-crisis-1-why-feds-should-step.html


“I think newspaper readership is strongest 

among people who are soon going to be dead.”

— John Miller
former senior editor at The Toronto Star
A flourishing, capable news media is the oxygen of democracy. In Canada, our traditional oxygen-providers, the mainstream corporate-owned newspapers, are dying. We need to come up with something better to serve our communities.
Since the beginning of the year, we’ve seen papers in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa bizarrely merged; a potentially disastrous strike in Halifax. The Guelph Mercury’s last print edition. The closure of The Toronto’ Star’s printing press, and gradual shaving back at every paper in the country.
Not all papers are losing money, but none is flourishing. And none still provides the scope or depth of balanced news essential to a citizenry that wants to be engaged.

How has this happened?

First, corporate news, as a product, has been debased beyond recognition. Newsrooms are so short-staffed that in many communities they don’t report even important civic events. There’s as much fluff as news. Pages are filled with slapdash opinion pieces that are cheap to produce. For most papers, good analysis and investigative journalism are things of the past.
Second, with good reason, people no longer trust what their papers say. I could find no recent independent survey that gauged Canadian opinions of the media. But I assume that our opinion of our papers is likely only slightly better than Americans’. A 2013 Gallup poll reported that fewer than 25 per cent of the Americans surveyed had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in their newspapers.
All the dailies – with the exception to some extent of The Toronto Star – corporate values that cater to the rich and powerful help determine what is considered newsworthy. So right-wing policies detrimental to the general public are praised, unions and social change opposed. There’s much more, but you get the idea.
In the face of widening consumer disdain for a diminished product, corporate media owners would have investors believe they will somehow come up with a new formula that will magically make them profitable. It is nowhere in sight.
With corporate-controlled media highly unpopular and facing a life-threatening crisis, it’s the perfect time to come out in favour of public support for independent Canadian news and information on the Internet.
Canada has a small but enthusiastic number of news and opinion websites, but we need to think in terms of supplementing those with well-funded sites that can provide communities and cities with the news and information they will need in future years.
Unfortunately, while sites work hard at raising money, most of them do not bring in enough revenue to have the size of staff necessary to provide fill coverage for their chosen market area.

If Justin Trudeau’s apparent concern for our democracy is sincere, he must know that Canadians are not getting the basic information about events and developments that we need to be able to exercise our role as citizens.

Sooner rather than later, the Liberals need to acknowledge the problem and find ways to step in and provide funding. Communities – especially those that will be launching new sites – need better sources of news.
However, the public would not look favourably upon the idea of government giving financial support to media corporations that gobbled up millions of dollars in executive salaries and shareholder dividends while reducing coverage and chopping jobs.
By contrast, Scandinavian countries regularly subsidize privately-owned daily newspapers. The media in those countries is viewed much differently than in Canada: readership is much higher than here, papers haven’t in the past raked in grossly high profits from tons of monopoly advertising, and executives are paid much less than in North America. As a result, Scandinavians actually like their papers, and governments have no trouble supporting them.
Canada’s crisis is worst in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa, the cities where Paul Godfrey’s Postmediahas forced once competing papers into shotgun marriages.

Their situation may soon be even worse. If Postmedia cannot meet a $336- million debt payment by August 2017, the chain will likely go bankrupt. Beyond that is another payment of about $36-million by July 2018. At either point the papers may be put on the block.

At the same time, there is speculation that if the chain’s debt were paid off, it might be profitable – depending on how much journalism it invested in.
But would Canadians stomach a multi-million dollar bailout for Postmedia’s fleet of journalistic ghost ships after Godfrey, its CEO, walked off with a pay packet of $1.7-million and vast currents of cash have flowed to a hedge fund in New York?
Other corporate media owners that opposed government support for weaker competitors in the past, may also change their minds and seek tax breaks for those properties. Their pleas deserve the same scrutiny.
The Guelph Mercury, which closed last week, is part of the massive Torstar Corporation, owner of The Toronto Starand many other properties.  In view of its purchase last year of Vertical Scope, a digital media firm, for $200-million, what does the Canadian public—or the government—owe it keep the Mercury alive?
Yes, governments need to ensure that communities get the news they need, and that doesn’t including helping for-profit media. Even if the government wanted to, it would cost many millions of dollars to subsidize the failing newspaper industry.
However, to help cover the news gap left by the failing newspapers, the government could increase the funding of both CBC Radio and TV News and Current Affairs.

