Thursday, November 29, 2018

Can the New, Online Media Compete with a Struggling, but Now Subsidized Legacy Print Industry

          By Al Calder

Last week's announcement that the Canadian government planned to spend a larger lump sum of Federal funding to prop up traditional Canadian media outlets than it annually gives to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), seems more than a little disconcerting.

Perhaps the Justin Trudeau Liberals simply believe that it is more important who you hear the news from than it is to get the story right, create new jobs in media and aerospace, or even "go boldly where no one has gone before!

Perhaps those other concerns are just different line items in the next Federal budget. Or maybe not.

Graphic c/o AZ Quotes.

Anyway, and as outlined in the November 21st, 2018 National Post article, "$600M in federal funding for media 'a turning point in the plight of newspapers in Canada," the largest recipients of government funding under the new program will be the struggling, legacy print media industry.

The article quoted Paul Godfrey, the CEO of Toronto ON based Postmedia Network (which publishes the National Post and daily broadsheets in many of Canada’s largest cities) as saying that the tax credit:
... could be looked upon as a turning point in the plight of newspapers in Canada…I tip my hat to the prime minister and the finance minister. They deserve a lot of credit. 
Everyone in journalism should be doing a victory lap around their building right now.
John Hinds, the CEO of Toronto ON based News Media Canada, a trade association representing over 830 Canadian daily, weekly and community newspapers, is also quoted in the article:
We’ve been asking for help and they listened to us. I think they delivered. It’s a substantive investment.
While its expected that smaller media outlets (including this blog, which has applied for and received Federal funding in the past) will also be eligible under the new program, it's likely that the larger players will receive the lion's share of any new funding.

The new program will offer the money to organizations that are "arms-length and independent of the Government. To this end, an independent panel of journalists will be established to define and promote core journalism standards, define professional journalism, and determine eligibility."

Graphic c/o AZ Quotes.

And this is where the new proposal becomes more than a little problematic. professional media is defined, at least by the online Oxford Dictionary, as "engaged in a specified activity as one's main paid occupation rather than as an amateur" such as being "a professional boxer."

Which kinda makes it sound like all you really need to be a professional, is to be paid for doing it.

Getting to the issue a little deeper, it's also worth noting that the online Oxford Dictionary defines journalism as "the activity or profession of writing for newspapers, magazines, or news websites or preparing news to be broadcast."

Which kinda makes it sound like you don't even need to be paid to be a journalist, although if you're intending to be a "professional" then you need to be paid by someone.

And the government has offered to step in to help create the next generation of professional journalists by paying them under the newly announced program.

These professional journalists (or "presstitutes," as some might call them) will receive the opportunity to join the "panel of journalists" who will help to "define and promote core journalism standards, define professional journalism, and determine eligibility."

Just so long as they don't take too much money from the government and are able to retain their "independence."

Chris Hadfield is a popular icon and regularly addresses space issues within Canada  as outlined most recently in the November 18th, 2018 CTV News post, "Astronaut Chris Hadfield calls on feds to fund Canadian space program." It’s also no surprise that media companies are excited about the hundreds of millions of dollars they can now put to good use. They must have offered something to the government’s vision of Canada that Hatfields message about funding the space industry didn’t fit into. Photo c/o CTV News.

What could possibly go wrong. Surely the plan won't prop up the legacy print media and make it more difficult for new media models to grow and become profitable.

Say it isn't so, Mr. Prime Minister!!!

Of course, it's not all bad. As outlined in the November 25th, 2018 The Conversation post, "Funding journalism means defining who’s a journalist – not a bad thing," the new program "will incentivize consumers to sign up for digital news subscriptions and subsidize publishers through a tax credit on salaries paid to journalists."

To do this, the program does need to develop standards to figure out who will receive the new funding. That seems reasonable.

On the other hand and at the time of writing neither myself nor this publication have seen any of this money (although sometimes, some of us do get paid through other sources). But I do sometimes cover meetings and events as a journalist. Usually the food is fairly good, especially at political events. We usually also get the best spots to stand to see what's going on.

The perks don't sway my personal coverage of the event.

If however, they had been handing out hundreds of million dollars I just might be inclined to speak highly of them. Since that didn't happen I will have no choice but to stick to the truth.

Graphic c/o

Here's the truth.

If you are interested in supporting real independent journalism please support the Commercial Space blog on Patreon. If you'd like to make a lump sum, one time payment please contact my editor, Chuck Black at

If you don't like this blog, then give the funding to someone else who is actually doing journalism.

Just don't expect the government to solve the problem for you. They already have too much on their plate and normally take a large percentage off the top of any contribution, in order to cover their expenses.

But if you believe in the corporate media in Canada and think that even the CBC qualifies as “independent media,” that should be supported through the funding largesse of the Federal government, then you may as well rely on a Bombardier press release to find out the truth about Montreal PQ based Bombardier Aerospace.

It won't give you any real answers or information, but I bet it has nice graphics.
Al Calder.

Al Calder is VP of special projects for the Commercial Space Blog, where he creates events focused on space industry needs.

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