Legacy News is Threatened By Lack of Ethics Not Subsidies
This week CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais ripped into journalism industry executives for asking for subsidies all while owning private yachts and helicopters. This statement has come while the CRTC has been holding hearings on the future of local journalism and TV, however spoiled executives are only part of the problem. A lack of enforcement by the CRTC on ethical regulations seems to be the other part of the problem with broadcast journalism.
From a recent CBC article:
"Blais said he is "not convinced" that citizen journalism and social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook will ever be able to challenge the supremacy of legacy news organizations.
"If the journalist — trained to professional standards, who subscribes to a particular code of ethics, and who aspires to the highest standards for gathering and interpreting facts to create valuable, intelligent news analysis — disappears, in the absence of a proven alternative, I fear the future of the fourth estate as a pillar of democracy will be at risk," he said."
The problem with Canadian journalism is it has become an arm’s length political propaganda machine rather than informative, fact driven reporting. We saw a lot of this during the election and with the debate over the debates. The main reason for this is the fact we do not have an independent body to investigate complaints around journalism ethics.
Most TV and legacy news organizations (the exception is the CBC) are part of an industry owned organization that is tasked with investigating its own conduct under CRTC regulations on complaints of false and misleading facts, inaccurate reporting, or failure to adhere to ethical standards. This self-investigating organization is called the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC). What's worse is that there are no ethical regulations for legacy print media news, only for broadcast news.
If Canadians are that concerned about the fourth estate, than we need to properly regulate ethical standards in news. Blais should look no further than in the mirror for that, and not pivot the blame towards technological diffusion which is far easier to do than to admit the CRTC holds a huge part in the downfall of journalism ethics due to lack of enforcement of those ethical regulations, especially with the CBC. The fourth estate isn't a pillar of democracy anymore; this is in part due to the CRTC not acting like a regulator and more like a "protector" to the industry elite since 1976.
In 2014 I reported that all the major networks including the CBC lead their newscasts in an effort to mislead Canadians on a matter Canadian law in which this consortium of broadcast journalists moved way outside their regulated ethical standards and intentionally attacked a political party by way of intentionally falsifying facts in their news reporting for corporate gain. I broke this story on the blogosphere.
I complained to the CBSC, in which nothing was done. I also complained to the CRTC regarding CBC's role in misleading Canadians. CRTC didn't investigate even after the CBC somehow misplaced the newscast in question, and a huge e-mail chain was provided to the CRTC displaying intent from some of CBC’s elite news reporters and news editors to mislead the public in order to protect its corporate interests. This eventually led to the Conservative Party of Canada pulling out of the consortium debates. How’s that for citizen journalism challenging legacy news.
On top of this, CBC's news editor continued her misleading campaign on a matter of Canadian law threatening to take down CBC owned content during the election period including material considered fair use by journalists and bloggers. This news editor is still employed at CBC. I’d love Blais to explain to Canadians why this news editor is still employed at the CBC when the CRTC has direct oversight of this public broadcaster.
Throughout the election it was quite clear that Canadians trust in legacy news was quite rightly eroded, whether you were a Conservative looking down at major networks behavior towards the party and intentionally misleading facts in top news stories, or Liberal, NDP and Green looking at the conservative approach to only agreeing to conservative friendly debate hosts. Either way you look at it, we have a failure of legacy news both in broadcast and in print to uphold the standards necessary for the survival of that pillar of democracy at the very time when it is so important for them to uphold ethical standards in news.
People have lost faith and trust in the fourth estate. Blais is rightfully concerned; however I'm not sure that blame lies on the industry elite looking for tax payer’s handouts, but rather the inability or inaction of their regulator to take meaningful action when ethical standards are quite clearly broken.
Here's a news flash Blais. Most of our audience now takes in content from several sources including citizen journalists to formulate their own opinions. The supremacy of legacy news is already being challenged due to the way these organizations handle ethical standards. In many respects the void that has been left by the CRTC's inability to do anything on the organizations it oversees, is being filled by citizen journalists, bloggers and by “ethical journalists” who have left the industry in disgust. That's not going to change if these organizations continue down the path they are now. In fact it’s likely to fragment the legacy news industry even more which is what I think the CRTC is just starting to see through these hearings.
If anything the CRTC should have identified the problems with legacy news during the last election. The CRTC is still very much tone deaf to the problems it has created regarding journalism ethics in this country. This regulator doesn’t seem to be watching very closely if it has to conduct hearings on the matter and rake industry executives over the coals, rather than act within their own mandate when called upon.