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The face of the Canadian newspaper industry is changing vastly. There are fewer publishing groups in today’s market, and the control of most Canadian daily newspapers is in the hands of a few individuals and corporations. As less owners become involved, fewer views will be heard in Canadian print media, and may lead to a monetary, and political based industry. If a few companies operate the print journalism content, it is likely that only their views will be spread throughout Canada. Ownership of Canadian papers in a few hands allows for the various daily newspapers to gain stability, due to owners having greater capital, as well as larger corporations that can prevent takeovers. However, a limited number of owners creates fewer ideologies, and does not allow for a range of public opinion. Concentration of ownership in Canadian newspapers creates a serious problem because it allows a few large corporations to spread their elitist views and ideologies to society, thereby shaping public opinion, while mis-representing the people through less diversity of views, and undemocratic journalism.
Concentration of ownership in Canadian print media leads to a hegemony of ideology, as owner’s ideologies can overtake weaker ones. Hegemony involves the appropriation and integration of alternative and oppositional viewpoints, meanings, and values into the dominant ideology. With a few owners operating most of the daily newspapers, freedom of the press may cease to exist, because the press will be forced to follow the dominant ideology. Freedom of the press, objectivity, and informing public opinion are the goals of a journalistic ideology, but this ideology is being replaced by the ideologies of the owners, for example, Conrad Black. With Black owning a majority of Canadian newspapers, he has the power disperse his ideologies to his newspapers, thereby not allowing complete objectivity and freedom for the press. Black follows a Functionalist view of society, which has the goal of preserving the status-quo, and producing little change in society so that it can reach an equilibrium. Functionalist views also see that change should occur from within society, with little influence from the government.
Conrad Black and his corporation, Hollinger Printing International, have recently grown larger after their takeover of the Southam Inc. newspaper chain. Due to Black’s increased share of Canadian media, calls have been made for the government to step in and place regulations on the size of media that he can control. Black rejects the view that controls be placed on his business ventures, because he sees himself as a profit minded individual like all owners of corporations. Black’s power and money allow him to control the means of production and communication, therefore he also follows the Marxist ideological system in our society, as he is a capitalist. He is concerned with maintaining the status-quo, but is profit oriented in his business ventures. With control of the majority of daily papers, Black has the ability to spread his views to society, thereby gaining political, and ideological power over Canadians. Public opinion will not remain diverse with a few dominant ideologies in the country.
Conrad Black is able to use his enormous power to spread his elitist views, and those of his ideology. Black owns 64% of Canadian newspapers, thereby giving him the final say on what will be printed in the majority of papers. Black’s ideologies strive to maintain the status-quo, and the supremacy of capitalists, therefore his papers will reflect these views. He believes society has reached an equilibrium for certain reasons, and it(society) will only change through internal forces, if necessary. Black’s dominance leads to the interests of the capitalist class being printed in papers, and those of minority classes being limited. Black does not want any other class to gain control over his own, so he limits the news that is printed of the other classes, so that they will be unable to influence the public. As news and views of other classes become limited, Black is able to spread the views of his ideologies to more people in society.
Capitalists such as Conrad Black are able to spread their views through their own type of advertising, without a reader even knowing. One such example includes numerous students who attended a journalism conference in Calgary. While taking notes from seminars and gaining useful information from workshops, these students became exposed to Black’s ideologies. The journalists hosting the seminars work for the Calgary Herald, which is a daily paper controlled by Black. As the students take notes from the journalists, they are also taking notes on Black’s views, because he ultimately controls the journalist’s views. As the students study and learn how to become successful journalists, they also learn that the owner’s form of control is the way to become successful. The student soon incorporates this type of ideology with journalism, and does not question it in the future. Black’s ability to advertise through his journalists soon results in the students following his interests.
Conrad Black’s concentration of Canadian newspapers leads to his political interests, and those of big business being printed in the majority of papers. Black has historically had ties to the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, and he continues to serve their interests. The party is financially backed by large businesses of the capitalist class. Black recognizes the party’s need for the revenues from these businesses, so he reports and prints business related stories to keep them(businesses) happy, and to follow the interests of the capitalist class. With Black owning the majority of papers, the interests and views of big business will be the dominant one in society, and other views that conflict will not be printed.
