Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Transport and Communications
Issue 9 - Evidence - May 13, 2003
OTTAWA, Tuesday, May 13, 2003
The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications met this day at 9:37 a.m. to examine the
current state of Canadian media industries; emerging trends and developments in these industries; the media's role,
rights, and responsibilities in Canadian society; and current and appropriate future policies relating thereto.
Senator Joan Fraser (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chairman: This is a meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, which is
inquiring into the state of the Canadian news media.
The committee is examining the appropriate role of public policy in helping to ensure that the Canadian news media
remain healthy, independent, and diverse, in light of the tremendous changes that have occurred in recent years —
notably, globalization, technological change, convergence, and increased concentration of ownership.
We begin today's hearings with Professor Vince Carlin, Chair of the School of Journalism at Ryerson University,
and who, in addition to his academic work, has had extensive experience in broadcasting and print media in Quebec,
Ontario, the United States, in the public and private sectors. There is not much that he has not done, in fact.
Professor Carlin, we look forward to your introductory statement, which I expect will last about 10 minutes, then we
can go to questions. Please begin.
Mr. Vince Carlin, Chair and Associate Professor, School of Journalism, Ryerson University: It is a pleasure to be
associated with Senator Fraser again professionally. Honourable senators may not know that Senator Fraser and I
worked together as journalists more years ago then either of us will count up, but it was quite a while ago when I first
came to this country.
It is as an immigrant journalist that I am meeting with you today. As I told my colleagues, here I am a professor, the
Chair of School of Journalism at Ryerson, but I do not have a Ph.D. I do have 35 years of experience and a bachelor's
degree, so I am only entitled to notions. One must have a Ph.D. to have hypotheses. Therefore, I will share a few
notions with you as I go along.
In summary, those notions are — the obvious — everyone in this country has a Charter-protected right to an
opinion. Flowing from that, everyone has the right to valid information, which might help from that opinion.
Given Canada's size and location, next to our friends in the south, there is a demonstrated need for the public and
the national interest to be protected. Additionally, given Canada's social and political needs, there is no need for
government to get involved in content. Looking around the world and around this country, there does not appear to be
a compelling argument for allowing cross-ownership of media, particularly not in the same city. There does appear to
be a need for a mechanism to allow fresh capital to enter some of our media fields. This should be done, I submit,
without allowing control of vital public trusts to slip out of Canadian hands.
Broadcasting remains an area where some regulation is necessary to preserve space for Canadian voices amid the
cacophony of aggressive non-Canadian enterprises. The position of the CBC, one of the best broadcast journalistic
enterprises in the word, must be preserved and enhanced. Canada's journalistic experience and unique public-private
mix is actually a model for other countries. Our journalists are sought out as trainers around the world. That is a
resource to be treasured and husbanded.
Those are a few of the notions that I would like the committee to consider.
I came to Canada as a foreign correspondent in 1970 in the middle of a Quebec election, an election that brought to
power a young technocrat named Robert Bourassa. I have been involved as a journalist, a journalistic manager or a
commentator in most Quebec and Ontario elections since then, in many other provincial elections and in all national
elections since 1970.
I was transferred to Canada originally by Time magazine, an organization probably not unfamiliar to the
committee. In fact, I learned most of my journalistic practice at Time. It was back in the days when Time Incorporated
was an immensely successful unconverged publisher that urged its journalists to have nothing to do with business
people — not the business community but its own business people. I was actually once reprimanded by an editor at
Time Canada for chatting with an ad salesman. They believed in the notion — which was sort of a Time-coined phrase
for the publishing business — of the separation of church and state. Journalists were considered the church, although
there is some irony there.
The CBC recruited me to do a radio show a few years later, and I subsequently moved into television. I learned a lot
more about journalistic practice, and maybe I taught a little bit as I went along. I travelled across the country and met
Canadian journalists from all provinces and cities — broadcasters, newspaper reporters and magazine writers. I did a
couple of shows about Canadian journalism that allowed me access to the opinions and insights of people across the
country and around the world. Along the way, I became a Canadian journalist, and proudly so.
However, having been steeped in the mystique and power of the first amendment of the United States Constitution,
I was often puzzled and frustrated by some of the attitudes and regulations that, to my then American eyes, seemed to
limit our ability to report in this country.
However, I think I have lived through a renaissance in Canadian journalism, both at the CBC and elsewhere in the
country. In the last 30 years, I have seen Canadian journalists finding their own voices, divorcing themselves
individually from party affiliations, and emulating some of the better practices from the U.S. and other countries
without embracing some of the seedier elements of American or British tabloidism. Canadian lawmakers, courts and
regulators have, certainly in the last 15 years, been giving proper weight to the role of a free press in our society.
You may be aware that as late as the 1960s, some prominent Canadian journalists did double duty as advisers and
writers for politicians. The practice of giving gifts to reporters in places such as the Quebec press gallery and others had
only recently stopped when I arrived in 1970. There were at the time some very good pockets of Canadian journalism,
but I do not look back on that as our golden age.
In fact, with more than a little irony, we can see that journalism in Canada has probably never been better than it is
today — even with all its faults, which I am sure honourable senators are well able to point out. Our journalists are
better educated — and not only by journalism schools — they are better supervised and they are more highly
motivated to do ``real'' journalism than at any time in my experience. It would be sadly ironic if we let the structure of
the industry destroy the opportunity we have.
I grew up the United States in a society where journalism was an almost totally private function. Broadcast
operations in the U.S. were regulated, supposedly in the public interest, but mainly for the benefit of private operators.
There was little or no public presence on the airwaves. I noted, in reading the transcripts of your hearings, that one of
the honourable senators made reference to the presence of National Public Radio and PBS as major forces in the U.S.
In fact, if you examine those institutions in the context of the American society, they are quite small. PBS produces
very little original and public affairs programming apart from NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, a business show and some
documentaries. National Public Radio might be viewed as a growing force, but that is mainly because deregulation in
the States has allowed the private stations to stop producing local news, which was once a condition of licence. In the
U.S., if you want to listen to radio news, in large portions of the country there is very little place to go except National
When I arrived in Canada, I found a large public presence in the information field: the CBC. I must admit that,
given my American roots, I was wary of anything smacking of government involvement in an organization producing
journalism. I must admit further that watching and listening to the CBC during the October Crisis in the fall and
winter of 1970 did not do much to allay my concerns. I was outside the CBC at that time.
However, I did discover a few things as I went along. I discovered that the CBC had played a vital role in the
development of this country's culture and its cultural independence, certainly in the early and middle part of the 20th
century. That is a role it continues to play. The mistakes it made during the October Crisis, which I submit were the
result of being too responsive to government, were recognized by saner minds and the corporation set out to create a
journalistic culture in which such things would not happen or would at least be minimized. To a large extent, that effort
has been successful in that both CBC television and radio have improved considerably since that time and continue to
improve. In fact, the CBC now plays an agenda-setting role every bit as important as The Globe and Mail nationally,
the Toronto Star in Toronto and, more recently, Lord Black's National Post. We will see whether the new version
performs that role as well.
