Published on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 10:11
Written by Steve Val
Rarely discussed, the concerning relationship between the media and corporate Canada. Of course, outlets generally scoff at any intimation of bias. But, common sense dictates a conflict of interest when your very existence is partially predicated on monetary infusions from sources you are also "covering".
A certain irony that the PUBLIC broadcaster breaks this story
about Enbridge overtly pressuring Postmedia to pull a parody or risk losing advertising dollars. Factor in an industry in trouble to stay afloat and the leverage becomes even more acute. One has to wonder if this story see the light of day without a entity only partially beholden to the same interests, perhaps another case for the importance of the CBC configuration.
It is fair to question coverage of certain issues, when confronted with an advertising lifeline that is essentially a lobby group. Case in point, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers advertising that is currently bombarding media outlets. I recently watched a political show discussing changes to environmental regulations over several segments, each of which came with a break that included what I consider one sided propaganda ads from CAPP. Legal, yes of course. Acceptable in a free society, obviously. That said, it is a bit odd to have discussion of an issue- under the guise of assumed neutrality- only to see the segments dominated by biased advertising, at the core, these ads paying for the show. One, the segments are being manipulated with these ads, whatever "unbiased" presentation during the show is offset by these ads. As well, if people are aware of who pays the bills, just how far would said entity go in "uncovering". In the real world, we are confronted with these conflicts all the time, to say no influence exists is to take leave of your senses. Turn this argument around, imagine the cries from the right wing if David Suzuki ran ads after each Peter Kent television appearance. Exactly.
I worry that vested interests are flexing their muscle, which is their right, they are free to advertise where they choose. However, this reality- particular with increasingly SCARCE revenue sources- does raise questions about content and direction. I believe this Enbridge example is a terrific confirmation of the need for a public broadcaster, even if it to relies partially on advertising. Journalism does a fantastic job uncovering conflicts of interests, even perceived or uneasy relationships. The question becomes, where is the check on the checkers and the powerful influences that bankroll them? Not a trivial matter, and one that is rarely discussed, which perhaps speaks to part of the problem.
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