What I would hope for from Trudeau’s son Justin is a similar approach to building – or rebuilding – our news media sector. Instead of asking how they could shore up failing news giants like Postmedia, the Liberals could have made it their priority to do everything possible to get Canadian books, magazines, websites and articles into the hands and smartphones of Canadians.
The media bailout won’t do this. Even while the big newspapers wait for the money to arrive, the Toronto Star announced the end of its Star Metro commuter papers. Despite having part of their payroll covered by Ottawa, there’s no indication that the big media companies plan to significantly increase their reporting staffs. What growth is happening in the news media sector is happening outside of newspapers, in websites and podcasts.
What the media bailout does not acknowledge is that the people who no longer pay for a daily newspaper or its online equivalent are still spending money on media. The difference is that they’re using Patreon or PayPal to support publishers that span the political spectrum. If our traditional news media are dying, it’s because they have stopped delivering what Canadian readers and viewers find appealing.
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Like many Canadians, I no longer subscribe to a daily newspaper. As much as I love newsprint, I can’t justify the cost when there seems to be so little that I want to read, and when breaking news is covered so much faster by Twitter. For me, at least, it also matters when Canadian papers endorse politicians and policies that I just can’t support. When every Postmedia paper in the country endorsed Andrew Scheer during the recent election – despite Trudeau “bribing” them with the newspaper bailout – I knew that I didn’t want to give them my money.
What we learned in the 1970s was that Canadians will embrace homegrown music if they can be shown that it’s as good or better than the international choices. There’s no reason to believe that the same people wouldn’t choose to read Canadian books, newspapers and websites – and pay for them. The challenge for the Canadian government is how to do for the news media universe what CanCon did for our musicians. It will be hard to accomplish this in an age of unregulated internet giants, and the Facebooks and Googles will fight it, but if being Canadian is worth anything, it’s a challenge that we need to accept.