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Sign the Quality News Manifesto

On January 25 the CAMPAIGN FOR DEMOCRATIC MEDIA launched a quality news manifesto/campaign to pressure the CRTC and our elected officials to protect and improve the quality and diversity of news in the Canadian media landscape. This initiative/manifesto already has 863 electronic signatures. Please read the Manifesto below and consider SIGNING THIS MANIFESTO.

MANIFESTO FOR QUALITY NEWS AND INFORMATION (Campaign for Democratic Media)

The CRTC recently adopted a new policy regarding media cross-ownership. Unfortunately for citizens, this policy is totally inadequate and in no way addresses the problem of access to a diversity of quality news and information.

By adopting a new code of journalistic independence, the CRTC is effectively encouraging, if not accelerating, the consolidation of newsrooms under a single owner. The absence in this code of any conditions requiring autonomous newsgathering activities is deplorable and dangerous.

The concentration of media ownership in Canada, one of the highest among the industrialized nations, remains disturbing. A few conglomerates now effectively control our news and information, creating a situation in which programming and the public interest take a back seat to the commercial and political interests of large news corporations.

Today, four conglomerates control 70% of the country’s daily papers, three corporations broadcast most of the televised news and two companies own the majority of radio stations.

The large media groups use the same information for all of their media platforms, resulting in centralized news production and dissemination. We are witnessing a reduction in the number of journalists paid to report the news, which is contributing directly to the homogenity of the information we receive.  

Regions far from urban centres suffer most from this phenomenon, which became even more acute in 2007. Regional broadcasts and newspapers are inundated with “network” information and the communities they are supposed to serve do not see themselves reflected.

A problem acknowledged but not resolved

The quality of our democratic life is intimately linked to the quality and diversity of voices in information. Our civic life benefits directly from access to a plurality of media sources that present ideas, enrich our knowledge and provoke debate.

Media concentration is a serious issue that has concerned a number of observers for decades. In Canada, several studies have examined the issue, notably the Davey Report in 1970, the Kent Commission in 1981, the Lincoln Report in 2003, and the Fraser Report in 2006. Each of these issued warnings about the harmful consequences of the concentration of media ownership. They also made recommendations for tougher regulations to prevent convergence of information.

Despite the numerous warnings, none of our successive governments has enacted measures guaranteeing the plurality of ownership of our news sources, nor has the CRTC.

The health of our democracy demands that the Broadcasting Act be amended to protect and promote the diversity of voices in programming and news.

We need to ensure that political parties and their candidates adopt the position that programming and information must serve the public interest rather than financial interests.

Media empires are eliminating the critical mass of journalists we have counted on to cover issues in our communities and around the world, and to report back information vital to the health of our democracy.

But the government is doing nothing to remedy this situation. We are therefore committing to this important reform to ensure a diversity of voices and to protect our fundamental rights.

To call for quality information and a true plurality of media sources, CLICK & SIGN THIS MANIFESTO.

Dr. Paul Boin (pboin@uwindsor.ca) is an assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Windsor, founder of the Media Justice Project and a member of the Campaign for Democratic Media. His forthcoming book “Media for the Public Mind: Creating a Democratic and Informative News Media” will be published by Fernwood Publishing in the Fall of 2009.

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