The CBC's role in that agenda setting was not really the case before the 1980s. At that time, Canada also had one of
the great newspaper ownerships around: the Southams. They made money; they performed a public service and they
produced fairly readable newspapers. Most people in this country outside of Toronto grew up reading a Southam
newspaper but, as you have heard from other witnesses, economics overtook the chain and it passed to other hands.
I am not going to argue against free markets. I am a strong believer in free markets, despite being an alumnus of a
Crown corporation and now a card-carrying university professor. Free markets are the most efficient way to distribute
most goods and services. However, it is important to remember that markets are a mechanism, not an ideology, and
unbridled markets are potentially disastrous, both economically and socially.
Governments have always had an obligation to provide certain public services and to create public space to protect
their citizens. Everyone seems to agree that governments have some role to play in regulating public thoroughfares. If
we put Ontario's Highway 403 to the side for the moment, governments limit the rights of private individuals to inhibit
the flow of traffic. The flow of information is every bit as vital to the health of society as the flow of traffic, and it is not
bizarre for governments to uphold public interests, to make public space.
What is the public interest? I would argue that public interest rests in having profitable newspaper publishing
enterprises run by people who view their product as a public trust. You have to believe that you can make a buck by
providing reliable, interesting information that will attract readers, and therefore advertisers; but the product in the
print medium is information.
This, of course, is not the model in private television. You have already heard that private television's job — and
one I do not necessarily dispute — is not information, it is to assemble as many of the right kinds of eyeballs in front of
a set to view largely entertainment programs. The product for private television is consumers; the bait is programming.
Staying with broadcasting for a moment, we do have some models in the past of highly successful companies that
actually spent a lot of money on news. CBS in its golden years — radio during the Second World War, television in the
50s and 60s — was actually a beacon of good broadcast journalism for journalists around the world. Why? Because its
owner, William Paley, liked the idea of having Edward R. Murrow and his successor, Walter Cronkite, working for
him and he was willing to spend a lot of money on what was essentially a loss leader. It was also — Paley not being
stupid — his hostage to fortune when he had to deal with the regulators at the Federal Communications Commission,
FCC in Washington.
However, those golden days have passed. News, ironically, started making money. That was the beginning of its
slide in the United States. Once it started making a profit, it had to make a profit. News divisions became profit
centres, just like entertainment and sports.
One should note that none of the American networks, even together, perform the same agenda-setting function that
the CBC does in this country. I would also argue that none of them, with exponentially more money than the CBC
English television network, does their journalistic job any better. In fact, I would submit the opposite is true.
To get back to our newspapers, Canada today is blessed with some very good newspapers for a relatively small
country. The city in which I live, Toronto, has some unbelievable riches. We sometimes forget this. We have two
national newspapers that will stand comparison to some of the best in the world in various ways. We have a local
newspaper that is strong and profitable — and probably the only one I am aware of which actually fits the ``small l''
liberal tag that Lord Black applied to most Canadian papers. It also has a feisty populist tabloid that does its job in its
field very well.
As you might guess, I like newspapers, despite having spent most of my professional career in broadcasting. I grew
up in New York, which had 14 daily newspapers when I was a kid. It now has fewer quality papers than Toronto. I am
not too fussy about the editorial views of the owners, as long as they are interesting and well written; and I certainly do
not object if they make a profit — quite the contrary. However, I do care if that opinion is the only one I am likely to
see with any frequency, and if the journalists who work on the paper do not feel free to pursue any line of inquiry that
seems to be in the public interest.
We have heard monopoly owners in this country — monopoly in certain cities — say that if their employees are
unhappy, they can quit. That was directed at employees in Saskatchewan, where there was not really any other
employer to go work for in the print field — and certainly a limited number, including the same employer, in
broadcasting. I would submit that is not a real choice.
How do we develop a system that allows companies to make a healthy profit and minimizes of level of arrogance
and influence from any one organization? It does not get done by regulating print content in any way. Getting
regulators involved in the content of things is unacceptable.
However, it would be sound public policy to create a framework for varied content and opinion to flourish. The
object should be for the public to set public policy goals and then maximize the ability of owners to make reasonable
profits. We should strive to find a mechanism for access to capital from international sources without surrendering
I differ from many of my academic colleagues, I think, by trying to understand the economic realities that are
inherent in trying to preserve pure Canadian ownership. It is difficult for us to complain about the narrowness of
Canadian ownership without acknowledging that there are very few pools of capital in this country willing to enter the
newspaper business. It is a real conundrum that we all have to face: How do you allow access to capital from here or
elsewhere without surrendering control of vital cultural resources? It is a real challenge. I am not sure I have the
answer, but I am persuaded that, in the newspaper business certainly, we have to balance those needs. Getting
regulators involved, as I said, is not the answer.
If we cannot have access to those pools of people interested in the newspaper business, ownership passes to people
whose interests and expertise are often in a quite different business. In Canada, of course, we have seen phones and
broadcasting as examples. I have to confess to a sentimental affection for people who actually understand and like the
newspaper business. I harp on the newspaper business because, despite my admiration and respect for the CBC, the
underpinning of our information chain is still newspapers in this country. I have affection for people who understand
and like the newspaper business.
Lord Black of Cross Harbour — no matter whether one agrees with his views or not — is a person who seems to like
the newspaper business and newspapers. His creation, the National Post, a bold venture — really you cannot overstate
how bold a venture that was — was a paper with whose editorial opinion I disagree quite vigorously most of the time,
but whose aggressiveness and style in writing can only be admired. Let us hope that the newer owners — experts in
commercial television advertising — can preserve some of those virtues that the paper had.
I was happy to see this morning and yesterday, that they are actually considering continuing their investigative
reporting on a topic that has often been sensitive within that newspaper chain.
On the broadcasting side, we should stop playing a numbers game with the wrong numbers. In reading some of the
testimony and questions at the committee here, I have seen both witnesses and honourable senators talk about the
CBC television's 7 per cent share of audience. I sometimes got the impression that people thought it was ``defined 7 per
cent.'' You could line them up and there they were; that was the only 7 per cent that watched the CBC. Well, it is not. It
is a whole raft of different people who come to the set at various times for various reasons — some for hockey, others
for operas and dramas and news that cannot be accessed anywhere else. Some, of all ages, come for Canadian history,
which will nourish all of us in our understanding of the country; and for Canadian political events, which still inspire
deep interest among a broad range of Canadians.
