The Public Policy Forum has released a report, The Shattered Image: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age (January 2017), on the increasingly dire state of Canadian media and the deleterious impact of declining “civic-function” journalism on democracy.
The report defines civic-function news as:
the coverage of elected officials and public institutions, from legislatures, judicial or quasi-judicial bodies and city halls to school boards and supporting public services; issues and debates related to these officials and bodies; and the ability of communities to know themselves for civic purposes.
The fragmentation of Canadian media organizations has coincided with the rise of a digitally decentralized news ecosystem, one that often lacks the journalistic integrity and standards of traditional news media. Faced with growing advertisement and subscription revenue losses, traditional Canadian media organizations have been forced to cut content and staff in a desperate bid to compete with the mass of digital competitors.
Chris Lane, a former senior producer for the CBC, described company efforts to adapt to the digital news revolution as entailing a shift from meaningful stories to click-oriented content. This process of restructuring has coincided with a loss of the local content that is so crucial to fostering civic engagement and government accountability—hallmarks of a healthy and vibrant democracy.
In the quest to make declining traditional media more relevant, I think we made it more disposable. – Chris Lane
The report’s recommendations include possible tax rebates and other amendments to the Income Tax Act to level the playing field between Canadian media organizations and foreign actors. In addition, the report emphasizes the need for the CBC, as a publicly funded entity, to increase its focus on the dissemination of civic-function news.
For the full report by the Public Policy Forum, see The Shattered Image: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age (January 2017).
For articles discussing the report, see “Crisis in news media is also a crisis for democracy” (Editorial, Toronto Star, 26 January 2017) and “Ottawa called on to spend $200 million to save Canadian journalism” (Susan Delacourt, iPolitics, 26 January 2017).
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