GATINEAU, QC – After the major Canadian media conglomerates had expressed their views, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) had its turn today at the CRTC hearings on the diversity of voices. While management claimed that all is well during these times of convergence and concentration, CUPE set the record straight and asked for a major shift in direction.
The situation is critical in the information sector. The diversity, quality and independence of newsrooms, as well as local content are particularly at risk. The public is no longer as well equipped to make informed choices, which is a direct attack on democracy.
In his presentation, Jean Chabot, President of CUPE Québec’s communications sector council, illustrated the deterioration of the media scene: “In an era of convergence and concentration, the number of broadcasting platforms is increasing, but information is becoming more standardized. We used to have 10 platforms that broadcast 10 messages. Now we’re moving toward 100 platforms to broadcast five messages. Yet Quebecor and the news conglomerates say that the level of diversity is excellent.”
The Journal de Québec labour dispute is a prime example of this trend. Management wants to copy/paste content throughout all of Quebecor’s newspapers, printed matter, television stations and Web sites, but unionized employees are opposed to the idea. There is a price to pay for this all-out convergence as clearly demonstrated by Denis Bolduc, president of the journalists’ union at Journal de Québec. He held up the Journal de Québec front page and another page from the Journal de Montréal from the same day. They were identical!
“With unbridled convergence, less local information means larger profits for big business, which is why a strict regulatory framework is needed,” said Claude Généreux, National Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE.
The CRTC should take the initiative to defend true diversity, and Jean Chabot said that the best approach would be to: “Increase the number of local production hours for positions in mixed media groups. Licensing conditions should ensure that licence holders maintain separate structures for news gathering, management and presentation. A procedure to govern licence applications is also required, so media mergers can be assessed in terms of the public interest and diversity of voices.”
For further information:
Claude Généreux, national secretary-treasurer, CUPE: (514) 884-5074
Jean Chabot, president, PCCS: (514) 726-8538
Denis Bolduc, Spokesperson for the Locked Out Workers at Journal de Québec: (418) 564-8772