Let us have, as a matter of public policy, a clear statement of the vital need for continued public presence in
broadcasting and for continued public interest in how our system is managed. Yes, the Internet may make a difference
in time, but just look at how the Internet has changed in the last few years. It was previously viewed as a free-for-all;
anyone could get on, anyone could get off. It was a panoply of stuff uncontrolled and uncontrollable. Major elements
of it are being brought under corporate control as we speak — and in various ways, like the U.S. Patriot Act, under
government surveillance. The New Jerusalem in our information age has not been reached yet; we still have a long way
to go on the Internet.
Let us not abandon the broadcast system to an unregulated free-for-all. The result of that would not be diversity but
oligopoly. In fact, let us strengthen that system in certain ways, primarily by reintroducing a prohibition on cross-
ownership, particularly in the same cities in this country.
For all journalists, I would endorse the notion of some national reference point for accountability — not to a
government, but to a representative or representatives of the public. Owners and journalists have rights, to be sure, but
neither have license. People who feel ill-used by journalism should have the ability to complain to someone who at least
has the moral authority to hold them to account.
It is interesting to note that among the dwindling — dare I say invisible — number of Canadian ombudsmen, one of
the more effective is at the CBC and one of the most effective ombudsmen in the states at National Public Radio is a
former CBC journalist, Jeffrey Dvorkin.
As other witnesses have noted, this country has a lot to export — not just wood and wheat. We export our
journalists, who work for most of the major newspaper and broadcasting enterprises in the world. We also export our
journalistic trainers. When South Africa had its first democratic election in the last decade, the people advising the
South African Broadcasting Corporation — both radio and television — on how to set up democratic elections were
Canadians. I happened to be one of them. The South Africans looked around the world to see which country practiced
journalism in a manner that they wanted to emulate. They came to Canada to find that expertise. It happens all the
time, every day. We have wonderful skills in journalism, skills from which other countries in the world can benefit. I
would suggest that the honourable senators would like to look at a system where those skills and interests would not be
submerged into a system dominated by very few, very large corporations.
Those are a few of the notions I have distilled from my time. I submit myself to your questions.
The Chairman: They were challenging notions, well worth listening to.
Senator Spivak: What is the mechanism to ensure that Canadians understand the value of the public broadcaster? In
my part of the country, there is a lot of bashing of the CBC.
One of our witnesses compared the CBC with the British broadcasting system and pointed out how successful that
system has been in maintaining its status and in having spin-offs as well. I wonder about your view on that.
Mr. Carlin: Taking the last part first, the BBC is a remarkably successful organization. I think it has about seven or
eight times the budget of the CBC, in a country that is not seven or eight times as large. That is a significant fact not to
The BBC has a whole channel dedicated to minority programming. We see here — either on TVO, the CBC, or
through the cable on PBS — British dramas that look wonderful but are played to often small audiences in Britain and
subsidized by the BBC, by the public, who thought they were worth doing. That is something to keep in mind. They
spend a lot of money creating that public space, therefore being able to do spin-offs.
Some of the witnesses have talked about the business model we have here in Canada, which does not allow either the
public or the private broadcasters to fail as much as, say, the Americans can. For every American sitcom that ends up
on the air, there are somewhere between 50 and 100 that fail. That cannot happen here; it is a one-to-one game. The
program director at the CBC tries to nurture every script onto the air because the money is big.
Senator Spivak: Do you think it is a largely a question of money?
Mr. Carlin: It is money and space — creating public space.
Senator Spivak: It is interesting to hear you say that. PBS, it is true, does not make its own productions, more or
less. I understand at the moment that CBC studios are just standing empty. Because of lack of money and the way in
which policy has been directed, there is not the number of productions that have previously been there, except for
export. Is this accurate?
Mr. Carlin: The beautiful studios of the broadcast centre in Toronto are now used mainly by visiting American
movies of the week and so on. It is nice they are doing business and helping to pay the freight; however, many of us feel
it would be nicer if they were filled with Canadian productions — and not Canadian productions that always have to
hit a home run. That is where our problem lies. Our Canadians productions always have to hit a home run or they die.
A private broadcaster will carry them for a little while to get past the next round of licence hearings and then let it go
away. We need space to tell big and small stories, mostly in drama.
In terms of CBC bashing, that is like disliking Toronto. That is the birthright of every Canadian who does not work
for the CBC or does not come from Toronto. You have a right. As a public institution, the corporation has to be open
to all manner of criticism. It has to respond to that.
People also have to be realistic. I do not know if you circulated what I have done in the past, the sins I have
committed before, but at various times I was head of both CBC television news and CBC radio news. As head of
television news, I got complaints from all over the country, saying, ``You do not cover us enough on the National.'' I
have studied that multiple times and the most under-covered region in the country is Toronto. With all due respect,
people in Regina or Red Deer or Happy Valley, Goose Bay — which during my time was the most over-covered place
in Canada — do not want to hear that. We try to balance it out so that regions were reflected to each other and their
significant stories were covered.
I should explain my Happy Valley—Goose Bay remark. I received a complaint when I was the head of television
news many years ago from someone in Happy Valley saying that they never appear on the National. ``This is terrible.
Will you do something about that?'' I did a study and counted up the number of CBC journalists. CBC had a radio
station in Happy Valley—Goose Bay, and there was a TV operation there inherited as part of the Confederation. They
inherited all these radio and TV people and had more journalists in Happy Valley—Goose Bay than in CBC Toronto
for the local radio station. I pointed that out, but she was not happy. She wanted to be on the National. That is what
counted. You have to take that.
They also have to reach out. Ironically, the CBC has always been terrible about communicating their message. I do
not know why one of the best communications organizations around cannot get its own message out, but that has been
a problem for successive administrations at the CBC.
Senator Spivak: With regard to the 7 per cent, someone else who came here said that in television, fragmentation is
going on like crazy. Smaller audiences are no longer a good reason to talk about whether someone has succeeded or
not because we are targeting various segments of the population in all sorts of channels.
Mr. Carlin: The CBC and I argued this inside before a real fragmentation took place. The CBC should be the
Canadian specialty channel. That is what its function should be. They have taken steps in that regard. They air
programming from which any sane private broadcaster would run screaming from. On Thursday nights, they put on
operas. No private broadcaster would do that unless Madonna is singing the lead role. Many of us — maybe not huge
bulk numbers, but important for our culture — believe that is the function of a public broadcaster.
Senator Banks: Perhaps the whole problem of convergence of ownership will go away because it is turning out in
most cases not to be a particularly good idea business wise. When Time, AOL and Warner merged, everyone thought it
would be the greatest thing since the wheel, and it is not. Maybe it will go away by itself.
It used to be the case with respect to broadcast journalism that there was a policy of prohibition of cross-ownership.
You could not get a broadcast licence if you were very much involved in journalism. You certainly could not get a
television licence if you had a radio licence. The philosophy then at the CRTC — and before that, the BBG and before
that, the CBC — was that they did not allow cross-ownership in media, particularly, within a given market.