Along with the interests of businesses being covered across Canada, Black is increasingly able to deplore his own ideologies, as his views are supported by the Progressive Conservative Party. Through the actions of Conrad Black, it is visible that ownership of mass media can produce political power. John Basset, publisher of the now defunct Toronto Telegram, further supports this view. When being asked by a television interviewer whether he uses his paper to push his own political views, Basset replied, “Of course. Why else would you want to own a newspaper?” The Progressive Conservative Party recognizes Black’s importance with regards to their financial backing, so they must help advertise the views of the capitalist class, as well as his Functionalist ideology.
The Capitalist Classes’ relation to partisan politics leads to various government actions in favor of the owners. The owners from the capitalist class, such as Black, do not approve of government action with regards to their businesses. Due to the government’s role with large businesses, they will not place restrictions on the size, or diversity of businesses in which the capitalist may own. One such example is the Kent Royal Commission that was introduced in 1981. The Commission recommended that restrictions be placed on the concentration of ownership in the newspaper industry. Neither the Conservative or Liberal governments have implemented the recommendations from the committee because they recognize the importance of capitalists such as Black, and do not wish to upset the capitalist class. These lack of restrictions allows Black to expand his control over the newspaper industry in Canada. As his empire grows, Black further spreads his ideology to Canadians through his papers. Due to the lack of government restrictions, the concentration of the Canadian media may continue until very few views are present in society.
Conrad Black’s takeover of Southam Inc. not only gives him control over Canadian newspapers, but for the first time ever, control over papers in every region of the country. His power is not confined to certain regions of the country, but rather he is present everywhere, including Quebec. Black’s ability to spread his views to many people is important, but it is essential for his ideology that it (his views) be in all areas of the country. Canada’s print media has historically been owned by companies throughout the country. If one company was larger than another, it did not harm the diversity of views as much, because a company’s dominance would be confined to a small area. Lack of regulations in the print media has allowed Black to combine various companies into one corporation, and therefore bring numerous regions under his own control. Authority in every region will enable his ideology and views to infiltrate all areas of the country.
As the dominant ideology controls the country, it will eventually begin to shape public opinion. As the interests of the capitalist class become repeatedly printed, their dominance begins to be seen as normal by society, because minority interests do not receive any significant representation in the newspaper. With Black having control over the Southam chain of daily papers, he enforced the printing of a column by the right-wing Fraser Institute in all the papers. The institute promotes a corporate view to the detriment of women, immigrants, minorities, welfare recipients, and other groups that are not part of the dominant ideology. Most of the time, minority groups do not receive any coverage in the papers, but when they do, it is bad publicity, which ultimately heightens the dominance of the capitalist class. As Black continuously portrays the dominant ideology, it becomes institutionalized in people, because they do not see any other beneficial view in society. Once being exposed to this view, people will eventually obtain the opinion that the capitalist class is good for, as well as proper in society.
The people of Canada are ultimately influenced by what journalists print in the paper, because they form opinions about the news. As the newspaper industry becomes concentrated, journalists have their opinions altered by the owners, and the capitalist class. A journalist may attempt to represent various views in society, but many of the views will not be printed because the editor realizes that the owner will disapprove. The owner will follow the dominant ideology, and will refuse to print any view that may challenge this ideology. The journalist soon realizes that any article that does not follow the ideology will not get printed. Nicholas Johnson, former chairman of the FCC in the U.S., the equivalent of the CRTC, explains this idea.
He (the journalist) wonders why (the article is not printed), but the next time he is cautious enough to check with editor first. He is told it would be better not to write that story. The third time he thinks of an investigative story idea, but he doesn’t bother the editor with it because he knows it would be futile. After that, he doesn’t even think of such an idea any more.
The journalist will eventually write only stories that coincide with the dominant ideology, because his/her opinion is being shaped by the owner’s dominance.
The concentration of the Canadian print media influences public opinion in many ways. The fact that capitalist views are spread throughout society has an impact on public opinion. As mentioned, when the owners of the media do not publish news in the interests of minority classes, these classes are not recognized by the public. The lack of representation leads the public to form the opinion that the minority classes are not important to the functioning of society. When society forms opinions, they(opinions) are persuaded by the journalists of the various papers. The public believes what they read, and with journalists printing material that relates only to the dominant class, the public forms the opinion that the dominant class is essential to society. The dominant ideology will therefore shape societies beliefs and values.
