A Different Point of View....: Old Canadian media promote Washington’s agenda word for word

An analysis of Canadian mainstream media’s reporting of U.S. President Obama’s visit to Vietnam recently was so biased that stories may as well have been written by the White House.

Just about all traditional media provided Washington’s pre-packaged message to the Canadian public:

The good guy Obama was in Hanoi to lift the U.S. arms embargo on Vietnam so it could defend itself against the aggressive Chinese, and do what the U.S. could to help the country modernize.  In return, the U.S., one of the worst violators of rights in the world, expects communist Vietnam to improve its human rights record.

    Obama’s visit to Vietnam wasn’t an important story for Canadians but, nevertheless, it is a good example of how American interests dominate coverage that appears in our mainstream media.

    The Toronto Star apparently was the only major Canadian news outlet to carry a substantial story clearly outlining China’s concerns over the implications of U.S. expanded relations with Vietnam.

    The Winnipeg Free Press ran a story that briefly mentioned China’s concerns.

    Major news companies covered only one point of view

    However, the following news organizations reported the story the way Washington would like to have it: At CTV News Channel and CBC News Network hosts read just about the same story ad nauseam for hours.  The stories likely came from The Associated Press, which is strongly biased in favour of the United States.

    In addition, CTV News Channel carried an interview with Donald Baker of the UBC Asia Studies Centre in which Baker presented only U.S. objectives.

    A Global News reporter in Toronto voiced over a full report that laid out the U.S. point of view. From what I could see, CTV National News did a 30-second voice over, while CBC’s The National apparently didn’t cover the story.

    The Globe and Mail reported the basic pro-U.S. story only on its website

    The Ottawa Citizen and The Calgary Herald posted a clip of Obama’s speech on their websites, while The Edmonton Journal did not appear to cover the story.

    As frequently happens at old media, three papers covered the lighter side of Obama’s visit. The Vancouver Sun, The Montreal Gazette, the and the Halifax Chronicle-Herald reported on Obama’s pre-arranged $6 lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant with celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.

    Important views left out of stories

    There was a lot more that could have been reported on the real self-interest objectives of Obama’s visit and the implications for countries in the Pacific region.

    It would have been best if all stories could have been better balanced and covered the views of the U.S. and other players from the region.

    Just as Obama was announcing the lifting of the arms embargo against Vietnam in Hanoi, China warned the U.S. President not to spark a fire in Asia. The China Daily bluntly stated that Obama’s move was meant to “curb the rise of China.”

    The Chinese nationalist Global Times called Obama’s claim that the Vietnam move was not aimed at China “a very poor lie,” adding that it would exacerbate the “strategic antagonism between Washington and Beijing.” It said the U.S.is trying to knit three nets around China — in ideology, in security and in economy and trade — in an attempt to secure its dominance of the region.

    Meanwhile, the Russian news service Sputnik quoted U.S. analyst and author Dan Lazare: “Just as the United States has sought to cordon Russia off in the West by ringing it with nearly a dozen hostile states extending from Georgia to the Baltics, “it is plainly intent on doing the same in the east by orchestrating an anti-Chinese alliance from Vietnam to Japan.”

    China and Russia are also concerned that the U.S. may be willing to sell deadly, sophisticated arms systems to Vietnam that the Russians have been refusing to sell them, at the request of China. Such sales would escalate militarization in the region. Vietnam may also spend millions to purchase U.S.-made drones.

    Corporate media’s failure to cover these stories in a more balanced way can be blamed only slightly on media cutbacks. Any and all of the Chinese and Russian stories referred to here were available to all Canadian media.

    The way Canadian mainstream media covered the Vietnam visit is typical of how they report on practically all U.S. international adventures, whether it’s the While House effort to demonize Russia, U.S. interventions in the Middle East, or U.S. denying it is involved in helping overturn elected democracies in Latin America.

    The international news coverage of publicly-owned CBC News is only slightly better. For the most part, it uses the same news sources used by corporate media.

    Not surprising corporate media likes U.S. message

    Considering who owns mainstream media in Canada, it’s not surprising there’s strong support for U.S. policies.  Big private media outlets are owned by corporations that also benefit greatly from doing business with the United States. Corporate owners are also ideologically aligned with the right-wing U.S. government. They wouldn’t want their newspapers, TV and radio stations to report stories that contradict U.S. foreign policy.

    In addition, most editors know what’s expected of them. Many of them still have their minds set in the years of the Cold War: Ruskies and Chinamen are bad people. The thinking is that communists are out to destroy democracy, so what they say does not deserve to be covered.

    The victim in all this is the Canadian public, which is denied learning about the views and positions taken by governments in much of the world. The biased coverage also encouraged people to support U.S. policies and think that there are no worthwhile alternative views.

    Can old media be changed to provide a better balance of international news? No. This would require a total revolution occurring in mainstream media, and this isn’t going to happen. Canadians who want better and more balanced news should support the growth of independent media. The future of media exists on the Internet, and several news sites are working hard to provide a strong alternative to old, biased corporate media.

