CRTC Ruling No Threat to Big Media

CRTC Ruling No Threat to Big Media
by: Marc Edge

Canadians who rely on the CBC for news would have been labouring under a serious illusion about new cross-media ownership limits for several hours on Tuesday. The public broadcaster erroneously reported well into the afternoon that the CRTC had decreed that henceforth "any person or entity can own only two radio stations, television stations or newspapers in a single market." Such a development would have had particular significance for Vancouver, where CanWest Global Communications owns BCTV, both local daily newspapers, and most of the Lower Mainland's non-daily newspapers. CanWest also publishes one of the two national newspapers available locally, the National Post, and enjoys a similar newspaper-television cross-ownership in nearby Victoria.

Several overjoyed bloggers quickly spread news of the outcome of last fall's contentious CRTC "media diversity" hearings, at least as the CBC was reporting it. "It's about time," scolded the Canadian Journalism Project's Deborah Jones, quoting the mistaken CBC report, which has since vanished from the Mother Corp's website. Futurist Tod Maffin similarly trumpeted the tightening of Canada's lax media regulations, which have resulted in some of the highest levels of ownership concentration in the world. "The federal broadcasting regulator is imposing considerably tighter rules on media ownership," concluded Maffin.

Alas, 'twas not meant to be. Instead of restricting owners to two media outlets in radio, television or newspapers, the CRTC had decreed that from now on media owners may hold outlets in only two of the three media. Or, as the owning Asper family is probably singing at CanWest Global headquarters in Winnipeg, with apologies to Meat Loaf: "Two out of three ain't bad." After all, CanWest currently has no radio outlets in Canada since selling its FM jazz station in Winnipeg, although it does own radio in the UK and Turkey. The error was only corrected when the CBC website picked up a Canadian Press story at 1:17 p.m. EST that accurately reported the CRTC edict.

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