The Importance of Public Broadcasting

By Trey Shaughnessy
Published September 17, 2007

I felt compelled to clarify something for Kevin Cavanagh at The Spectator after reading his rather confusing and misplaced editorial about the CBC having Hamilton at the top of their list for a new Radio-Canada station.

There's a very good reason Hamilton is at the top of their list. First, you have to understand the role public broadcasting plays in a democracy and the mandate of the CRTC, and then you'll understand why Hamilton is at the top of the list.

One of the CRTC's responsibilities is ensure that diverse voices are heard in Canadian media. In light of the recent concentration of 'voices' from the media elite in Canada, the CRTC is holding a public hearing "Diversity of Voices Proceeding", on September 17.

A Standing Senate Committee on Canadian News Media concluded in 2006 that there are "areas where the concentration of ownership has reached levels that few other countries would consider acceptable." This statement came well before CTVglobemedia swallowed CHUM this summer.

In a democracy that allows private enterprise, a country can ensure a 'diverse voice' and a variety of opinion through public broadcasting. The Hamilton area media is controlled by Torstar, Canwest Global, Corus Radio, and Standard Radio and to a lesser degree Quebecor with its Hamilton and BIZ magazines. This is no doubt why Hamilton was first on CBC Radio-Canada's list.

Kevin Cavanagh also thinks that Hamilton is well served locally by the broadcast from Front Street in Toronto. Hamilton is not Toronto, and Toronto's Radio-Canada station will not talk about Hamilton, because it's listeners don't want to hear about Hamilton.

Furthermore, Hamilton is unique from Toronto: socially, economically, demographically, politically and culturally. Most of Hamilton may be closer to Sydney Nova Scotia or Moose Jaw Saskatchewan than Toronto's Yorkville.

The last point I want to make and this is perhaps most absurd, is that a new CBC radio station in Hamilton will create jobs locally. It sounds ridiculous, but I have to ask Kevin, "what's wrong with that?"

The entire CBC budget is over a billion dollars, another $25 million to provide a diverse voice and range of opinion and news coverage is well worth the small comparative increase. The Hamilton portion is one of 15 new stations across the country making it slightly over $1.5 million dollars for Hamilton to have a new public radio broadcast.

The truth is Hamilton is not well served with a range of opinion in its mass media. That is why the CBC is holding a invitational only meeting on September 19. I for one am attending and I don't expect to see anyone representing Hamilton's only daily newspaper at the meeting who also controls all the local weekly papers except View.

As Upton Sinclair famously said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

Trey lives in Williamsville NY via Hamilton. He is a Marketing Manager for Tourism and Destination Marketing in the Buffalo-Niagara Metro.

His essays have appeared in The Energy Bulletin, Post Carbon Institute, Peak Oil Survival, and Tree Hugger.

And can't wait for the day he stops hearing "on facebook".

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 17, 2007 at 14:32:21

if it's acceptable to have a Toronto media speak for us with no need for a local affiliate, then the first place I'd start is by scrapping the Spec. I read the Star more often than the Spec anyhow so I can actually find out what's happening in the world and get great reports on the 'new deal for cities' and other urban issues that are hugely important in Hamilton, yet ignored or given token coverage which is usually slanted by the Spec's largest advertisers anyhow. If there was ever a city that needed new media outlets NOT owned by the same old boys club that runs everything else in town, it's Hamilton. On the other hand, the Spec has no choice but to run editorials like this. Find me an old boys club on the planet that enjoys it when another party comes to town.

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