Concentration of Media Ownership in Canada

Introduction

The body responsible for governing media in Canada is the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) (Attallah & Shade, 2006). It acts as a broadcasting and telecommunication regulatory agency (Vipond, 2000). However, CRTC is not responsible for the regulation of newspaper and internet media ownership. There is a belief among Canadian citizens that the media industry is controlled by a few people, which according to the citizens, is not healthy for the nation. This is because; people are afraid the media houses may result in bias reporting and information may be compromised. Many people in Canada think that media ownership should not be concentrated on a few individuals or organizations. Canadian people wish their government did something about the state of media concentration in the country (Abbott, 2003). This is claimed will ensure information is not compromised, and media houses do not result in bias or partisan to political views (Blidook, 2008).

Discussion

The media industry is an indispensable part of a country’s development. This is because; the media are used to report on the happenings of a country or region. These reports are used as benchmarks for a country’s development by all interested parties. Investors will normally review a country’s report based on information from the media. If the country of interest is promising, then the investors can feel secure to invest in such a country. If the opposite is true, investors will seek alternatives. Therefore, it is necessary to have honest information about the current state of affairs of a certain region while promoting ethics (Russell, 2006) For information to be reliable, journalists have to be ethical and unbiased when reporting the current affairs. One way to ensure journalists have the right information is by making sure there are working media governing institutions. This institution acts to ensure all information brought to the public is credible.

The concentration of media ownership is defined as the instance where few people or organizations control a large percentage of media houses in a country. The few individuals or organizations control the majority shares of the mass media. Around the world, there has been a shift towards media convergence where some media corporations are buying off other media houses. This is done to increase viewership and revenue. In Canada, media ownership is concentrated on a few individuals or organizations. These few organizations have control of a majority share in the media industry. Many media houses plan on extending ownership and control, prompting buying off other companies. This has been attributed to the rising change in platform demands, in addition to pressed revenues, which have noticeably altered the media landscape. Many of the media houses tried to expand, but they encountered financial constraints. As a way of cutting on expansion costs, some opted to merge to consolidate their finances. Companies that had non-profitable holdings decided to sell them.

Challenges of concentration of media ownership

This act of concentrating media ownership has become an issue in Canada. The majority of Canadian citizens are not happy with the way the media owners are running the industry. Firstly, extremely few individuals control the media, which is not healthy for a democracy. These few numbers of media controllers may compromise on the quality of news to which the public has access (Babe, 2011). The small number of media owners also interferes with a variety of information. When many media houses are being owned by different people, there is a variety of news as all reporters cannot report similarly. The situation is entirely different when a small percentage of people control the media industry. Information may be compromised and curtailed.

Such a situation demonstrates the difficulties that can arise from the concentration of media ownership. The media owners may be a hindrance to freedom of press and information (Lorimer, Gasher & Skinner, 2007). When politics invade the media management, there is every reason to worry as owners start taking sides. Owners may take up reporting biased information depending on the political side to which they are aligned. Another problem that arises from media concentration ownership is being loyal only to the sponsors. This means that the mass media are only concerned with what the government or advertisers want, instead of being loyal to the public.

The concentration of media ownership also kills competition. Competition is necessary for a healthy democratic company as it offers variety, as well as, enhancing quality. In countries like Canada where the concentration of media ownership is rife, competition becomes absent, without which the industry is reduced to a monopoly. In a monopoly industry, the quality of products does not matter to the owners as they will sell what they want to while neglecting what the majority wants (Attallah & Shade, 2006).

In Canada, the lack of competition has given rise to compromise in the quality of information. This is unhealthy as the rights of the minority are far much elevated than the rights of the majority, who in this case, is the public. Another challenge that is contributed by the concentration of media ownership is the curtailing of freedom of the press (Edis, 2002).

Foreign companies holding majority ownership of Canadian Media

Allowing foreign companies to own the majority of Canadian Media may not solve the situation. This is because they will also be accountable to their sponsors and not the Canadian public. They may also be interested in those who will serve their interests and not the public, who are the greater majority. The foreign countries may also be more interested in promoting their countries of origin and not the countries they have come to own media (Hollifield, 1999). It is usually hard for a foreign company to be interested in the affairs of the host country especially if it is not hurting their interests. These foreign companies may promote programs that uphold cultures of their countries of origin, instead of promoting programs that favor the country in which they are running their business. In most cases where a foreign company acquires a business venture, it gets employees from its country of origin. This means that the locals may not benefit from the arrival of the foreign company especially on corporate posts.

The probable solution to such a scenario is prohibiting the concentration of media ownership. This can be done by the concerned government reducing the costs of setting up media houses. Subsiding of media equipment costs can go a long way in ensuring the small companies manage to acquire broadcasting equipment to reduce mergers. Mergers are known to occur to reduce expansion costs. This prompts companies to join together to share in the costs which sometimes are exorbitantly high. This proves a challenge later because; the company, which had lesser, bargaining power when executing such an agreement may soon find itself bought off by the other company. This means the ‘smaller company’ becomes part of the ‘bigger company’. In such a case, the ‘bigger company’ becomes bigger, and its terms and conditions become the rules to govern this new grand entity. Employees from the ‘smaller’ company may lose their jobs or even be forced to work for lesser pay. This shows that mergers have their effects on the public, as well as, employees.