Why do you suppose that changed? If, as you suggest, it is a good idea to reintroduce it, what made it go away in the
first place? We used to do that.
Mr. Carlin: That is more of a political question than anything else. If memory serves, the government did want to
have that as an instruction to the CRTC, but it lapsed in a change of government. There are people who do not think it
is a good idea and that companies should be free to move from one medium to another without being unduly
hampered by regulation. Too much regulation is not a good thing, but we are talking about areas so vital to Canadian
interests that a reasonable amount of regulation is appropriate.
We have seen what is happening in the United States where huge enterprises are controlling hundreds of radio
stations, for instance. If reports are correct, they seem to be heading toward removing restrictions, which will further
concentrate ownership into very few hands. I submit that is not a healthy result of competition. We should try to
separate these large groupings into their various media feeds and not allow one company to dominate virtually all of
the media outlets in any given city. We have numerous examples here in Canada.
Senator Banks: Yes, but as you pointed out, in English-speaking Canada, except for the City of Toronto, for many
years most people who read a daily broadsheet newspaper were reading a Southam paper. I do not think you could
argue that at any time the publics of those respective cities in English Canada were ill-served. I think that the
ownership of those newspapers demonstrably did not interfere with the local news coverage, the editorial attitudes and
the views of the newspapers. In fact, as you said, it was an admirable example of good, responsible media ownership.
Mr. Carlin: The issue of whether you can stimulate competition in any given city in one field such as newspapers is
one thing. I am not sure that is possible. People often had other choices. Winnipeg had several newspapers, as did
Calgary and so on. The economic model does not seem to be there to support that.
I was talking about the total dominance of media; cross-ownership of newspapers and broadcasting enterprises that
achieve some level of dominance within any given place. I do not think we can nor would it be wise to try to undo the
reality of the Canadian newspaper business in terms of what it takes to compete in any given area.
We have seen people who are still willing to get into the market, who take smaller groupings. That stimulates
competition and that is a healthy sign.
Senator Banks: Is there an example of any market in which ownership of different media in that particular market
has ill-served the conveyance of news? Is there something wrong that needs to be fixed?
Mr. Carlin: Potentially, there is. You made an interesting point about the way the Southams ran their papers where
the local publisher had discretion in responding to local events. We may be seeing the rise of a different model. We
need to see how this plays out, but the model that seems to be evolving at CanWest is slightly different. They like the
efficiency and the impact of dealing more centrally with both editorial opinion and business matters. That may be an
efficient business model. It remains to be seen whether it is the best journalistic model that might evolve in this country.
Senator Banks: In respect of newspapers, that is true. As far as their broadcasting undertakings, they are constrained
with respect to editorial opinions. It seems to me there are constraints on editorial views in broadcasting. You have to
be balanced because it is a public trust.
Mr. Carlin: You can complain to the CRTC about certain things, but stations are free to program as they see fit.
There are certain provisions of libel and slander and, during political campaigns, balance and so on, but that does not
prevent them from having opinions.
Senator Banks: Should it?
Mr. Carlin: No, I am enough of a libertarian. I do not like governments or regulators getting involved in opinions.
The public interest should be to create frameworks in which opinions can grow and flourish. I would not want the
government saying you can or cannot say this. Despite my belief in a public broadcaster, I am not a believer in public
The CBC grew organically in this country, once it was created and sort of force-fed by the Conservative
government. I do not think imposing a state-created newspaper at this point in history is necessarily an advance. We
create a system where there is space for people to grow and compete in markets, not dominated by an oligopoly.
Senator Banks: You obviously thought about the idea of having access to international capital without losing
control. Is that not an oxymoron?
Mr. Carlin: I cannot confess I have come up with the best model. A long time ago I was interviewing Conrad Black,
as he was then known, and he did not own any Canadian newspapers in those days. I asked him why he did not own
any Canadian papers, and he explained it to me. He said he would not mind, but there are only five people who have
enough money or interest to own Canadian papers, and they are not selling at the moment. That is it. You are
constrained. He had no other way to get into it. There were not enough pools of Canadians money to diversify. It is a
troublesome situation. There is an economic reality that we can sit here and complain about the narrowness of
ownership in Canada, but the solution seems to be to open it up. Let the Gannetts and the other big American
companies come in. For a group such as this, that is a serious public policy question: How much? How far? How
Would I rather have a debate with Lord Black or someone from The Globe and Mail as opposed to someone from
the Gannett Corporation? Probably. Their interest is strictly financial as opposed to some vestige of interest in the
development of the social and political institution of the country.
Senator Banks: Every country has restrictions on broadcast ownership. A Canadian owns the Times of London, and
an Australian owns The New York Post.
Mr. Carlin: The U.S. historically had restrictions on ownership as well. They had to pass a special law to allow Mr.
Murdoch to own the broadcasting enterprise. There had been a restriction on cross-ownership in the United States.
Senator Banks: Is there any restriction on newspaper ownership in any country?
Mr. Carlin: Certainly. In many countries you must obtain a license from the government to own a newspaper.
Senator Banks: Are there any Western democracies with ownership restrictions?
Mr. Carlin: Not to my knowledge. I would have to ponder that one a bit.
The Chairman: We plan to look at how other countries have tackled these issues.
I will continue on the cross-ownership versus foreign capital dilemma. It is true that we once banned cross-
ownership. We stopped doing that with the result that now there is an enormous amount of it. Many companies have
cross-ownership in many parts of the country.
Are you saying that those omelettes should somehow be unscrambled? If so, what will that do to the health of the
industries that have now been unscrambled? Presumably, there were sound economic reasons — I am being a bit of
devil's advocate — for cross-ownership to occur in the first place. It was not just done out of some kind of charitable
instinct. Short of bringing in Gannett and Murdoch and having Global TV turn into ``Fox News north,'' how do you
get from here to where you want to go?
Mr. Carlin: You might say that it is unscrambling the omelette. I would prefer to call it a phased withdrawal.
Whether there was a compelling economic argument should be left to some of the companies to determine.
I gave a presentation in Calgary after Bell Enterprises had bought CTV and The Globe and Mail and other
companies. This was the wave of the future. I was somewhat unpopular because I said that merely because Bell
Enterprises did it does not make it a smart business deal. Why do we assume it was a smart business deal? My position
was that current events and the future would determine whether it had been a smart business deal.
Even if it were a smart business deal — which is arguable — is it in the best interests of the public? Merely because it
is done does not mean that you should not make efforts to either undo it if it is harmful or prevent it from happening
If our main concern is cross-ownership of broadcasting and newspaper enterprises, do we use a regulatory tool? You
can do it in a phased way as licences come due. I would suggest that that something we should study. We should not
shy away from doing what is good public policy simply because some of the short-term effects might be messy.
Senator Ringuette: In your very interesting career you had the opportunity to be director of CBC-TV news and radio
news. Was that at the same time?
Mr. Carlin: Separate times.
Senator Ringuette: During that experience, was there any sharing of the news between the TV group and the radio
Mr. Carlin: Yes, to a degree. In fact, CBC early attempted some convergence. It tried to bring them together. This is
an old argument — both internally and externally. I will confess that I am not a huge believer in the convergence of the
The CBC tries to do both jobs as well as they can. It is one of the few organizations remaining that actually does
radio news in a formal way and has extended reports, not just clips. We have the BBC, NPR and the CBC. Those are
about the only ones left.
A good script for radio news would make little sense on television. If you write a television report well, it should
make no sense on radio. People from the outside ask why they do not do the same thing. If you do, it will make bad
television and bad radio.
You have to find the occasions where the two can join. Live broadcast is one area that can be shared as is sharing
resources by covering a story together and sharing information. There are ways that you can share. However, the
actual journalistic acts are separate if they are done well. It is not as easy as it sounds. It ends up being a detriment to
the craft in both. However, it is easy to say that it all journalism. It is all done with microphones so put it all out
That being said, to make good use of public money you do have to find the areas where they do intersect and where
you can use the resources of both. I was always on that side in the corporation — not always popularly though. It is a
firm belief of mine.
Senator Ringuette: I would certainly agree with your comments that to make good use of public money you must
sometimes maximize the use of your resources.
However, I am somewhat perplexed that you said that we should prohibit cross-ownership within the same city.
How does one say that the most efficient use of public funds is required, but we cannot expect the same standards or
the same efficiencies of cross-ownership within a city?
Mr. Carlin: I am not sure I understand the question. If you are saying that that regulation would prohibit the
absolute maximization of the profit potential of a private corporation, that is true.
The Chairman: Is there a difference between the kind of inter-media cooperation that you describe within the CBC
and the kind of inter-media cooperation that some private cross-ownered corporations are doing?
Mr. Carlin: The difference is that one is a public corporation and one is a private corporation.
The Chairman: These have different motives and different audiences?
Mr. Carlin: Yes. Previous witnesses have said that in television — and radio too —that the objective of the public
broadcaster is to assemble citizens in front of the tube in various groupings. The overwhelming objective of private
broadcasting is to assemble consumers in front of the television to sell them products. There is nothing wrong with
that. However, the two approaches to programming and information are quite different.
There is space for public enterprise — as there should be. There are regulations and there is a board of governors of
the CBC, which is quite active in voicing its views. Thus, there is a structure and a regulator to keep surveillance of the
Senator Ringuette: I certainly want my tax dollars to be well spent and my investment to be maximized. I see no
difference between the standards, approaches and the business models that we expect from a public institution and the
private ones. We differ in our beliefs.
Mr. Carlin: You may invest in any number of businesses that are regulated in one way or another and that, through
regulation, have their profit potential limited, although that profit may be healthy. You need only to pick a business.
Senator Eyton: You and other witnesses have expressed concern about cross-ownership in its various guises. I will
use a particular example. I have never seen any evidence that an attitude expressed by Global Television in general was
reflected in any way in the National Post. Is there evidence of this cross-ownership and a commonality of view that
reduces the diversity of information generally available to the Canadian public?
Mr. Carlin: To my knowledge, there is no academic study to prove this, although there is anecdotal evidence.
My concern is actually with the flow of information in a more subtle way. If you are a journalist working in a city in
which there is only one effective employer, your ability to quit is somewhat limited. Good journalists — as we have
seen recently — who have left The Globe and Mail to go to the National Post for example, need the ability to pursue
lines of inquiry. If they do not have the freedom to move from one place to another, this is a true inhibition. It is a
chilling effect on any given location if there is a dominant employer in that location. Telling a reporter in Saskatoon to
go and get another news reporting job is moot because there is no other employer to go to in the industry. That
reporter would have to uproot his family and move if that happened.
Senator Eyton: People have left Global Television and gone to work for the National Post. I would have thought
that they were managed separately and would reflect different values.
Mr. Carlin: They were managed separately until now but we will have to see how things unfold. They have been
taken more closely into the corporate embrace, I think.
Senator Eyton: On a slightly different line of questioning, we all agree that we are looking for media that is
entertaining, well-spoken and intelligent and that reflects a diversity of view. Diversity alone has market value.
How do journalism schools play into that? There are arguments for and against journalism schools. In looking for
diversity and well-informed and intelligent comments, do the journalism schools assist in achieving those values?
Mr. Carlin: I think they assist but they are not the only bastions of that. I am not sure if this has been expressed at
the table much — although Tom Kent and others may have approached it — but journalism is a funny and unique
discipline. It is not about itself but rather it is about everything else. Journalism fits uneasily into the traditional
university for instance. The professoriate — whether at the University of Toronto or at Colombia, which had a recent
controversy — do not know what to do with these people because they do not study the sacred texts of their own
discipline. For journalists, it is about everything else; it is more a ``habit of mind.'' How could that truly be an academic
discipline? Well, it cannot be, in many ways.
As an endeavour, journalism cannot and should not be regulated. That is my firm belief. You should not have a
system whereby someone is stamped as a journalist.
Senator Eyton: Are journalism schools different from one another?
Mr. Carlin: Yes, each school that I know of has its own emphasis in one way or another. Some of them are graduate
schools; some, such as Ryerson University, have both an undergraduate and post-graduate component, as has
Carleton University. They play it in different ways.
To be honest, an undergraduate journalism education is only good for those students who truly know what they
want to do. It is too difficult to spend four years doing that otherwise. They receive a fairly balanced education. Others
steep themselves in some particular discipline such as English literature, architecture and anthropology — it does not
matter — but they have the habit of mind of wanting to find out things and tell other people about it. That is the
essence of a journalist. Therefore, journalism schools are part of a menu, or panoply, of choices by which people find
their way into the craft. Journalism, as you know, is part craft, part science and part art.
Senator Eyton: How would your students feel about the issues that this committee is trying to consider? Would they
have formed views?
When I was coming up to graduation at the University of Toronto Law School, I looked out at the great universe in
the legal world and saw very clear choices about where I wanted to go and the kind of law that I wanted to practice.
What is the similar process for journalism students?
Mr. Carlin: Until recently, I have benefitted, during my five years as Chair at Ryerson, from Lord Black's creation
because the students graduating in Toronto saw an incredibly vigorous, lively newspaper war that was scooping up
graduates of the school like crazy. In that sense, it was great for my business.
These days, as the hiring binge has slowed down, there may be a different view. It is a little more difficult to find a
job but they simply have to find other ways of doing it. I have noticed that some of our students have chosen to attend
graduate school or law school for a while. There is still much employment available.
In my time, we have tried to teach our students the non-journalistic portion of curriculum. We have broadened the
intellectual base of the curriculum thereby allowing students to pursue minors in a whole range of fields so that they
graduate with a deeper knowledge than craft. We are able to teach the craft of journalism very well but students need
that additional background.
We try to teach them to be responsible, fearless and realistic. I teach broadcasting classes and I have pointed out to
the students that many jobs in broadcasting and television are in the private sector and that there are excellent private
sector employers. There are good journalists at CTV, Global and other places in the states, as well as here. There are
places to go and things to do. How would you feel, coming out of law school, if all the jobs in the country were
controlled by two law firms?
Senator Eyton: At the time they were, I thought.
What would be the first choice for students graduating? Is CBC the first choice?
Mr. Carlin: We teach magazine journalism, newspaper journalism and broadcasting.
Senator Eyton: Let us say in broadcasting.
Mr. Carlin: In broadcasting, most people would choose the CBC. I have travelled around the world and studied the
mechanisms of journalism and, even among very well respected public broadcasters, the CBC was, in the 25 years I was
there, the freest place to practice journalism that I know of. It was a wonderful place to be a journalist. Management
tried to keep track of you — albeit not always successfully — and you really were encouraged to pursue your thoughts.
Successive governments in the last 25 to 30 years have actually tried to maintain a proper distance from the
corporation. Every politician likes to try to manipulate journalists — that is part of the game — but governments and
the administration of the CBC were pretty successful in that time in trying to preserve journalistic balance. I do not say
one government or another; I think it has applied equally to successive governments. There was a pretty good sense of
balance. It was a very Canadian kind of thing, which is one of the things I like.
Senator Eyton: I listen regularly to the CBC, particularly Radio One. They anger me most of the time, but I find
myself listening to them most of the time as well.
Senator Hubley: We have discussed the larger picture here, but I am wondering about the smaller community
newspapers. I come from the Atlantic region where we have a lot of very small traditional and successful newspapers.
Could you comment on how the emerging trends within the Canadian media will affect those smaller newspapers?
Mr. Carlin: The main trend that I have seen is larger entities buying up the smaller newspapers and not merging
them but creating a commonality of some kind throughout various regions.
I live outside of Toronto in Oakville, Ontario, which is a very large town. It is a town bigger than most cities in the
country. There are 130,000 people now in Oakville, which still calls itself a town. It has a very high rate of literacy and a
fairly affluent community. When I moved there more than 20 years ago, there were two newspapers just for Oakville.
One was a daily and one was twice weekly. With all the money, all the time and all the interest that has flowed under
the bridge since then, we now have one newspaper for the whole town, which was once a weekly but is now published a
couple of times a week. Its main purpose is to deliver to my door the advertising flyers of the local grocer. It is huge and
thick, with but a modicum of news — certainly not reflective of the resources that the paper should have for what is a
successful operation. It is ultimately owned by The Toronto Star. They bought up all the newspapers in a ridge running
from Hamilton to Oshawa. Virtually all of those local newspapers are owned by Torstar, and you will find similar
things growing in various locations.
I once did a documentary about why Lord Black owned all these little bitty newspapers in the United States as part
of the Hollinger group. They had dozens of these little papers and I wondered how it could be economic. It was a
lesson both there and here in the economics of local newspapers.
Almost all the papers that were set, finally, into big enough groupings that it would interest someone like Hollinger
had been family-owned newspapers sufficient to provide quite a nice living for a single family. Traditionally the son
came back from the war, ran the paper for the next 30 years, had children and suddenly had to split up this very
successful but relatively small enterprise into four or five. The only way this person could benefit from the energy and
the time they put into it was to sell to a larger grouping.
I also discovered that 15 years ago some of these papers in towns of 10,000 people were turning over about $1
million. There was no competing television station or anything, and the profit margin was almost 50 per cent. That was
not a bad business. For an individual, that was a very nice living. For a family enterprise with four or five heads of
households, it was not as good. For a company, amassing 50 of them in one area alone, it starts to be mildly
Unfortunately, the family-owned businesses are largely disappearing. When someone tries to compete with the
chains, they kind of roll over. The chains cut their advertising rates for a little while, although they never quite enough
to get the attention of the combines investigation people, and they drive the individuals out of business.
That is the trend I see. I wish I had an answer to that, but I am not sure I have one that would be easily applicable to
make any kind of economic sense.
Senator Hubley: The small community newspapers reflect so much the character of the people of the communities.
There are 1,200 people living in Kensington, where we have our own newspaper, the County Line Courier. The same
thing is happening in television with the cable stations. I do not want to use the word ``folksy,'' but they do tend to give
the public in that area a sense that they are telling their story and perhaps they do not get that in other newspapers.
Maybe there will be journalists with an entrepreneurial spirit who will see the need for those small newspapers and
come in behind these larger companies.
Mr. Carlin: It might be easier in your area. It is much more difficult in areas where there are these larger
corporations at play because the economics of local advertising is very difficult. If you have a dominant player, they
can lose a few dollars for a little while, but that will strangle you as an entrepreneur.
The Chairman: Professor Carlin, thank you very much indeed. One never has the time to address all the questions.
Would you write us a letter to answer another question that we did not get to?
Mr. Carlin: Certainly.
The Chairman: You referred in your opening remarks to a national reference point for accountability, hastening to
say that this should not involve government control but that it should be independent, arm's length and so forth.
Could you explain a little more about what you had in mind?
Mr. Carlin: I would be happy to.
The Chairman: Thank you very much for your appearance here today. You have given us much to think about and
we are very grateful.
Our next witnesses are Carolyn Newman and Charly Smith. They have recently conducted research in the field of
news addressed to youth, including the planning of programming for youth and research into youth attitudes toward
Perhaps I should note that Carolyn Newman is a former student of Professor Carlin. They will be participating in
the Canadian Association of Journalists' national conference in Toronto where they will be telling the story they will
tell us now. Thank you for meeting with us today. We look forward to your introductory remarks.
Ms. Carolyn Newman, Independant Producer, as an individual: Thank you, Madam Chairman and honourable
senators, for the invitation to appear before this committee. Over the last four years, my colleague Ms. Smith and I
have been researching Canadian teenagers' views on the media, news and current affairs — both Canadian and
American. We are here today to talk about the following subjects: How teens view media; how the media portrays
them; what is news to teens; and finally, a case study on independent production for youth news and current affairs
To start off today's panel, I quote a fifteen-year-old woman named Paloma, from Montreal, whom we met during
our interviews with young people across Canada in news and media:
I am fed up with the state of today's television, Canadian no less. TV is second to none when it comes to the
distribution of ideas. This is clearly displayed by the phenomenon of advertising. Why do corporations choose to
advertise their goods and service on television? Because they know they can reach a gigantic audience through
this medium. I implore you, the CBC, to take advantage of this ability and use your network for something other
than the promotion of cars. Give us a voice. And I hope you recognize that today's youth is not just another
target audience, a bunch of automatic consumers, but a powerful force to be reckoned with.
