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Final Report on the Canadian News Media
Chair: Hon. Lise Bacon (QC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. David Tkachuk (SK)
Downloads: Click here
The Committee set out to to identify ways in which public policy could be rethought to foster healthy, independent news media for the 21st century. It was guided by the principle that freedom of the press is a central pillar of any democracy. As its final report states,
To make informed decisions, citizens need a wide range of news
and information. They also need access to a broad and diverse
array of opinions and analyses about matters of public interest.
The report includes 40 recommendations and 10 suggestions covering a wide array of concerns expressed by witnesses: media concentration; inadequate funding for the national public broadcaster and its unclear role and mandate; the legal and professional environment, as well as training for journalists; and federal support programs. As emphasized throughout the process, the Committee’s work and recommendations dealt exclusively with the architecture of Canada's news media system and not news content.
The Senate's media report aroused significant public interest. As well, the government issued a formal written response to the report in November 2006. On April 18, 2007, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Hon. Bev Oda, appeared before the Committee and explained that
… the government is acting on 30 of the 40 recommendations. It
has already acted on two of the recommendations. We have given
a directive to Canada Post regarding the Publications Assistance
Program and we have enacted the whistle-blower legislation.
The 28 other actions are currently under way, either directly as the
committee suggested or in an alternative fashion. We believe seven
recommendations require no action at this time because the
conditions are already in place for the reviews that you have
In the fall of 2007, citing among other sources the Senate's report, the CRTC held special hearings on media concentration of ownership and cross-ownership. On January 15, 2008, the CRTC announced a new approach to "to ensure that a diversity of voices is maintained in the Canadian broadcasting system." The new policies, aimed at the private sector, echo the Senate's concerns with respect to concentration and cross-media ownership. Going forward, a person or entity will now be permitted to control only two of the following types of media that serve the same market: a local radio station, a local television station or a local newspaper.
In addition, and also in line with the spirit of the Senate's report, the CRTC has moved to ensure more independence on panels that deal with complaints. A minimum number of journalists will now be included on these Canadian Broadcast Standards Council panels.
The Uncertain Mirror: Special Senate Committee on the Mass Media (The Davey Report)
Chair: Hon. Keith Davey (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. L. P. Beaubien (QC)
Downloads: Click here
Thirty years ago, the Senate declared "this country should no longer tolerate a situation where the public interest in so vital a field as information [is] dependent on the greed or goodwill of an extremely privileged group of businessmen" (page 66). Ownership of about 50% of Canada's mass media outlets (newspapers, radio and television) had become concentrated in group holdings by 1969. Senator Keith Davey (ON) and his committee deplored the consequences of this shift, even though they predicted the trend would continue. Of dozens of recommendations, perhaps the most prescient was their call to action for everyday Canadians (at page 250):
Remember that freedom of the press is basic to all our freedoms,
and that the greatest danger to press freedom is public apathy.
So if the media bore you or bother you, don't just sit there. React …
Telephone the owner. Write to the editor. Call in on the hot line.
Speak to the advertiser. Praise the performer. Some newspapers
and magazines are beginning to open their pages to the people.
They call it "participatory journalism." So participate.
The Davey Report’s main recommendation (to establish a Federal Press Ownership Review Board) was never implemented. Although the government did follow up with a 1981 Royal Commission on Newspapers chaired by Tom Kent, Senator Davey reported in 1990 that media concentration had by then escalated to 57%. Today, of course, newspaper chains and television networks all across North America are fighting hard to stay afloat. Concentrated ownership failed to guarantee their ultimate survival.