Local journalists should be encouraged to set up numerous media houses as they would be in a better position serving public interests. Only when the interests of the public are met can a nation claim democracy. The public should be informed of current issues in a country without fear or favor so that citizens can make informed decisions depending on the information received (Grossberg, et al. 2006).

Freedom of the press should be guarded against a few rich elites who may only be concerned with making money at the expense of serving the interests of the public. When different companies offer similar products or services, competition is enhanced, which goes a long way in ensuring the quality of information is not compromised. However, when the competition is absent, quality is compromised as the only interest media owners have is that of their sponsors.

There should be laws restricting the number of foreign media companies in any country. This is to protect the sovereignty of a nation, lest the foreigners embark on influencing the domestic opinions (Hollifield, 1999). This is true in Canada, whereby a referendum in newspapers co-owned by Canada and the U.S., revealed the influence. These newspapers took control of the editorial commentaries in their newspapers by commenting on crucial political issues happening in the home country of the parent company. This was a clear indication of how influence is rife in foreign media (Hollifield, 1999).

Conclusion

The concentration of media ownership has numerous challenges, namely; lack of competition, negligence to serve the public’s interest, and chances of compromising the quality of information. This is because the few people owning the media may only serve the interests of their sponsors. Freedom of expression is curtailed when the concentration of media is allowed to continue. The few owners may decide to give information based on their political or social inclination, without giving much thought to the interests of the public. Foreign ownership may erode the sovereignty of a country in the sense that; the foreigners may start advocating for programs or information from their home countries disregarding the domestic scene, which may be observing a different culture. Freedom of expression should be encouraged by restricting the number of foreign media owners while promoting sovereignty. This will ensure freedom of expression is maintained as it can easily be eroded.

Annotated bibliography

Abbott, J. (2003). Outside the Box: Review of the Canadian Broadcasting Act. In Canada, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. Our cultural sovereignty: The second century of Canadian broadcasting, 843-856.

The author reviews the Canadian Broadcasting Act and the promotion of cultural sovereignty. Canadians should be proud of their culture as the author asserts and emphasizes on its importance. The Canadian Broadcasting Act had the rules and regulations governing media in Canada, and there was a need to enhance freedom of expression.

Attallah, P., & Shade, L. (2006). Mediascapes: new patterns in Canadian communication. Nashville, TN: Thomson Nelson.

The authors evaluate the new patterns in communication in Canada and how they are useful in a country. They ask whether any changes in governance and media ownership influenced the information citizens received from the media. The authors also wonder on the possibilities of a national television corporation thriving through stiff competition.

Babe, R. E. (2011). Media Ownership.

The author explains on the variations of media ownership and discusses several of them. There is family-run, religious run or political run media organizations. The author continues to touch on conglomeration and its effects on media companies and the news they broadcast. They may be biased depending on whom they pledge their allegiance.

Blidook, K. (2008). Media, Public Opinion and health care in Canada: How the Media Affect “The way Things Are”. Canadian Journal of Political Science, 41 (2), 355-74.

The author touches on the role of the media in giving the right information to the public, and how the information may affect the public. The author asserts that the onus of giving the public the right information rests squarely with journalists, and; therefore, that role should not be misused.

Edis, G. (2002 Dec. 17). Democracy’s Oxygen: The media and the Public good.

The author asserts on the need to make sure freedom of the media is retained or else concentration of media ownership results to curtailing freedom of expression. The author argues the public should be presented with news that serves their interests, and not the owners’. This way, freedom of expression would be maintained.

Grossberg, L., Wartella, D., Whitney, D. C., & Wise, J. M. (2006). Mediamaking: mass media in a popular culture. California, CA: Sage Publications.

The authors are concerned with examining media as a whole, and how it (media) relates with both culture and society. The authors show the diverse ways in which the media are absorbed in the different social lives, including cultural, historical, and even economical. The authors explore the role played by media in cultures and their impact.

Hollifield, C. A. (1999). Effects of foreign ownership on media content: Thomson papers’ coverage of Quebec independence vote. Newspaper Research Journal, 20 (1), 65-82.

The author explains on the effects of having foreigners owning media companies in a country. The author shows how foreign companies may be influenced by the parent companies of their home countries. This means they may assume biases while reporting depending on the prevalence of their parent companies in their home countries.

Lorimer, R., Gasher, M., & Skinner, D. (2007). Mass Communication in Canada. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

The authors examine mass communication in the past, present, as well as, the future and evaluates on its effects on society. The authors go to extra length to expound on all forms of media, namely; print, film, radio, and digital among others and how they affect society through their contents.

Russell, N. (2006). Morals and the media: ethics in Canadian journalism. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

The author expounds on the many ethical issues the public has with the media. This is in relation to the concerns with the public about media coverage of some stories. The public feels some journalists are unethical, and he outlines on journalism in Canada, and steps to be taken to uphold ethics.

Vipond, M. (2000). The Mass media in Canada. Toronto, ON: James Lorimer & Company.

The author dwells on five key media such as; movies, newspaper, radio, television, and general magazines in Canada. The author also narrates on the beginnings of some famous media names. The author continues to explore the impact of governments, and technology on the agents of communication. She explains on who determines the news the public hears.