TNG Canada/CWA

TNG Canada/CWA

May 30, 2005 07:00 ET

Media Concentration Study

Safeguard Canadian Press, ban media cross-ownership, cap chain holdings, TNG Canada urges Senate probe Attention: Assignment Editor, Business/Financial Editor, City Editor, Media Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - May 30, 2005) - Swift, decisive action is necessary to preserve this country's independent, bilingual news service and to protect the free flow of print and broadcast news, says TNG Canada/CWA.

The federal government must restore a ban on cross-ownership of newspapers and broadcast outlets, impose market-share caps on media companies and ensure the survival of The Canadian Press (CP), TNG Canada says in an authoritative brief submitted to a Senate committee that is at a crucial point in its study of media concentration.

CP's existence is threatened by CanWest Global Communications, which has already pulled the National Post out of the national news co-operative and appears to be preparing to withdraw its other metro dailies.

"Presentations to this committee have reaffirmed our long-held conviction that a healthy, coast-to-coast, bilingual newsgathering and news disseminating co-operative, operating for the mutual benefit of its members but independently of its corporate masters, is a key element of the open discourse and free flow of information that Canadians have a right to demand of their media," says the brief.

TNG Canada represents employees at several CanWest newspapers and is the parent union of the largest media Local in North America, the Canadian Media Guild. The CMG, with 6,000 members, is the largest union at the CBC and also represents employees at The Canadian Press/la Presse Canadienne as well as its allied services Broadcast News/Nouvelles Télé-Radio, which gives it a unique insight into Canada's only national news service.

TNG Canada is unequivocal about what must be done to preserve diversity in this nation's news media:

• Restore a 1980s ban on cross-ownership of newspapers and broadcast outlets;

• Cap at 30 per cent of overall market share the level of broadcast or print media ownership by any company or related corporate entity;

• Take decisive action to ensure the survival of - in their present scope - The Canadian Press/la Presse Canadienne and Broadcast News/Nouvelles Télé-Radio.

TNG Canada calls on the committee, headed by Senator Joan Fraser, to recommend strong action to ensure Canadian journalism serves public, not corporate, interests. The Transport and Communications Committee, which has been studying media concentration for two years, is expected to release its final report in June.

"We urge this committee to grasp that it is in a unique position to speak for Canadians, to rebalance from the extreme and unhealthy consolidation which has developed in recent years" and to become a champion for change, says TNG Canada.

The most immediate threat to the survival of The Canadian Press, TNG Canada says, is from CanWest, which currently controls 28.5 per cent of Canada's daily newspaper circulation. In recent testimony before the committee, a senior CanWest news executive framed a decade-long assessment freeze at CP as positive.

In fact, TNG Canada says, its effect has been to starve CP of resources, seriously constrict the co-operative's abilities to cover the country from coast to coast to coast, and endanger its viability.

With the development of its CanWest New Service and the removal last July of the National Post from CP, CanWest has already laid the groundwork to withdraw most or all of its vast array of media properties from the co-operative.

"By pulling out of CP, CanWest could precipitate a new and unprecedented level of concentration and centralized control of content," the brief warns, allowing CanWest through the CanWest News Service to further restrict what Canadians can read, hear and watch.

TNG Canada also recommends a ban on media cross-ownership be phased in as CRTC broadcast licences expire, a return to Canadian public policy between 1982 and 1985. Had that ban remained in effect, "the mergers of the early 2000s could not have taken place," says the brief.

A ceiling of 30 per cent of overall audience share or circulation must be placed on any single corporation's ownership of broadcasting outlets or newspapers, says TNG Canada.

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The TNG Canada brief can be viewed at http://www.tngcanada.org/EN/releases/050503_senate_brief_media.shtml or www.yourmedia.ca.

/For further information: www.TNGCanada.org/ IN: LABOUR, MEDIA, POLITICS, SOCIAL

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