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To: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Canada needs a National Public Inquiry On The State of Newspaper and Broadcast Journalism
Political discourse in Canada is deteriorating to the point where political officials and journalists are now encountering threats or harassment because of their positions or views.
Recent federal and provincial elections have seen a severe reduction in voter participation with only 41% of voters choosing to vote in the last Ontario election. Meanwhile, national polling indicates that many Canadians are unhappy with the quality of political information they receive in newspapers and in news broadcasts.
Veteran journalists say that "click-bait" is often a determining factor in what issues are reported or how the reporting is framed, admitting that extreme language draws "clicks'. Events elsewhere demonstrate that extreme discourse fueled by extreme reporting appears to have resulted in life-threatening events of social upheaval. Is this something we should be concerned about in Canada and can newspaper and broadcast journalism play a role in either causing or preventing these kinds of events? Meanwhile, it has been about a decade since rules about foreign ownership of Canadian newspapers were relaxed.
Why is this important?
National Public Inquiries or Royal Commissions have an essential role in examining complex social or political issues, providing detailed, research-based information on Inquiry topics and typically giving the government a menu of policy means to address any serious social concerns the Inquiry discovers in carrying out its mandate. The Federal Government established a Royal Commission on the Concentration of Ownership in the Newspaper Industry. It's time to examine closely what is going on with Canada's newspaper and broadcast journalism to see if it is reflective of what has happened elsewhere and what steps can be taken so that their reporting meets Canadians' expectations.