One of the institutional pillars of a democratic society is a free and independent news media, which has been enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Less than a year from now, Canadians will head to the polls and vote for their next government, and current Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Party Justin Trudeau intends to be re-elected. To aid him in this goal, PM Trudeau has now bought the votes of Canada’s mainstream news media to support favourable coverage of his partisan agenda.
Last week, during the federal government’s economic and fiscal update, the announcement was given that “eligible” news media would receive over half a billion dollars in tax credits over the next five years (conveniently, one year plus a four-year term until the next-next federal election), whereas eligibility is determined by a government-appointed committee. The intention is clear: a temporary life raft has been offered and a return on investment is expected come Autumn 2019.
It’s no secret global mainstream news media has been struggling with rapidly declining numbers of (paid and unpaid) subscribers due to a failing business model based on advertisements from advertisers who know the audience isn’t there. In a free market, consumers choose the goods they deem has value and are therefore willing to pay for. With the tax credit, Canadian taxpayers will now be forced to pay for news they have already chosen to opt out of buying. The death throes have merely been prolonged.
Today, journalism works according to the political agenda of a significant number of journalists who act more as political activists than as neutral reporters of the facts. Given that Millennials are now the largest generation in history and came of age alongside digital information technology, it’s obvious Millennials don’t trust the mainstream news media and are instead looking to independent sources and their peers for trusted information. People want to know what is happening, not be told what to think about it through biased narratives.
Canada’s government-sponsored media bailout will not slow or reverse the death of journalistic decline in the country and may well accelerate it by a citizenry fed up with being taken for fools by politicians, bureaucrats, and mainstream news media. This temporary bailout will not balance out bias or diffuse polarization. Journalistic integrity will not be recovered by those who threw it out the window for the ease of creating headlines based on tweets and job security through their national union.
Fake news is not a new phenomenon, coined by Donald Trump. I have been the victim of deliberate mischaracterization and misrepresentation through the collaboration of politicians and the mainstream news media. I know many others who have also been slandered. I have worked for politicians for whom their responses “on the record” with a journalist resulted in their words being either twisted or completely fabricated from what was actually said and meant. The mainstream news media creates a story, and no one calls them out because who are you going to call them out to? The mainstream news media hold themselves in the high esteem of The Official Representative of Public Voice. Many times, the real story is traded in for “’gotcha’ headlines and sound bites, when the actual news was far more interesting, though required a great deal more effort to hear, understand, and convey.
Digital is changing this power dynamic for the better. The truth always comes out, in time. I founded The Visionable in response to thousands of Millennials telling me they needed a trusted source of information about what is going on in our world, to find and tell the actual news to those who want to know it. Paid subscriptions and donations to independent news media and individual voices outnumber those to mainstream news media many times over. The demand for intelligible, fact-based information and commentary exists and people are paying for it. We want quality, in-depth information and are supporting it with our wallets, not by force through our taxes. Elite-minded journalists are being replaced with intellectually curious freelance journalists who are genuinely interested and fascinated by the stories and information they pursue, sharing it with the world for the betterment of us all. This shift is creating a better, stronger, more resilient business model that actually delivers to people and responds to market demand.
That is what news should be – empowering, motivating, and purposeful. If you agree, join our growing community with a subscription to The Visionable.