Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Another Senate dust collector

A Senate committee, led by Joan Fraser, has produced a report which recommends the CBC-Radio Canada become an advertisement-free, public broadcast entity. The problem is, what that means is that the CBC could easily become the same as PBS and NPR in the US.

The report, to be released Wednesday, will also recommend measures to prevent private media conglomerates from dominating newspaper, radio and television audiences in a single market. According to sources, the report of the Senate's transport and communications committee will recommend that the Competition Act be beefed up to require an automatic review whenever a media company acquires more than a certain percentage of audience share in any market.
The committee, headed by former journalist Senator Joan Fraser, spent more than three years travelling the country and hearing from witnesses. Its final, two-volume report contains more than 40 recommendations.
The CBC proposal would mean the federal government would have to boost the corporation's almost $1-billion annual budget to make up for the loss of advertising revenue. The CBC currently makes about $400 million a year from ads, which the report recommends be gradually phased out.
In fairness to Fraser and her committee, after three years of study, she has to submit a report. What will result however, is a different story.

Expect nothing. Or worse, expect the very recommendations in the report to be ignored and the current government to move in an opposite direction. You see, there's this:

After questioning the importance of CBC television and recommending substantial cuts to its government funding, Conservative MP Jim Abbott will now assist Heritage Minister Bev Oda as she ponders a sweeping review of the public broadcaster's mandate.


Abbott, who was heritage critic for the Canadian Alliance party which later merged with the Progressive Conservatives, recommended the ''commercialization'' of CBC television. He said his party would consider transferring a portion of its current funding to subsidies and tax credits to support Canadian content in films and television.
Abbott makes no bones about the fact that he would like the CBC cut off at the knees. And his views run counter to the reported information in the Senate report so the likelyhood of anything close to the Senate recommendations being implemented would be nothing short of miraculous.

And then there's the fact that media ownership is concentrated in some markets and has limited or shut down diversity in broadcasting.

CanWest Global Communications Corp., which owns the country's largest chain of metro newspapers and the Global television network, dominates about 70 per cent of the market in Vancouver. It owns both daily newspapers in the city and the television station with the most-watched suppertime news show.

Brunswick News, owned by the Irving family, owns three dailies, 12 weeklies and four radio stations in New Brunswick.

Bell Globemedia, which owns CTV and The Globe and Mail, dominates about 43 per cent of the Toronto market.

Quebecor, which owns the Sun newspaper chain, dominates 47 per cent of the market in Quebec City.

The report's recommendation to limit such dominance will undoubtedly be controversial.
Because Abbott would take the money available to CBC and give it to those concentrated media operators. And what do some of those media owners have to say?

... last week, CanWest CEO Leonard Asper argued that the government needs to give its blessing to even greater consolidation of the media industry.


"There will never be concentration like there was before because you have Google, you have MSN and you have Yahoo. You have all these companies that are competing against the Vancouver Suns and the Ottawa Citizens. So let us consolidate," Asper told Toronto's Empire Club.
I can make book on who Harper and Abbott are going to listen to.

This report will make news for two days and find a shelf to live on - and collect dust.

No comments: