A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
Contact us at democracyunderfire@gmail.com

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Future of Canadian Democracy

“Sudbury” Steve May, a green party supporter, is in the middle of writing a series of articles for his blog entitled “The Future of Canadian Democracy: A Personal Journey”. The first of these pieces just touches upon the threats to our democracy and focuses upon the inaction of our government on the “green” file, the second and third articles are more in tune with our focus upon democracy contained in these pages. Part II is subtitled Media in Crisis and contains these truths……

“Most (people) are accessing (news) through visual formats, be it on television or on the internet. The written word format lends itself to being more comprehensive than a visual format, which tends to rely on images, the more sensational the better, to tell the story, with perhaps some commentary about what it is that you’re supposed to be looking at. It’s a very powerful medium, for sure. But is it the best medium for individual citizens to inform themselves on the issues?Increasingly media outlets are moving away from “fact-based reporting” to providing infotainment. What are we losing? Well, for one thing, we’re losing smaller media outlets which can’t compete with the big boys, whether it’s because of format (local newspapers no longer being published because no one is reading them) or consolidation (local tv and radio stations closing down their shops because it’s too costly to produce local content; so if you live in Sudbury like I do, you can find out as much as you want about what’s going on in Toronto but you won’t find out what’s happening in Sudbury). For another thing, we’re losing the oversight which media used to provide us with to keep our institutions in check. Now, some might take exception to this point of view, and that’s your right, I suppose. But I’d ask that maybe you conduct a bit of a critical analysis here. First, one of the roles in which we have come to expect from media is to report the facts, expose the cover-ups, and keep us all honest, whether it’s our government or the business community, or just individuals who may have done bad things. What used to distinguish truly democratic countries from authoritarian regimes was the extent of freedom those nations allowed their media to operate within. I say that those days are long gone. Media has evolved, because media now has a different master. As a result, they are playing a different role. Media no longer answers to you, the media consumer, by providing you with facts and information. Media now answers to their shareholders, to the corporate giants which have acquired media outlets, from newspapers to radio stations to tv stations.”

Part III is subtitled “Democracy in Crisis” and expands upon this theme of media inattention and corporate bias…..

“(If) the hallmark of a healthy democracy is a healthy and free media, and our democracy is showing signs of not being healthy and so is our news media...where does that leave us? What we value in our democracy is slowly being eroded, and it is happening in tandem with what we have come to value as media oversight. It is doubtful that our democratic institutions could have ended up where they are today if the media had been more vigilant in drawing attention to what has been happening. In part, though, this has happened because we ourselves have had false expectations of the media. We really thought that they would be there for us to help us understand issues, to educate us and assist us in making up our own minds.But that’s not the media’s role. The media is there to make money for its corporate owners. And as a result of this media mandate, the truth can be and has been a casualty. And it will continue to be a casualty…………………”

“But many Canadians may not realize that our government and media might be holding something back in the truth-telling department. Many still labour under the impression that the media is there to hold our government accountable, and not simply to be its mouthpiece. Our media is free, after all, is it not? And a free media is a sign of a healthy democracy, so it’s not a problem.It’s too bad that our media is not free from interference, controlled by an increasingly powerful corporate elite. But does that alone explain why our government seems to get off easy when it comes to some of the more difficult issues? Well, keep in mind the power structure of our government. It could be said that the interests of our government happily coincide with the interests of the media-controlling corporate elite. Happily, alas, for government and the corporations, but not for you and I, the Average Canadian………………”

“What does this say about the state of our Democracy? I think it says that we’re in trouble, especially when you extrapolate existing conditions into the future based on current trends. As governments continue to become more secretive and put power in the hands of Caesar, er, their Leaders, and as the media continues to move from reporting the news to providing infotainment, where will we be in 10 years time? And do you think that we’ll have started to address those very real and important issues which we need to start getting serious about right now?I, for one, just don’t see it happening. Instead, based on current trends, I believe that the Average Canadian is going to become even less engaged in political decision-making, and that governments will continue to spin reality in self-serving ways, aided and abetted by a media which will end up looking a lot more like Entertainment Tonight…………………’’

Now whilst I cannot totally agree with Steve that the “media” is totally lacking in the desire to seek and publish the “truth” I must say that the ever increasing “news magazine” type format and the lack of reporting on some very important issues by some media is very troubling. The word “media” covers a broad range of individuals and organizations and some do a much better job than others, the independent and local newspaper, television and to some extent radio has all but gone by the wayside but individual reporters and guest contributors still on occasion do bring some balance to their articles by actually doing some real research into their pieces. Those individuals must be congratulated and supported even though what they do should be the norm. Meanwhile the power of the internet and the blogging community just might save us from ourselves, for whilst these are as many opinions as there are users out there, the corporate and government “leaders” cannot control and filter the news and opinion (yet?) expressed by the many “citizens reporters” who are now the source for so much of our information.

I look forward to Steve’s next post in this series with interest. Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

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