The majority of teens we spoke to understand the overall landscape that is Canada's television industry. They have
said to us that they understand American programming is better because it has more money and better production
values. As Canadian TV consumers, they know what they want; and that is exactly why they told us they watch U.S.
TV versus Canadian programming.
What is the cultural impact? For most of the teens we talked to, if it is Canadian, it is uncool. Why? In their words,
``Canadian programming is crap because it looks cheap, and over-emphasized in its content the fact that it is
Canadian.'' That is in their own words.
We believe that, in general, the media are afraid of the power of young people, as they are a culture unto themselves
that is passionate, unruly, and full of the cold, hard, politically incorrect truth. The problem with teenagers is that if
you ask, be prepared for the answer. You have asked, so here it is.
When asked about the news media and what they did and did not like about the coverage of, for example, the Iraq
conflict, this is what most teens had to say:
``I think there should be different opinions and more on how it is affecting Canadians and Americans.'' This is
``I feel like I do not get the whole story. I think there should be different opinions and more background information
on causes of war.'' This is Hyla, 16.
``I hate the biased opinion shown by CNN and other media. They are so one-sided and I can see through it,'' says
``A lot of stations get very biased. It is hard to determine what is true and what is not. You always have to question
what is being left out.'' This is Caitlin, 17.
``I may have taken an interest in keeping informed about events if I thought I could find even one story or actual fact
was truly unbiased. Unfortunately, I have not. My not watching the events on television or buying a newspaper is a
way I can boycott all that I find wrong with the entire media situation.'' This is Sarah, 19.
As you can hear from these responses, young people do not trust the media or its editorial process. Do you blame
them? Teens are sidelined and under-represented except when comes to stereotypes such as hiphoppers, party girls,
skateboarders, dot-com geeks or Goths with machine guns.
Finally, the media ignores them and then, in turn, asks, why do they ignore us? All these young people are looking
for answers and asking questions. Their minds are active. Teens today are not naive, blinded or apathetic. They are
perceptive, keenly aware and very intuitive when it comes to media.
The problem is not that teens do not want to participate; the problem is that mainstream media does not want to
play unless it is by mainstream media rules. Teens do not watch the news because the news does not show them how
news stories impact their lives. News is speaking at them, not with them. That is a problem.
Teens would be interested in watching something on politics, for example, if you took a common problem and
showed how it actually affects them in their day-to-day lives. For example, on the crisis in education, the teens we have
talked with would like to see politicians answer their questions. They want the media to put it in context and telling
stories in a way that they can relate to.
Young people want to see positive stories and action from their news — action and reaction, which is different than
the impartial stance of adult media. Different voices and cultures call for different methods of news delivery, and
should be considered as legitimate and necessary as regular news shows — even if it seems unorthodox by
It is not as if young people do not want to hear, see or express themselves. It is through their critiques of journalism
that we believe that they have actually seized on the fundamental crux of one of the problems in media today: Make it
relate to me. What this translates to, from a journalistic editorial perspective, is a critical need for more voices on
Ms. Charly Smith, Independent Producer, as an individual: Many have come and spoken eloquently about saving the
culture and heritage of distinctive Canadian communities, but there has always been one group left out of discussions
on diversity in news and current affairs. Teens are the most ignored and underserved group when it comes to seeing
themselves on news and current affairs shows in this country. They have been largely ignored when it comes to public
policy and thereby marginalized since TV first started over 50 years ago.
Why is this the case? According to some in the broadcast industry, teenagers are not interested in the news. To
others, teens present too much of a risk. They are, as has oft been quoted, too hard to nail down. Furthermore, there is
no separate fund to encourage independent producers or broadcasters to create this kind of programming. The result is
a lack of voice and choice for teens on national airwaves.
Culturally, Canada is weakening itself by not offering news and current affairs shows that appeal, engage or reflect
Canada's next generation of leaders. Speaking as independent producers, we have found the process of getting a news
and current affairs show for teens to air is made almost impossible by the industry.
Permit me, if you will, to tell you a story about an idea that could have given a national voice to Canada's youth. It
was called Renegadz, and it is an excellent case study on how news and current affairs programming and convergence
are not encouraged within Canada.
Renegadz was our vision. It was an idea for a multi-platform, for youth-by youth, independent communication
system. It included a television show and a dot-com. The concept received an award from the Canadian Association of
Broadcasters, a broadcast licence with the CBC, and interest from one of Canada's largest telecommunications
companies to support the new media side of the project. However, due to the lack of funding for news and current
affairs-style shows within Canada's government funding organizations, Renegadz was shot down by the Canadian
Even though the Renegadz concept won an award for its business plan, secured Licence Fee Program, LFP, money
— the sister fund to the Equity Investment Program, EIP — Shaw funding and a maximum licence fee from CBC, the
EIP still saw news and current affairs programming as an unwise investment because of its format.
Our struggles with the television funds were just one aspect of the level of difficulty facing producers in this genre of
programming. The other hurdle we faced was in trying to get the dot-com component of Renegadz funded — a
necessity for a youth news and current affairs project. When a broadcaster is interested in a television property, it will
commit a certain amount of money to develop a pilot. However, when it comes to research and development for the
on-line component of a show, there is no financial support from the broadcasters for development in this medium.
Broadcasters expect that any show they pick up has plans for a Web site, with or without their financial support.
The next hurdle in getting a dot-com funded is the lack of a clear plan by broadcasters in how on-line components
should be run, what content can and cannot appear on-line, and who owns what. The onus, therefore, is on the
producers to ensure that the dot-com plans are there, and that the Web site is funded. In our case, we attempted to
bring the CBC together with one of Canada's largest telecommunications companies to underwrite certain Web site
expenses. It was through this process that we discovered that, unless you are owned and developed in-house by a CTV,
CBC, Global or Alliance Atlantis, being convergent is not feasible for independent producers because of costs and lack
of funding options. In our minds, convergence was supposed to be about joint partnerships of media over projects —
not consolidation of conglomerates.
Our experience is echoed by hundreds of independent producers across this country. In a report produced by
Delvinia in 2001 entitled ``Filling the Pipe'' Stimulating Canada's Broadband Content Industry through R&D,'' a
If we don't make the commitment, and make it a sustained commitment to the process, we're going to get killed.
We're absolutely going to get killed in Canada. We'll lose our advantage, our competitive advantage in the world,
and we're not going to be able to leverage that from what we already have, which is recognition as the world's
most connected country. We have to do it now and we have to do it quickly...
Ms. Newman: Renegadz is one of many voices that has been silenced because there was no support from the
government to get them heard. I share a quote from Chris, age 19:
It is important for young people to share their stories with one another. Take me for example. I was in foster care.
I had a rough time. I am passionate about talking about what happened to me and other young people tell me it
helps them. I think it would be so cool on a national network.
