Manufacturing Consent

By Joey Clavette

For those who missed this Saturday’s event, we watched Manufacturing Consent: Noam  Chomsky and the Media. From its release in 1993 until 2003 when the same producers released The Corporation it was the most successful documentary in Canadian history. It can be viewed for free on YouTube here.

At 44 minutes  a list of corporations that monopolized the media was listed. I gave a brief presentation at the show, talking about this phenomenon and how pertinent it is today. In fact, the concentration of corporate media domination is much worse today, where rather than being dominated by tens of companies, there’s a meagre six companies controlling 90% of the media in the United States as shown in the picture above. Canada is not hugely different and also has an astonishingly low amount of diversity due to corporate media ownership.

A further worry is that News Corp owns all the best selling papers in most english-speaking regions of the world. This leaves monolingual english people with a shocking amount of media hegemony controlling their news.

And to make things even more local, recently in Canada Postmedia purchased Sun Media. Postmedia already owned The Ottawa Citizen and the National post, so now they have quite the monopoly in our city as far as city-wide newspapers go. Globe and Mail is relatively expensive and therefore arguably inaccessible to most people in the city and so the only real alternative is The Metro. (There is also, of course, independent media such as The Leveller, PEN, campus papers, and probably a few I don’t know about.)

One more interesting detail I found when I was researching the deal was that Postmedia had to get approval from the Competition Bureau of Canada (enshrined by the Competition Act) during its purchase.  There was some talk about whether or not the deal would stifle competition and create a monopoly, but the Bureau’s chairman cited the fact that two of the main papers in Vancouver share common ownership and that doesn’t damage the market. The thing is, though, that this isn’t really the point. The trouble with media monopolies is not that there won’t be competition and proper capitalism with free markets and low prices and all that jazz, the issue is that people can literally purchase the means of information flow and monopolize on that.

Now, to get to the issue of monopoly, the Competition act uses the word monopoly only once, and that’s in the “definitions” part of the bill’s interpretation. But the definition is missing! All mentions to monopolies were amended out of the bill in 1985 [R.S.C., 1985, c. 19 (2nd Supp.)]. And if you try to find, online, the section of this legislation which amended it out, that legislation is also amended out. At least as recently as 2003. There’s not even a citation of when it was amended out or why, and I can’t find an old enough copy of the legislation that lists why the word monopoly was removed.

Now… I’m not suggesting that there’s any conspiracy afoot here with aliens and moon-based reptiles. But regardless, I think it’s an interesting omission.




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