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    Contact Nick Fillmore at fillmore0274@rogers.com
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    A Different Point of View....: MEDIA IN CRISIS – 1: Why feds should step in to help democracy’s watchdogs

    “I think newspaper readership is strongest 

    among people who are soon going to be dead.”

    — John Miller 
    former senior editor at The Toronto Star 

    A flourishing, capable news media is the oxygen of democracy. In Canada, our traditional oxygen-providers, the mainstream corporate-owned newspapers, are dying. We need to come up with something better to serve our communities.
    Since the beginning of the year, we’ve seen papers in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa bizarrely merged; a potentially disastrous strike in Halifax. The Guelph Mercury’s last print edition. The closure of The Toronto’ Star’s printing press, and gradual shaving back at every paper in the country.
    Not all papers are losing money, but none is flourishing. And none still provides the scope or depth of balanced news essential to a citizenry that wants to be engaged.

    How has this happened?

    First, corporate news, as a product, has been debased beyond recognition. Newsrooms are so short-staffed that in many communities they don’t report even important civic events. There’s as much fluff as news. Pages are filled with slapdash opinion pieces that are cheap to produce. For most papers, good analysis and investigative journalism are things of the past.
    Second, with good reason, people no longer trust what their papers say. I could find no recent independent survey that gauged Canadian opinions of the media. But I assume that our opinion of our papers is likely only slightly better than Americans’. A 2013 Gallup poll reported that fewer than 25 per cent of the Americans surveyed had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in their newspapers.
    All the dailies – with the exception to some extent of The Toronto Star espouse  – corporate values that cater to the rich and powerful and help determine what is considered newsworthy. So right-wing policies detrimental to the general public are praised, unions and social change opposed. There’s much more, but you get the idea.
    In the face of widening consumer disdain for a diminished product, corporate media owners would have investors believe they will somehow come up with a new formula that will magically make them profitable. It is nowhere in sight.
    With corporate-controlled media highly unpopular and facing a life-threatening crisis, it’s the perfect time to come out in favour of public support for independent Canadian news and information on the Internet.
    Canada has a small but enthusiastic number of news and opinion websites, but we need to think in terms of supplementing those with well-funded sites that can provide communities and cities with the news and information they will need in future years.
    Unfortunately, while sites work hard at raising money, most of them do not bring in enough revenue to have the size of staff necessary to provide full coverage for their chosen market area.

    If Justin Trudeau’s apparent concern for our democracy is sincere, he must know that Canadians are not getting the basic information about events and developments that we need to be able to exercise our role as citizens.

    Sooner rather than later, the Liberals need to acknowledge the problem and find ways to step in and provide funding. Communities – especially those that will be launching new sites – need better sources of news.
    However, the public would not look favourably upon the idea of government giving financial support to media corporations that gobbled up millions of dollars in executive salaries and shareholder dividends while reducing coverage and chopping jobs.
    By contrast, Scandinavian countries regularly subsidize privately-owned daily newspapers. The media in those countries is viewed much differently than in Canada: readership is much higher than here, papers haven’t in the past raked in grossly high profits from tons of monopoly advertising, and executives are paid much less than in North America. As a result, Scandinavians actually like their papers, and governments have no trouble supporting them. 
    Canada’s crisis is worst in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa, the cities where Paul Godfrey’s Postmedia has forced once competing papers into shotgun marriages.

    Their situation may soon be even worse. If Postmedia cannot meet a $336- million debt payment by August 2017, the chain will likely go bankrupt. Beyond that is another payment of about $36-million by July 2018. At either point the papers may be put on the block.

    At the same time, there is speculation that if the chain’s debt were paid off, it might be profitable – depending on how much journalism it invested in.
    But would Canadians stomach a multi-million dollar bailout for Postmedia’s fleet of journalistic ghost ships after Godfrey, its CEO, walked off with a pay packet of $1.7-million and vast currents of cash have flowed to a hedge fund in New York?
    Other corporate media owners that opposed government support for weaker competitors in the past, may also change their minds and seek tax breaks for those properties. Their pleas deserve the same scrutiny.
    The Guelph Mercury, which closed last week, is part of the massive Torstar Corporation, owner of The Toronto Star and many other properties.  In view of its purchase last year of Vertical Scope, a digital media firm, for $200-million, what does the Canadian public—or the government—owe it to keep the Mercury alive?
    Yes, governments need to ensure that communities get the news they need, and that doesn’t include helping for-profit media. Even if the government wanted to, it would cost many millions of dollars to subsidize the failing newspaper industry. 
    However, to help cover the news gap left by the failing newspapers, the government could increase the funding of both CBC Radio and TV News and Current Affairs.
    Part II – Click here
    Contact Nick Fillmore at fillmore0274@rogers.com
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    A Different Point of View....: MEDIA IN CRISIS – 2: Citizens, government need to plan now to have quality media in future

    Canada’s mainstream media are in a state of incipient meltdown. They no longer deliver the volume or quality of news that Canadians need to be informed about important happenings in their communities, let alone to participate in a healthy democratic process.

