On media, loyalty and patronage closer to home


Nothing local is real any more. All of us are living in remote suburbs connected by media superhighways to the centre of the universe, wherever that is.

The things that might catch our interest this week are happening in places like Egypt or Tunisa or the Upper Amazon or Hollywood. We learn about these events from media such as Yahoo News (you can just imagine what someone 50 years ago would have thought about that), Fox News, and the “mainstream” media such as our own CBC, CTV and National Post.

Sorting out the important news from the irrelevant junk seems to be a lot more complicated than it was 20 years ago. Entertainment and business seemed to have merged with the news, blurring lines between serious reporting and mere gossip. So how can we simplify the picture?

Two important features of the media have changed.

The first is the proliferation of new technology, which has spawned new ways of communicating—in real time—around the globe.

The second is the consolidation of media ownership into fewer and fewer hands—and the celebrity status of the news business itself. Today, most of our media diet is now being supplied by colossal ventures such as Rupert Murdock’s empire, the Thomson-Reuters group, and a tiny company gone large, Quebecor.

Barely heard of it? According to its website, Quebecor is now Canada’s largest newspaper chain. It owns 37 dailies and 34 weeklies, plus a handful of other publications. It’s also into cable TV, broadcasting and the Internet in a big way. Quebecor is not merely Canadian. Quebecor is the largest printing company in the world. Yes, the world. Quebecor World operates in 17 countries with some 35,000 people on staff. So, when Quebecor’s owner—Pierre Karl Péladeau—wants something, he usually gets his way.

Well, last year Pierre wanted to create Sun TV News, something like Canada’s version of Fox News. So he hired 35-year old Kory Teneycke and made him VP of development. Now, you might think that Kory must be a pretty bright young guy to have risen this high so early in his career. Well, maybe…

But Kory started off in his new post with a bang, declaring that “Canadian TV news today is narrow, its complacent and it’s politically correct.” He went on to say that, “It’s bland and boring, and Canadians, as a result, have largely tuned out.” He claimed that the new Sun TV News would be “unapologetically patriotic” and “controversially Canadian.” Read: Fox-like, and well right of centre.

What Kory and his boss, Pierre, were after was Category 1 broadcast licence from the federal government (CRTC), which would put them on every cable network across the country, just like CBC, which earns $65 million from its licence. To put that idea in perspective, Canada’s largest private broadcaster, CTV, rates a Category 2, giving cable carriers the option of not carrying it, and earning it “only” $15 million in licensing fees annually.

It was a bold move. But Kory had an ace up his sleeve. As Prime Minister Harper’s communications director, he’d had direct access to the PM, and had already lobbied Harper directly on Quebecor’s behalf before leaving to work for Péladeau. And it all might have worked out well for Quebecor, but for the fact that Kory couldn’t seem to keep his mouth shut.

Among other unrelated public faux pas, he challenged journalists with taunts like, “We’re taking on the mainstream media… We will not be a state broadcaster offering boring news by bureaucrats, for elites, and paid for by taxpayers,” and was implicated in sabotaging a petition aimed at blocking Sun TV News.

The mainstream media reacted predictably. By September he’d resigned from Quebecor. Interestingly, he was replaced by Luc Lavoie, former spokesman for former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Then, in a surprise move, Teneycke rejoined Quebecor at Sun TV News last month.

On a local note, when Teneycke left Harper’s office, he was replaced by one John Williamson—our local federal Conservative candidate, who himself got entangled in media controversy when MP Greg Thompson apparently used taxpayer-funded mailing services to officially endorse young Williamson’s candidacy.

Why should this matter? Because we deep into the process of degrading our democratic processes. With ever-fewer media owners we are losing our independent, critical, clear-sighted news reporting—one that should be at arm’s length from special interest. And with ever-larger media conglomerates, we are in danger of getting more news reflecting the political views of the owners, who have ever-greater lobbying clout with our politicians.

Somehow, we’ve slipped into a mindset that accepts that both government and media are simply businesses, one public, one private. But nothing could be further from the truth. Our government still belongs to us. It is not there to make us money, or to always operate in a business-like manner. It is there to protect our interests—all our interests—whether we are rich or poor.

Isn’t it time we stopped enabling the owners and managers of large businesses in their efforts to recruit our politicians as delivery boys for their corporate agendas?

Or have we forgotten that all candidates are local, and so are our votes?


  1. "Somehow, we’ve slipped into a mindset that accepts that both government and media are simply businesses, one public, one private."

    If I may put this another perspective, a business makes business decisions, whereas government is there to make moral decisions (at least in theory). That is why, I believe, the business model is an unsound analogy for government whose purpose is to uphold equality under law and promote the health and welfare of its people. Since when has a business enterprise ever served a moral purpose?

    Silly me for harboring such notions (must be one of those free radicals).

  2. Not so silly you. The few real philosophers still writing share your view. This hijacking of the people's government by business is criminal. Where we once had big government vs. big business vs. big unions, now we only have big business.

    Perhaps we need to take some current events lessons from Egypt. Rather than shooting governors, we might take to the streets to take back our government. Can you imagine the effect if several million people stormed DC to protest Obama' sellout version of health care?

    That, however, is unlikely to happen. The puppet kings long ago learned how to campaign to the left and govern to the right. Obama is no exception. The odd thing to me is why we keep taking it up the tailpipe...

  3. Silly all of us, really. Wish I didn't feel so compelled to take this stuff seriously!

  4. Curious thing about recollections. I was thinking the other day of our encounter with Seinfeld's Kramer, and how he kept insisting that his tax shelter scheme was perfectly allowable under law. Damn those moral blinders! Just because something is legal doesn't mean it is ethical (but neither of us would convince him of that). And how he hated talking to me!

    Corporatism is unsustainable. Sooner or later, consumerism will waste so much of the world's natural resources, and leave human beings in such a miserable state, civilization itself will follow a retrograde path.

    Now you know why I quit the human species and decided to become a cephalopod. In a mere 100 years from now, when sea levels have risen due to global warming, Washington will be under water, and I will take up residence in the White House without ever having been elected. In another 100,000 years, my kind will be farm-raising human beings.

    There is still time, brother (I'm not talking about repentance here). There is still time to chose another species and transform yourself before it is too late.

  5. Laughing!!! Love dolphins, but that's way too convenient. Worked at a marine science outfit for a while, so should be able to come up with a few ideas...!

    Yeah, Kramer. He did hate you. That's the trouble with law and justice. It's just regulation (which must have some connection to hate!). I do, however, have some difficulty with morality as the baseline. Ethics strikes me as a better word (although that may just be semantics). But the fundamentalists and moral right have really buggered "morality" in my view.

    I will try to do my best to transmigrate species before it is too late. Tick tock, as they say.


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