Qub0065c City, Thursday, February 15, 2001 Right from the start, the coalition of CUPE unions in the TVA network, the largest private French-language network in Canada, gave public voice to the strong concern of its some 1,000 members, including more than one hundred journalists, about the concentration of media ownership. The unions pointed out to the government that concentration of the press is inherently dangerous to the interests of the public. Indeed, it constitutes a threat to the fundamental democratic principles of our society, according to the preamble to the brief filed with the Committee on Culture.
An apparent proliferation of sources of information
Free circulation of information remains one of the foundations of democracy, but we have to be careful not to confuse the proliferation of containers, fostered by the recent transactions including the one between Qubcor and Vido0074ron-TVA, with the apparent proliferation of sources of information. In practice, there is a steady restriction of content, emphasized Mr. Armand Dubois, journalist for the TVA network and spokesperson for the union coalition.
Content that tends towards the lowest common denominator
Even before this parliamentary committee was announced, the government had shown its colours by publicly stating that it would not intervene in the Qubcor-Vido0074ron-TVA transaction.
In this context, we see our presentation today as an effort to raise public awareness about the very disturbing problem of a reduced number of sources of information, the trend towards the lowest common denominator in content, added the spokesperson.
Qub0065c can and should legislate
But this doesnt mean we accept Culture Minister Agns0020Maltaiss claim that she is powerless to intervene because broadcasting and telecommunications are a federal jurisdiction. Although it is true that Qub0065c can only legislate for the print media, it is also true that the transaction would never have taken place without the $2 billion from the Caisse de dpt et de placement (CDP), the governments powerful economic agency.
At the least, the Qub0065c government can and should legislate to establish some ground rules for corporate concentration of the press and to limit cross-ownership, as our neighbours south of the border have already done in a vastly bigger market. Furthermore, it is not to late for the government to reconsider its position on the Qubcor-Vido0074ron-TVA transaction and intervene to this effect at the CRTC hearings that will begin on March 26, suggested Armand Dubois.
Yes to Qub0065c ownership! No to Made in Qub0065c concentration!
We are certainly sympathetic to the governments efforts to preserve Qub0065c ownership of businesses that are crucial to the dissemination of our culture and a specific handling of news. But these efforts must not become an excuse for a distinct, made in Qub0065c concentration that could prove to be a fertile breeding ground for homogenized thinking and a one-sided outlook. In this regard, it is worth quoting a few lines from our brief, he added.
Government cannot stand by idly and apply the same rules for the media as it does for other companies. In a democratic system, the media play an essential role that must be protected. It is crucial to preserve a multiplicity of sources of information. This is even truer in Qub0065c, since history shows we owe our survival as a French-speaking society in America to our sustained resistance to all assaults, thanks to this freedom of expression that characterizes us. Thanks as well to our open-mindedness that inevitably depends on a wealth of enlightened information and knowledge of others. Truth is forged in the clash of ideas; homogenized thinking leads to subjugation and totalitarianism. (p. 10)
Be consistent with the kind of society that is proposed
When the current government talks about a blueprint for society embodying social, cultural and economic values that are specific and open to the world at the same time, it has to be consistent and intervene to make sure that the diversity of news, opinions and ideas does not become a smokescreen for a process of concentration that simply multiplies the channels for disseminating information with no added value in terms of content and sources, concluded Mr. Dubois.
SOURCE: CANADIAN UNION OF PUBLIC EMPLOYEES (QFL)
For further information: Louis Cauchy, 514-235-3996