As 2018 dawns, Canada’s news media are in danger of lurching into the abyss unless Ottawa takes action soon.
Enforcing our country’s anti-trust laws to stop the corporate consolidation and cutbacks in local news coverage would help to stanch the bleeding in the short term, but Canada’s Competition Bureau has shown little interest in taking such action.
More long-term measures, similar to those taken in other countries, are also needed to strengthen media policy in Canada to help protect news from the depredations of Darwinian capitalism and encourage the growth of digital journalism as old media fade away.
Whether our government has the foresight needed for this kind of bold action should become clear in 2018. More likely is continued inaction given Ottawa’s demonstrable blind spot when it comes to journalism.
When the country’s two largest chains swapped 41 newspapers in Ontario a few weeks ago and announced that almost all would be closed, they basically thumbed their noses at Canada’s competition laws.
Why wouldn’t they?
Monopoly is much better for business than competition, and for years the Competition Bureau has proved powerless — or unwilling — to stop Big Media from growing even bigger.
In the November deal, Postmedia Network and the Torstar Corp. divided up large swaths of the southern Ontario community newspaper market and dared the Competition Bureau to do something about it.
Postmedia, 98 per cent owned by U.S. hedge funds despite supposed limits on foreign ownership of Canadian newspapers, pointed out the deal was “not subject to the merger notification provisions of the Competition Act and no regulatory clearance is required to close the transaction.”