PoliticsBeware the Orwellian nightmare:The Trudeau Government is buying the news bit by bit

Beware the Orwellian nightmare:The Trudeau Government is buying the news bit by bit

Beware the Orwellian nightmare:The Trudeau Government is buying the news bit by bit

Of all the Canadian journalists who could shake the establishment’s cage, perhaps the best at stating the truth was the late Christie Blatchford. Before her untimely death in early 2020, she wrote one of the best articles in recent Canadian history on the state of the media in this country.

Blatchford saw the writing on the wall. In a June 29, 2018, piece, she wrote, “God forbid Ottawa should start to subsidize newspapers too. As a journalist, the thought gives me the shudders.”

It may not seem important to Liberal and NDP MPs, but independent media is of unparalleled importance in any democracy. The Trudeau government pretty well owns the CBC. Their continuous fawning and preponderance to follow government media lines on pretty well every topic has turned the once reputed news and political reporting division of the CBC into a tired joke.

The great decline was especially quick after the departure of former anchor Peter Mansbridge. Once revered, today, the CBC is no longer impartial or entirely dependable with the truth. Still, it laughingly claims its editorial independence while posting and hosting a government-backed website that shows which news sources are “reliable.” Their site does not include some of the heaviest hitters in the Canadian press, including Vice News, Canadaland.com, or Blacklocks.

Two years ago, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez announced a $600 million media fund. Canadaland Publisher and Editor in Chief Jesse Brown wrote about how the transparent funding process is instead veiled in secrecy.

The board that decides which media outlet is deemed credible and worthy of funding is made up of academics and retired journalists paid by the government to read content of their choice. The process is so secretive that there is no data on how many of the 159 media outlets that applied for government grants were selected or rejected, nor the reasons they were refused. The process is non-transparent, and the funds are distributed through the CRA to keep the beneficiaries confidential.

Why is the government secretly funding and rejecting media in Canada based on what a board they appointed believes to be news or not?

A retired journalist would have operated in a world funded by multi-thousand-dollar full-page print ads and a $5-a-word classified section. They would not be mindful that those highly profitable industry revenue streams are now offered free by services like Instagram and Kijiji, leaving media companies to find other ways to pay their overhead.

An academic and a retired journalist have very little experience in traditional media's business and funding side, or the models used and nuances and decisions that were and are applied to keep the stories funded. This becomes glaringly clear when this entitled ‘Star Chamber’ seems to think it’s completely OK to have the government fund the news and call the shots on what is and is not credible news and media. These hubris of self-anointed ‘deciders’ of what they deem to be newsworthy and what is credible media in Canada are dangerous and troublesome.

That they don’t grasp what is fundamentally wrong with the Government of Canada funding and deciding what is the news lays out bare their hypocrisy. Add to this that these anointed people making decisions for everyone on what is credible news and what is not are being paid by the government that appointed them to implement this Orwellian policy.

Of course, the broader and relevant question today is why does the government think it needs to fund the media in the first place? It is one thing to provide funds to assist companies in building the digital infrastructure for Canadian content; it is entirely another when you cross that redline and start dictating the funding model based on what the government and its political appointees think is newsworthy credible, and not newsworthy credible.

Canada has conflict of interest laws for politicians regarding favours, services, and gifts. There is a moral understanding that elected officials and government bureaucrats need to be impartial. Neutrality is adversely affected when somebody gives you a gift or money.

By funding the media by picking winners and losers, the Liberals have created a dangerous and corrosive policy that destabilizes the very principle of a free press in a democracy. It is obvious to most that the CBC political coverage in Ottawa is anti-Conservative. While they fawn and throw grapefruit questions at Prime Minister Trudeau and his ministers, their anchors tend to be aggressive and dismissive when speaking with Conservative leaders or MPs. Just review some of Rosemary Barton’s rude interviews with former Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole or Andrew Scheer. They are truly cringeworthy and unprofessional.

If that does not seem like an issue, then consider that during the 2019 federal election, the CBC sued the federal Conservative Party for using parts of CBC coverage in their media marketing material The CBC’s Rosemary Barton who infamously took great glee in taking and posting a selfie with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prior to a debate was a party to that lawsuit. The CBC would lose the suit after shelling out hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars to pay for the canard.

The mere fact that the taxpayer-funded CBC has a site (https://cbc.radio-canada.ca/en/impact-and-accountability/local-news-directory) that now claims to ‘arbitrate’ what is considered trustworthy news for the Canadian public and does not include the numerous sites of its many competitors which are visited by millions of viewers is, well, insane.

The government of Canada, of course, provided the CBC with the content for that site link. Interestingly, the entire eight-person executive CBC leadership team at the ‘very woke’ network is Caucasian . . . but I digress. Thankfully, we know these denizens of journalism and experts of ‘better speech’ rather than the unfashionable free speech, which is no longer in vogue or de rigueur at the national broadcaster, will protect us from words or thoughts that might harm us.

ABOVE: A CBC webpage enables Canadian to search for “reliable” local news providers.

Worse, the Trudeau government has become so brazen about their trying to control the media that they are now trying to block Canadian’s access to foreign media. Global Affairs Canada Minister Melanie Joly’s mandate letter aims to cancel or regulate the foreign press in Canada. Similarly, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has shown a disregard for free opinion with extraordinary panache by introducing Bill C-11, which would regulate the sharing of news information on social media and what content can and cannot be shared. Michael Geist, Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa and the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law. On March 30, Geist authored an article titled “Why Has the Government’s Defence of Bill C-11 Been So Cartoonishly Misleading?” where he observed that,

“Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act that serves as the government’s follow-up to Bill C-10, was the subject of debate in the House of Commons yesterday as the legislation slowly makes its way through the legislative process. There are still committee hearings to come, but it is readily apparent that many of the concerns that hamstrung Bill C-10 have returned: virtually limitless jurisdictional, overbroad scope, and harmful discoverability provisions. Further, this bill has attracted mounting criticism from Canadian digital-first creators, who note that one of Canada’s biggest cultural exports could be hurt by the bill leading to millions in lost revenues. While none of these concerns should come as a surprise, what is surprising is how ill-prepared the government appears to be to address the criticisms. Indeed, the communications strategy seems based primarily on presuming that Canadians won’t bother to read the legislation and will therefore take misleading assurances at face value.”

The free press in Canada has reached a critical juncture. Fifteen years ago, Hungary had a free press. In early April, Hungarian President Viktor Orban won what Vox deemed unfair elections due to the massive press disadvantage resulting from the government’s silent takeover of the media in the country.

Orban might have been elected democratically, but he is viewed widely as an authoritarian. His authoritarianism did not come with angry speeches and fascism riding on the backs of armed tanks; it came through backdoor deals, legislation, and quietly buying off the independent press.

By the time most had realized it, it was too late to do anything. The Hungarian example did not happen overnight; it was a ten-year transformation. Currently, Canada is heading down this path.

Saying it cannot happen here doesn’t mean it won’t.

PHOTO: Background image, iStock

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