On Wednesday, the outline for the next federal budget allocated $600 000 000 to bailout the news media, to help support independent journalism.
Yes, really. First, something needs to be pointed out, any organization that receives federal funds to do something is by definition not independent.
How will this all work? The Liberals will select an “independent committee” that will allocate taxpayer money to “trusted sources’.
Again, the Liberals are having a very hard time understanding the word “independent”.
A committee selected by the government would be a Liberal committee since they hold all the power in parliament. If the committee is instead selected by the journalists, then they would have a heavy media bias.
There are two major stories here and they are related.
One, the dangers of government interference in the media, and two, the lack of coverage of this story from the Main Stream Media. As of right now, none of the top three newspapers in Canada (National Post, Globe and Mail, and Toronto Star) have covered this story.
The dangers of government interference in the media
First off, the dangers of a quasi-nationalized media. It is not hard for most people to see the dangers of a federal “bailout” of the news media. When one political party wants to give you hundreds of millions of dollars and the other ones don’t, who are you more likely to support?
If media outlets are now dependent on government money to survive, and a government committee is deciding who gets money by being a “trusted source”, is it not more likely in this scenario that the media would be less likely to attack the government on the issue for fear of losing money?
Now, this might not matter for hard left publications like the Toronto Star, since Stephen Harper could revive a puppy and they would still call that a step towards fascism. But it is for the publications like the National Post, which in my opinion does a good job of presenting articles and opinions from all sides of the political spectrum. For now…
The money will line the pockets of media moguls
Consider the comments of Paul Godfrey, the president and CEO of Postmedia Network, which owns the National Post, a self-described conservative who said he thinks the government’s move is good for democracy.
“I think the Conservatives that are standing up criticizing this are just trying to make political hay when there is no political hay to be made,” he told CBC News.
Government officials and media elites are claiming that this money will only be used for journalistic purposes and won’t go into the pockets of owners and shareholders. However, if you have ever run a business you would know that this is impossible.
If you get a 10-million-dollar grant that has to be spent on journalism, one that is hard to define what parts of the newspaper industry are journalism and what isn’t, and two, bonus money used to pay journalists just means that there is more money left over for everything else in the business, like the owner.
We are subsidizing a dying industry
Another problem that might get swept away in the outrage or lack thereof is that we are subsidizing a failing industry with an outdated business model. The newspaper industry is dying. Journalism is now shifting into the technical sphere and social media.
Using taxpayer money to prop up the newspaper business just means that we will have to continue to do this forever if these companies want to survive. A subsidy will just handicap the newspaper business in the long run, as it will prevent them from seeking out viable alternatives.
Not to mention the negative environmental impact of the newspaper industry. Maybe someone should tell Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna, that newspapers are printed on plastic straws. Then something might get done.
Not a peep from mainstream media sources
Now, what about those so-called “trusted sources”? I am going to go out on a limb and assume that the top three newspapers in the country are considered trusted sources. As of this movement, neither of them has printed a word on the subject.
One would think that this is newsworthy? It would also be safe to assume that trusted sources would report on a major story within 48 hours. However, as if they were determined to prove my point, the Main Stream Media has not uttered a word about this story.
Can you say politically compromised?
So here we are, in an election year the Liberal Federal government has promised the media $600 million, and the conservatives have opposed it. Who will the major media companies back in this race? If the first 48 hours are any indication this is not a win for democracy. At best, this is a massive bribe to influence an election. At worst, this is the death of a functional 4th estate.