17 Comments

Very insightful article but, with great respect, Kevin, no mention of the elephant in the room, namely, the state propaganda organ, aka CBC, which, unlike private sector news organizations, is flush with cash.

What are implications for free expression in the media with this state of affairs?

Well, as this article demonstrates, any reporter/journalist in the news business today is acutely aware that that their hold on their position is tenuous and that all it takes is a bad earnings report for their position to be the victim of a corporate reorganization. 

But, of course, at the same time it will have escaped no one living under this sword of Damocles that if you can somehow sign on with the CBC your days of financial worry are behind you. 

Once ensconced in the CBC you can coast to retirement and a lavish pension on a salary and benefits you could only dream about in the private sector.

And, as a bonus, no need to worry about remaining on top of your game. As long as you are ideologically correct, the fail-up principle will protect you even as you descend into irredeemable mediocrity and spend your days writing the rank puff pieces that the central committee orders.

But the openings are few and the candidates many!

How are you going to be one of the chosen few who gets to sign on and put their financial worries behind them?

By pressing the PM and his Keystone Cops cabinet for answers on the hard issues of the day? By taking at face value the adage that the role of the media is to call the powerful to account?

Or, given we live in the real world, do you stand a better chance of landing a sinecure at the CBC by accounting to the powerful and becoming known for fawning, supine, adulatory, coverage of the PM and his sorry and supremely talentless front bench?

To ask the question is to answer it, it seems to me.

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Great article! I have been a "news" watcher since I was about 12 - a long time ago. However, I became totally jaded to our nightly news broadcasters once they started spouting their opinion instead of giving us facts. Ever since Trump ran for election, it was like an explosion of opinion instead of fact. So I just well stopped ingesting what our main stream media outlets like CTV had to offer. I am sure I am not an oddball - so I think yes, the business model is to blame, but only to an extent. The lack of accountability that was shown for "just offering facts" was what I feel killed "news outlets"

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With all due respect, Kevin, and I am not happy that so many of your former colleagues in the news business will suffer as a result - if your last hope is for the CRTC to say no to Bell...well...

It does portend a dark time in Canada, if subscription-based services like The Line are not succesful going forward. I think they can be, or I wouldn't be a subscriber. Fortune favours the bold.

The silver lining in all this is that subscription-based services may be able to maintain their independence from advertisers. As for journalistic integrity, well, I've always thought that varied greatly from individual to individual, not unlike the rest of us mere mortals in other facets of work. There will be new-school journalists who operate with integrity, and there will be those who traffic in click-bait and shameless lies to make a living. It has ever been thus.

The product of new media will not be as slick and produced as in the past - that is obvious - but on the other hand, the sheen of respectibility of a suit and tie / fancy business attire has largely been replaced with a more business casual expectation in most industries already (including legacy media in many cases). The joke goes that many TV anchors had the suit and tie above the desk and the shorts and sneakers below it - not sure how much of that is true.

Anyway, I have sympathy for those losing their jobs and how it will impact their families. It is an uncertain time, to be sure, and a difficult one. Still, if one has drive and initiative, there will always be a demand for information and analysis of local, regional, national, and international events, and (to repeat myself)...

Fortune favours the bold.

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I find it odd that Bell and Bell subsidiary employees are shocked when they get pink slipped. This has been SOP since the early 90's. The Human Remains droid actually uttered those same words; "Your services are no longer required", In my case those services lasted 20yrs. I had about 30,000 others to keep me company and not one word of public outcry was raised. Welcome to the club, it's a large alumni.

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Would it help if the government didn't fund the CBC to the degree it does.

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founding

I celebrate the move away from advertiser-funded media and toward subscriber-paid media. This will finally give media independence from an important source of bias. The subscriber-based model works in other countries and other milieux; why not here? (I love substack.)

Meanwhile, there is a transitional problem. International news is not a problem: I read the New York Times. Community news is not a problem: we run Facebook and Twitter groups. The problem is really at the Canadian national and provincial levels. But even here, all we need are two or three national newspapers. We don't need television or radio, as long as people still know how to read.

