Sunday, June 15, 2008

Unbiased Media? You Gotta Be Kidding!

There's been some discussion on the Liblogs today, about the media and it's lack of objectivity... I replied earlier to some posts...

The "media" needs to have some limits to its partisanship. Not talking about censorship, but about promoting independent thought. They can say whatever they feel like, but we need to put an end to media oligopolies. These huge media concerns will be the end of democratic civilization - and I'm not being "over the top" with that comment. The hates and fears that common citizens feel are fomented by the radio talk shows they hear on the way to work, the TV news they watch at night, and the daily newspaper they read on their coffee breaks... at the coffee shop that is owned by another large US conglomerate, which has cross-promotions in-store with the media chains (for "in store" entertainment - Shaw DMX music, TV from Rogers/Shaw/Bell, CDs for sale).

We're not going to get an accurate depiction of "Little Pee Pee" Pierre until there is REAL JOURNALISM in this country. Unfortunately, without the protections for Canadian content, and strong anti-monopoly laws, we're seeing the US-style deterioration of a truly free media. Frightening indeed. Why is it that so many of us resort to blogs and blogging for our info?

Steve V made some good observations about the import of blogs in this new world of "pseudo-news", and "editorial-posing-as-news". The obstacle any new form of media will have, is to establish credibility. You watch a local news broadcast, and many of them start the show with vaunted imagery and statements of "40 years broadcasting...", "the most watched news-team in the Pacific Northwest", "Regina's most popular news crew", etc., etc. The media has built it's own "aura" and legitimacy. We will need to destroy that legitimacy before we can be accepted as "legit" by the consumers (unfortunately, we have to describe viewers/readers as "consumers", as this is what they've become). Right now, most consumers feel the "news" on TV is the most up-to-date, accurate reporting, while there is the common idea of the "private" nature of blogs, and the partisan discourse therein.

The big Corporate media is the worst - and the most sensationalist of all the news services. Why? The bottom line, of course. Every page they print must be sold. Every 15 to 20mins of airtime must be sold, to commercial interests - many of whom own part of the media company. Ever see General Electric ads on NBC during "Saturday Night Live"? Guess who owns NBC? Yep, it's General Electric - incidentally, the largest manufacturer of atomic materials used for nuclear bombs in the world.

As political activists, WE can do more than simply complain about the state of affairs. While there may not be much public outcry either way (most of the public really has no idea how media cross-ownership affects them), WE can make change happen. We need to ensure that OUR party defends small Canadian media outlets, and helps take apart media monopolies. For all intents and purposes Canada has 3 media outlets controlling the airwaves for 90% of the population: Shaw/Starchoice, Rogers Media, and Bell-Globe Media. There are some smaller players (Quebecor, Irving - who own oil and news - nice combo that...) as well, but the 3 "biggies" are the main ones. A concerted political effort can make a difference - and it will be the only way a difference is made. Political parties unswayed by big corporations would be key to affect the change. The public would also need to be involved. The media consortia have their lobbies and associations that advocate on behalf of broadcasters. It's time the public, the consumer, the voter had their own lobby, or association. Such an advocacy group would bring substantiation to the claims and complaints of people like us - the end consumers.

The media has twisted public thought by screaming "censorship" every time a government gets involved in ensuring fairness and tries to root out monopolies. Tell me now, if we were to lock out foreign media, and set up some boundaries for print media (so one company doesn't own every major daily from coast to coast), how would it NOT inspire independent thought? We would effectively do away with the pan-Canadian, one-voice-one-journalist editorial (I wouldn't have to read Don Martin every day of a cross-Canada trip). If media companies want a national presence they could still have a one-name national daily (like the Globe), but wouldn't be allowed to hide out pretending to be "your local newspaper", when they're really regurgitated editorialized drivel from a "one editor" national perspective.

One thing a federal government COULD do here, is enact laws that prohibit ANY sponsorship of news or editorial programming. No commercial sponsorship, and ALL stations must provide news without the corporate "shadow". This would help a little. You would still have the partisan editors, "editing". Used to be that editing was for sentence structure, grammar, etc.... who am I fooling - since the dawn of a "for profit" press, there has never been unbiased editing of anything...

Once the "profit motive" becomes less of a player in the news - and it becomes a true "public service", there may be true unbiased reporting. Hmmm... come to think of it, isn't that just like the CBC? PBS? Right wingers will scream about the CBC, and say it is the "Liberal voice", but they are wrong. The CBC was a big part of the Gomery reporting, and was all over both PM Cretien, and PM Martin. The CBC tries to present a perspective that is both right and left. What ends up happening with that, is that they need to be moderate, and somewhat in the middle. When they report from the middle - so as not to be too "NDP", or too "Conservative", they appear to be "pro-Liberal", but all they are really doing is spreading their perspective from left to right, evenly.

The public needs to take enough of an interest in the need for unbiased reporting and media, so we don't end up with a corporate monolith in charge of all information. We are dangerously close to seeing ownership of TV, radio, newspapers, internet, even web content (via the gateways) in the hands of a handful of companies. We actually have much of that structure right now. These corporations are actually more friendly with each other than the public knows.

Edit: I worked for a couple of giant media companies, so I am acutely aware of some of the inner-goings-on.

3 comments:

jaybird said...

WG: let me know how your proposal to get your party to fight media concentration goes. Let's not forget that several Liberal governments cut funding to the CBC and allowed media concentration in the private broadcast and print sectors.

I believe that progressive liberal voters want to see greater media diversity but I don't think that the movers and shakers in the party think that it is much of a concern. I realize that many libloggers are not happy with MSM because it has been giving your leader a rough time. But your party normally benefits from a monolithic media voice. During the last provincial election in Ontario, McGuinty with an assist from the Toronto Star, road a complete non-issue (religious school funding) to reelection. I am upset that this meant that issues of importance to progressives (looming recession, poverty, education, health care, enivronment) went completely unexamined.

Johnathon said...

"Right wingers will scream about the CBC, and say it is the "Liberal voice", but they are wrong. The CBC was a big part of the Gomery reporting, and was all over both PM Cretien, and PM Martin. The CBC tries to present a perspective that is both right and left. What ends up happening with that, is that they need to be moderate, and somewhat in the middle. When they report from the middle - so as not to be too "NDP", or too "Conservative", they appear to be "pro-Liberal", but all they are really doing is spreading their perspective from left to right, evenly."

You expect the government to do anything when there are loons like yourself that think the CBC is balanced in its coverage.

You gotta be kidding.

WesternGrit said...

Thanks for the comments Jaybird. I am part of a group attempting to curb media lunacy in Canada. There is much work to do. New media alone isn't the answer. Without government help in this area we're all in a little trouble... left, or even right. Sure the conservative side will benefit more from big corporate media (I'm talking about "normal" conservatives, not the reformist/libertarian variety), but an "owned" media is never good for democracy.

We all have to start our battles somewhere, and if that means by lots of blogging and networking, then so be it. If it means appearing before the CRTC, then so be it. However, the best measures will be aided by enshrining policy during policy conventions...