MEDIA IN CRISIS – 2:
Citizens, government need to plan now to have quality media in future

http://nickfillmore.blogspot.ca/2016/02/media-in-crisis-2-citizens-government.html

Canada’s mainstream media are in a state of incipient meltdown. They no longer deliver the volume or quality of news that Canadians need to be informed about important happenings in their communities, let alone to participate in a healthy democratic process.

The corporations that own traditional newspapers, seeing their revenues and readership dissolve, have opted to cut jobs and slash the content that used to provide their product’s value.

News on the Internet: Everyone will get in on the act!

This is a serious problem for the way our democracy is supposed to work, and it is not going away.
It is time for governments—federal, provincial, and municipal—to step up and find a way to make sure that Canadian communities once again receive the news and information they need to function properly.

I explained in an earlier column why it would be the wrong choice for governments to support the same media that are failing under profit-driven corporate ownership.

Instead, the best solution to our growing news crisis is for governments to provide the financial support needed so that community-based Internet news sites will be sustainable.

Finding government money for public interest news shouldn’t be a problem. Governments already spend millions of dollars to support the diversity of Canadian magazines, privately owned TV stations, and, of course, the CBC.

We also all need to recognize that the transition to Internet-based delivery for disseminating news and information is only accelerating, will soon be virtually complete.

Instead of thinking about the way news dissemination is now, with newspapers hanging on, we need to envision what conditions will be like in, say 10 years, and begin working toward that time frame now.

How? Here’s what I’d like to see happen.

First, we need to remind ourselves that our governments belong to us. If we are being poorly served, and there’s no other way to get the news we absolutely need, we have a perfect right to demand that government help solve the problem.

Without launching yet another multi-year Royal Commission on the media, the federal government should conduct a tightly focused investigation into the quickest, cleanest, and least-costly form of support for digital non-profit community news.

Scores of independent, digital non-profit news outlets already exist in Canada and the United States. But in neither country have they developed business models that can reliably support serious numbers of journalists and also break even.

In the U.S., the Pew Research Centre reported that 172 digital non-profit news outlets had been launched in the country between 1987 and 2013.

But while the sector showed promise of economic health, many sites “face substantial challenges to their long-term financial well-being.” Several had received substantial start-up money from foundations, but lacked business expertise to broaden their funding once the endowments ran out. [List of US non-profits:]

Canada has at least 20 independent Internet news sites, several providing broad, general information. But none serve a large community.

Highest ranked is The Tyee: it comes in at a distant number 2,911 in viewership among all sites in the country, as measured by the search engine Alexa . In second place is National Observer (at number 3,567). rabble.ca(at number 3,582), comes next, closely followed by the specialist paywall site iPolitics (3,651).

All the main corporate media, which mostly republish the same content as their affiliated newspapers, rank much higher.

In addition to providing support for existing sites, we need to look at supporting new sites to serve communities, cities and even provinces that are not well served.

Research is needed to find out how people who do not seek out news on the Internet can be lured to the new sites.

If citizens feel their area is not being covered by existing media, they need to form a community group to assess the situation.

Groups should attract members who have both business and journalism skills. They need to develop a plan, prepare a draft budget, and assess what funding they can generate on their own.

A well-connected community group should be able to tap into a number of funding sources: sustaining donors, memberships, ad sales, possibly foundations, on-line sales of compatible products such as books, fundraising events, special reports, or even develop relations to do contract for community groups and companies.

In Guelph, where TorStar closed The Guelph Mercury last week, it was unclear whether the paper’s website would continue to operate and whether another small Tor-Star free paper can serve the community.

Citizens in Guelph should assess after a period of time whether they are getting the news they need. If not, perhaps they will need to take action as a community.

There are dozens of non-profit sites in the U.S. that could serve as a model for Guelph and other communities if folks decide to have a site. For instance, the Dallas South News has been operating since 2009, using traditional and citizen journalists as well as bloggers to provide news and commentary to the community’s 500,000 residents.

In general, public support for non-profit community media should be awarded in a competitive process run by an arms-length, non-political body. Some might be awarded based on the number of people who visit a site, or by matching funds contributed by the community.

In addition, a non-profit group could apply to the federal government to obtain charitable tax status for the dissemination of educational material. This way donors would be able to receive a tax receipt.

Furthermore, Tax rules could encourage donations to non-profit and educational journalism.

Whatever vehicle is adopted, it will need to satisfy critics of any government involvement in the media, who will be watching like hawks. There will need to be more research.

What’s already clear is that yesterday’s profit-obsessed media market has failed. A new one needs some support so we all can receive the news and information we need.

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About flexosaurus

I am an anthropologist and Associate Professor who loves to play guitar and comment on social injustice in whatever form it may take
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