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Jun 29, 2023·edited Jun 29, 2023

"The Canadian public will pay the price with the loss of professional journalism in their country, their world, and soon their city". Seems to me like the journalists themselves stopped being professionals quite some time ago. I agree, we need local news, but not what the channels have delivered lately. My family and I ritually watched the 6 o'clock CFCN news for years, until we slowly realized they were treating us like dupes, feeding us padlum and otherwise distorting the stories that didn't fit the narrative. Today, if I watch 10 minutes without complaining before the weather forecast, it's a good day. But that hasn't happened in some time. So, TV news is dead. This is just confirmation. I don't want local journalism to die and I hope enterprising journalists find a way to keep going. But feel bad for this country's corporate class? No, thank you.

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Sorry Kevin, while I agree the CRTC should demand that broadcasters adhere to the laws, I don’t think BCE has a moral obligation to continue as a broadcaster. I think BCE should be told either support content provisions or sell its journalism divisions. BCE obviously considers that to be a deadbeat asset.

BCE’s main competitor is not CBC, but rather Rogers. They of course do not do journalism, but rather focus on dissemination services and entertainment streaming.

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Jun 28, 2023·edited Jun 28, 2023

Great article. Several points:

-the new model for professional journalism will be through channels such as The Line. This will mean that people who can afford paid subscriptions could access better information than those who can't, and they will be able to self select which information. This could lead to further polarization. Maybe the solution could be for government to end all media subsidies and CBC funding and redirect a portion of it for citizens to pay for subscriptions. This would open the can of worms around government determining which subscriptions would be eligible

-content creation, content aggregation and content transmission have evolved into distinct offerings due to technology innovation. Bell is a transmitter and somewhat of an aggregator. It and other telcos deserve no special status in terms of obligations to create or aggregate content, or protection from competition in transmission. I can't wait for the likes of Vodaphone, Verizon and Telefonica to force Bell to up its game in terms of pricing, product offering and customer service. If that mean loss of Canadian jobs, so be it. The interests of Canadian consumers must always come first

-individuals will need to develop journalist like skills to aggregate information and distill truth. Perhaps offering that service or teaching those skills will be services offered by former journalists. Hopefully AI can step in before the last true journalists fall to extinction

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Respectfully Kevin, news as you know it is dead. Finished, finito.

200k of coveted demo is nothing. It's a rounding error in advertising. Bell got the message and that's why they are so profitable. The firing of Lisa though handled poorly was the right business call.

Running to the government to save these old institution are pointless as shown by how little cdns care.

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Why should Bell telephone, cell, and internet users subsidize news? Cross-subsidizing news media merely shifts the costs of a largely unwanted product onto the next sucker. Or media becomes the next plaything for multi billionaires to play with when they tire of their sport franchises. Advertisers paying the media, government paying the media, what could go wrong?

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If anyone would like to comment on Bell's application to the CRTC on CTV News, here is the link to aubmit. Must be received by July 24th. https://applications.crtc.gc.ca/CommentForm/Default-Defaut.aspx?lang=e&EN=202303809&ET=A&S=O&PA=B&PT=PT1&PST=A&FN=

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Time for the regulator to regulate?

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Mr. Newman can preface the 'journalism' offered by CTV News with all the positive adjectives he likes ("serious," "professional," "quality," "real," etc.), but that won't magically transform it into a quality product that people actually want to pay for. The decline in demand for what Canada's legacy media produces is a direct consequence of that production's lack of substance and appeal, coupled with some disastrous boardroom decisions (spanning a couple of decades) to shrug off upstart internet challenges.

If Mr. Newman and his colleagues were truly concerned about helping Canadians "better understand the threats to [their] comfortable lives," they would have set themselves the task of upgrading their product years ago, purging it of fluff and ideological posturing. It's only the trauma of layoffs and a failing business model that wrings this cri de coeur from him now. I too would lament the loss of "quality investigative reporting" if that's what was really at risk here, instead of the "futures" of people whose notion of news has little connection with high flown phrases extolling journalism as it used to be, or at least aspired to be, and does nothing to improve Canadians' understanding.

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Time to cut all protections and funding schemes and let the chips fall where they may. Sources like The Line would actually thrive in an environment like this and CTV's news division could be sold to overseas interests. If Canadians don't care, why shouldn't they be sold to foreigners?

Ad for myself, I only watch the news breakfast shows in the morning, it's background, weather/traffic without searching and a conversation starter. Plus Calgary being a small town, I personally know folks in front of, and especially behind the camera at our local stations.

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