As Conrad Black increases the concentration of the Canadian newspaper industry, a hegemony of ideologies occurs. Black is able to advertise his conservatist and Marxian views throughout his papers as if it were fact. Once this status-quo is established, it becomes common sense to the public, rather than a capitalist class ideology which represents only a small fraction of the population. Through this ideology, people will live their lives, and the beliefs and opinions of the ideology will become part of everyday life. If concentration of the media was not present, hegemony in the industry would not occur. Without hegemony, various alternative ideas would become accessible, and eventually become part of the status-quo. If many ideologies were available, it would not be seen as normal to follow one view, therefore one ideology could not dominate. The actions and decisions of Canadians become persuaded through the ideologies that are present in society.
As journalists and editors print the views of the dominant ideology, a lack in diversity of views will obviously occur. Minority views do not agree with the dominant ideology, so there is no room for them in the newsprint. When the recommendations of the Kent Commission were not implemented, the diversity in Canadian society suffered. The lack of diversity relates directly back to the need profit, for the federal political parties as well as the capitalist class. Each group relies on the other for survival. The parties rely on the financial backing of capitalists, and the capitalist class, who cannot afford to have numerous ideologies in society, rely on the parties to support their dominant ideology. If oppositional views are printed, the Canadian public may question the dominant ideology, and refuse to purchase a paper that reflects that ideology. Rather, the public will purchase the media that provides an alternative viewpoint for themselves, resulting in a lack of profit for the dominant capitalist.
As fewer viewpoints prevail, Quebec and French speaking Canadians may become affected the most. As Conrad Black follows his ideology, the viewpoints of Quebec will not be heard. He will not allow for oppositional viewpoints in the print industry, which the people of Quebec would provide. French speaking Canadians are part of the minority that Black, and other capitalists outside Quebec wish to control. The majority of the dominant class speaks English, therefore the dominant ideology will not allow French. Most Canadian newspapers will not print articles that contain French news and viewpoints because it does not coincide with the status-quo, and therefore works against profit.
Restricting articles because of certain viewpoints leads to undemocratic journalism. Whether it be the paper not reporting the news, or an editor refusing a journalist’s story, the situation is undemocratic because freedom of speech is being denied. Society should be able to hear viewpoints of all sorts, but if newspapers refuse to cover certain news, various groups in society will not have their voice heard. News is meant to be objective, but as owners print news that relates only to their ideology, it soon becomes subjective. Most of society strives for diversity, but it is difficult if people all conform to one, or a few views.
Conrad Black’s ownership of Canadian newspapers may lead to a concentration of the media, but it can also lead to stability for Canadian newspapers. The financial resources that Black holds can provide stability for his newspapers. With his enormous amount of capital, it would be extremely difficult for foreign owners to attempt a takeover of his papers. As Black controls the majority of papers in Canada, and papers in every region, any foreign owner would have difficulty entering the Canadian market, in any area. Black’s ability to conquer the news media enables the Canadian media to remain in domestic hands, therefore keeping much of the revenue in Canada, thereby helping the economy.
As Conrad Black’s media empire expands, he explores new regions of the world. Black may own the majority of Canadian newspapers, but he also owns papers throughout the world. He currently controls approximately 500 daily and community newspapers on four continents. Black may be a Canadian owner, but he controls so many papers throughout the world, that he may be classified as a foreign owner. He has the ability to move his business elsewhere, at any time, so Canadian papers could soon be under the control of a man in another country.
Conrad Black has the ability to control Canadian papers without any strong competition. The size of his corporation enables himself, and his company to withstand market pressures. Black has no severe competition, so he is able to run a monopoly over most of the Canadian news media, therefore he may do as he wishes. One such example is the firing of 180 employees at the Regina-Leader Post, and the Saskatoon Star Phoenix. Black was able to terminate the jobs to save money, without worrying if the quality of the papers was being affected, because he has no severe competition to challenge his media. With his concentration of Canadian newspapers, Conrad Black does not need to fear anyone in the news print media.
Serious consequences result from the concentration of ownership in Canadian newspapers, because it enables a few large corporations to spread their views and ideologies, thereby shaping public opinion, while mis-representing Canadians through less diversity of views, and undemocratic journalism. With control of the Canadian print news media, Conrad Black deplores his ideologies to the people of Canada, as well as the political arena. Owners of the news media are able to persuade public opinion through their control over journalists, because they (owners) choose what the newspapers will print, therefore deciding what the public will read. A lack in diversity of views is created through media concentration, as the owners will only print the dominant ideology of the capitalist class, in order to preserve the status-quo. Undemocratic journalism is the result of media concentration, because freedom of speech becomes impossible. The concentration of the Canadian news media results in society being unable to properly comprehend the world around them.
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