A Brief Rant
Every once in a while, I get really tired of governments messing around in things they really have no right to get involved in. They all do it at one time or another and they do it with impunity and of course, with other people’s money.
Take for example, the $600 million smackaroos the Federal Government is shelling out to subsidize the news media. They are setting up a “panel” to decide who should get the goodies. It has about as much chance of being impartial as the process that Prime Minister Trudeau developed to select so-called Independent Senators. You just have to look at their voting record to see how “independent” they really are. The panel for subsidizing journalism will be no different. Just watch.
What is especially illuminating, is that Unifor, the largest public sector Union in Canada, has been given an important role to play in picking the Panel of representatives who will advise the Government on who should be eligible for their media handouts. This is the same Unifor that actively and openly campaigns against the Conservative Party and Andrew Scheer. What a coincidence!
Warren Kinsella is a lawyer and a former Liberal back-room boy. He is no fan of our current Prime Minister, but a Liberal all the same. He is a pundit and a Public Affairs Consultant. Here is what he has to say about government handouts to media.
“As someone who is a columnist for two great newspapers and as someone who is acutely aware that newspapers have been and remain in serious financial trouble, I say it is a mistake and a conflict of interest for media organizations to take money from the governments they cover.”
Kinsella is right. It is an even greater mistake for the Government to give out the money in the first place. It smacks of potential favouritism and manipulation. It is a roadmap to buy votes with taxpayer dollars. And is it just another coincidence that the process is underway just before a federal election when political media coverage is at its height? Sometimes politics stink!
I have a problem with government subsidies in the first place, except in rare occasions, where drought or tariffs or other national disasters affect an entire sector of the economy. They should be the exception and not the rule. The bar should be very high and always in the public interest and never for personal gain or political purposes. In my view, subsidizing the news media comes nowhere near to reaching that bar.
With the exception of the CBC, most news outlets in Canada are privately owned. They compete in the marketplace, just like everyone else. When the marketplace changes, they must change to meet those realities, just like everyone else. For some to get handouts from government, especially on a subjective basis, when others do not, is simply not the way things should be done.
John Honderich is Chairman of Torstar, whose flagship publication is the Toronto Star, probably Canada’s most significant left of centre newspaper. They also own Metroland, whose community publications across Ontario, include weeklies in Gravenhurst, Bracebridge and Huntsville.
John Honderich was one of the loudest voices when it came to lobbying the Trudeau Government for subsidies for the news media, utilizing not only the Toronto Star, but also their Metroland community papers. He is a Liberal, lobbying a Liberal Government and obviously, he was heard.
It will be interesting to see how much of the $600 million in Government media subsidies go to Torstar. It will also be interesting to see over time, how this affects non-subsidized, local news sources in small communities, that have to compete on the same playing field without the benefit of the subsidy.
Somehow, it just doesn’t seem right.
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