    The corporations that own traditional newspapers, seeing their revenues and readership dissolve, have opted to cut jobs and slash the content that used to provide their product’s value.

    News on the Internet: Everyone will get in on the act! 

    This is a serious problem for the way our democracy is supposed to work, and it is not going away.
    It is time for governments—federal, provincial, and municipal—to step up and find a way to make sure that Canadian communities once again receive the news and information they need to function properly.

    I explained in an earlier column why it would be the wrong choice for governments to support the same media that are failing under profit-driven corporate ownership.

    Instead, the best solution to our growing news crisis is for governments to provide the financial support needed so that community-based Internet news sites will be sustainable.

    Finding government money for public interest news shouldn’t be a problem. Governments already spend millions of dollars to support the diversity of Canadian magazines, privately owned TV stations, and, of course, the CBC.

    We also all need to recognize that the transition to Internet-based delivery for disseminating news and information is only accelerating, will soon be virtually complete.

    Instead of thinking about the way news dissemination is now, with newspapers hanging on, we need to envision what conditions will be like in, say 10 years, and begin working toward that time frame now.

    How? Here’s what I’d like to see happen.

    First, we need to remind ourselves that our governments belong to us. If we are being poorly served, and there’s no other way to get the news we absolutely need, we have a perfect right to demand that government help solve the problem.

    Without launching yet another multi-year Royal Commission on the media, the federal government should conduct a tightly focused investigation into the quickest, cleanest, and least-costly form of support for digital non-profit community news.

    Scores of independent, digital non-profit news outlets already exist in Canada and the United States. But in neither country have they developed business models that can reliably support serious numbers of journalists and also break even.

    In the U.S., the Pew Research Centre reported that 172 digital non-profit news outlets had been launched in the country between 1987 and 2013.

    But while the sector showed promise of economic health, many sites “face substantial challenges to their long-term financial well-being.” Several had received substantial start-up money from foundations, but lacked business expertise to broaden their funding once the endowments ran out. [List of US non-profits:]

    Canada has at least 20 independent Internet news sites, several providing broad, general information. But none serve a large community.

    Highest ranked is The Tyee: it comes in at a distant number 2,911 in viewership among all sites in the country, as measured by the search engine Alexa . In second place is National Observer (at number 3,567). rabble.ca (at number 3,582), comes next, closely followed by the specialist paywall site iPolitics (3,651).

    All the main corporate media, which mostly republish the same content as their affiliated newspapers, rank much higher.

    In addition to providing support for existing sites, we need to look at supporting new sites to serve communities, cities and even provinces that are not well served.

    Research is needed to find out how people who do not seek out news on the Internet can be lured to the new sites.

    If citizens feel their area is not being covered by existing media, they need to form a community group to assess the situation.

    Groups should attract members who have both business and journalism skills. They need to develop a plan, prepare a draft budget, and assess what funding they can generate on their own.

    A well-connected community group should be able to tap into a number of funding sources: sustaining donors, memberships, ad sales, possibly foundations, on-line sales of compatible products such as books, fundraising events, special reports, or even develop relations to do contract for community groups and companies.

    In Guelph, where TorStar closed The Guelph Mercury last week, it was unclear whether the paper’s website would continue to operate and whether another small Tor-Star free paper can serve the community.

    Citizens in Guelph should assess after a period of time whether they are getting the news they need. If not, perhaps they will need to take action as a community.

    There are dozens of non-profit sites in the U.S. that could serve as a model for Guelph and other communities if folks decide to have a site. For instance, the Dallas South News has been operating since 2009, using traditional and citizen journalists as well as bloggers to provide news and commentary to the community’s 500,000 residents.

    In general, public support for non-profit community media should be awarded in a competitive process run by an arms-length, non-political body. Some might be awarded based on the number of people who visit a site, or by matching funds contributed by the community.

    In addition, a non-profit group could apply to the federal government to obtain charitable tax status for the dissemination of educational material. This way donors would be able to receive a tax receipt.

    Furthermore, Tax rules could encourage donations to non-profit and educational journalism.

    Whatever vehicle is adopted, it will need to satisfy critics of any government involvement in the media, who will be watching like hawks. There will need to be more research.

    What’s already clear is that yesterday’s profit-obsessed media market has failed. A new one needs some support so we all can receive the news and information we need.

    CLICK HERE, to subscribe to my blog. Thanks Nick

    Contact Nick Fillmore at fillmore0274@rogers.com
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    A Different Point of View....: MEDIA IN CRISIS – 2: Citizens, government need to plan now to have quality media in future

    Canada’s mainstream media are in a state of incipient meltdown. They no longer deliver the volume or quality of news that Canadians need to be informed about important happenings in their communities, let alone to participate in a healthy democratic process. The corporations that own traditional newspapers, seeing their revenues

    Continue reading