Citizens demand democratic media

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Canadians in several cities join together to educate fellow citizens on media and communication issues.

Late October marks the 8th consecutive year of Media Democracy Day activities in Canada.

Media Democracy Day (MDD) is a multi-city forum including panels, workshops, training sessions and speakers addressing media and communications issues.

In both Toronto and Vancouver citizens have already taken to the streets to engage fellow residents in the media and communication issues dealt with at Media Democracy Day. In Toronto citizens put together a cardboard TV prop and asked Toronto residents to tell people what they think is missing in media while filming it (see the video here).

In Vancouver citizens disgruntled by the fact that they live in one of the most concentrated media markets in North America blanketed the streets with posters comprised of simple statements: "Whose view?", and "Whose Voice?"

A very brief history of Media Democracy in Canada

In 1996 the Campaign for Press and Broadcast Freedom (CPBF) formed a national common front launched to challenge Conrad Blackâe(TM)s takeover of southern newspaper. This coalition lasted about a year, but the Vancouver chapter lived on and would host the fist Media Democracy Day event in 2001. A similar group in Toronto would simultaneously decided to organize it's own MDD day of action.

The idea of an annual event, like an earth of day media democracy, had caught on. The first successful events occurred in Toronto and Vancouver. Since then MDD organizers have put together workshops, panels, Media Democracy Fairs, and keynotes for 8 consecutive years, held in many cities across the country.

According to Robert Hackett, the initial drive of MDD was to âeoebuild a greater sense of community for those fighting for media democracy.âe For Hackett, Media Democracy Day does provide that sense of community, but it has lacked a cohesive national campaign to push media reform efforts to a more transformative level. Now with a plethera of media focused groups emerging, like the media reform network Campaign For Democratic Media, that cohesion is starting to mount.

A focal point

In 2002, an Ipsos-Reid poll found that 86 per cent of Canadians believed that the federal government should do something to alleviate public concerns about media concentration. In 2007, the CRTC Diversity of Voices hearing resulted in an outpouring of nearly 2,000 submissions from citizens calling for more democratic media ownership rules. And the recent Canwest/Goldman Sachs/Alliance Atlantis deal was met with well-attended public events through the Keep It Canadian campaign.

The recent conspicuous activities of Bell Canada and other dominant ISPs who âeoethrottleâe Internet service have sparked a national movement, including the diverse SaveOurNet.ca coalition consisting of public interest and labour groups, businesses, and individuals. In May, public concern boiled over resulting in a net neutrality rally, with several hundred people on Parliament Hill demanding government action.

Clearly, Canadians are passionate about communication and cultural issues, but we were in need of some focal point to galvanize the diverse communities working toward media reform in Canada.

That focal point is Media Democracy Day.

This year marks the eighth consecutive year of Media Democracy Day, and the scene is set for it to be the biggest yet. Media Democracy Day may be a single day event, but it can also be a rallying cry and a platform for a broad constituency for media democracy in Canada. As we attend Media Democracy Day this year, we should once again celebrate the independent sources of information we have, and deepen our resolve to build a truly democratic media system in Canada.

This years MDD festivities include public speakers, panels, workshops and screenings in Vancouver, Toronto, Kingston, Ottawa, and Montreal.

More information about all Canadian MDD activities can be found at www.mediademocracyday.org. The Toronto-specific MDD activities can be found at: missinginthemedia.ca

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