Honourable senators, we urge you to take action on several fronts. First, create funding for independent news and
current affairs television and new media programming with a pocket for youth. Second, there must be harmonization
of the new media and television funds. Third, we suggest increasing transparency in the decision-making processes in
all matters of media that are publicly financed.
As you can tell this is not just a career or project for Ms. Smith and myself. It is a passion. We need a voice that is
independent, real, raw and rebellious as they are.
The Chairman: That is fascinating. You made some interesting points. I have a number of questions for you, but let
me try first to understand what Renegadz would have been. Would it have been a news show about young people?
Ms. Newman: It was a news and current affairs show for young people by young people. Renegadz was a
communication system that had several components. The television show was the cornerstone because as we all know
television is a powerful medium. Therefore, there was an interactive back end, which was the dot-com. We had wireless
plans and radio plans. That was the concept behind Renegadz.
The Chairman: The multimedia element is fascinating and dazzling. However, regardless of who is practicing it, the
fundamental elements of journalism remain the same. One of the guiding principles that has been enunciated by
witness after witness has been that government does not finance journalism, with the exception of the CBC.
You are talking about public funding for an independent news operation. Do you see any ethical implications there?
Ms. Smith: When we talk news and current affairs for youth, it is a very different type of news. I understand your
implications. I will try to answer as best I can.
Renegadz was predominantly a news show for youth about what they are doing about their future with maybe one
serious piece — perhaps on education. Education is the biggest thing right now with teenagers because anywhere you
go there is a crisis in education. The kids talk about the number of kids in their classroom. They talk about the fact that
the school buildings are moulding and falling down.
They want authority figures held accountable. They respond to that. That was one of the things in the show.
They want to know about what is happening to them in their lifestyle.
Ms. Newman: To answer your question more specifically, CBC wanted this show. It was something they wanted for
their airwaves. It was kind of unique in its way that it was independent, but it served the purpose of this particular
However, even though CBC did want it, there was no funding system available to get a show like this to air. In terms
of the ethical implications, we were beholden to the guidelines of CBC. However, the voice never got to the airwaves
because there was no money for it.
I do not know exactly how you solve the problem in terms of guidelines in funding, but there are voices out there
that should be heard. It was mentioned earlier about smaller towns and independent voices and entrepreneurs, but
there is no system to fund those entrepreneurs in news and current affairs. It is impossible to get money in this country
for that kind of programming. I do not know about newspapers, because I have not done that.
We had to put up our own money to get this thing off the ground. We felt so strongly that young people deserve a
voice that we were happy to do so. I do not regret it.
Ms. Smith: If the show had gone through, we would have been beholden to Cheryl Hassen, head of children's
programming, or the person reporting to her — Kim Wilson, the executive in charge of production. As an independent
production, it works the same in any network — at the end of the day, the broadcaster decides what will be cut and
what will replace it.
Ms. Newman: It is similar to being a freelance newspaper journalist; you are still beholden to your editor, but you
are coming at it from a different starting place.
The Chairman: Surely there must be a market gap there. Even at my advanced age, I can hear that much of the
mainstream programming and print that is aimed at this age group just rings false. It sounds contrived and out of
touch — it might as well be reading sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Senator Banks: I am a little bit confused because the CBC gets a parliamentary appropriation every year to run its
business, and you said that the CBC wanted your program. If the CBC wants your program, then the CBC can take
some of its money and have your program. Perhaps the CBC did not want your program that much.
I admire the enterprise. The chair is correct; it has always been true that programming figured out by old guys to
appeal to kids has rarely worked.
Would you explain why, if the CBC wanted your program, you needed to go some place else to get money? The
news and public affairs programs on the CBC are not sponsored in the normal sense of the word. They are paid for
from the resources of the CBC.
Ms. Newman: It was because we were independent and we wanted to maintain our independence as independent
producers. CBC gave us a maximum licence agreement, which was 26 per cent of our total budget. As independent
producers, it was up to us to find the rest of the money in order to retain our ownership as editorially independent
content makers. We went through the traditional funding systems, which do not have any pockets open to news and
current affairs programming.
Senator Banks: Did CBC offer to take your program subject to their editorial policies on news and affairs
Ms. Newman: CBC was wonderful in that respect. They said, ``You take it where you want to take it. We will rein
you in when we have to.'' They appreciated that our perspective would remain true as independent content producers.
They wanted to keep that. Our perspective was an important part of why they chose our show.
Senator Eyton: I am intrigued by your comments, particularly by your suggestion that current broadcasting does not
reach out or touch teenagers in the right spots. From my involvement with a variety of companies that sell products
and services, I have seen that they spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year to reach teenagers who have
tremendous market power. Teenagers are the market. For example, if you are selling Coca-Cola, you will want to reach
them and generate habits that last a lifetime. If you are in the car business, you want them to identify with a particular
brand of car.
I know that you have gone to the CBC, but if you have a worthy product that speaks genuinely to teenagers — and I
sense that would be news and public affairs delivered in a different way and involving different content — I am
surprised that you did not get the public support. I am also surprised that you could not get private support.
Ms. Smith: We did. We went to one of Canada's private networks and we were told that there was no money for this
kind of programming and that this was not a priority in their agenda, even though the show was not the typical news.
Another network told us ``they are just too hard to nail down; they are too hard to figure out. We could put it on but
chances are, it will fail.''
Senator Eyton: I was speaking to the direct beneficiaries — the private corporations — that have big budgets to try
to reach teenagers. You can see this happening through the networks. It is a different kind of game and is actually a
layer in the middle.
I would have thought you would be able to attract people, especially in describing teenagers as a sub-culture that
reaches nationally across this country. Beyond that, it reaches beyond the country. You could say that teenagers in the
U.S. have similar views and values in terms of what they wanted to see. From your comments, I do not think there is
much in the U.S. that would satisfy them either.
I am surprised that you were unable to identify one or more major businesses that would be intrigued by and
supportive of your effort. I think it is a good idea. I would have thought there were people who could understand what
you are trying to do and find great commercial or business value in supporting it.
Ms. Newman: Actually, we did reach out to several sponsorships and we tried to bring that together. We tried
desperately once we found out that the Equity Investment Program decided not to fund us. However, because we were
working with the CBC, our hands were tied. It was difficult to facilitate sponsorship that would have secured our
budget on time.
It boiled down to timing. Television is based on 100 per cent financing and percentages. If you are missing 25 per
cent of your budget, you will not get green-lighted nor will you get any other funding.
It was a chicken-and-egg process. Sponsors said that we were missing money and it was difficult to facilitate with
CBC because they are a public broadcaster. CBC said they could not confirm where to put us in terms of time slots and
therefore what sponsors to bring on board. As independent producers, we were thinking that we only wanted to make
a show and have a voice out there. It was difficult but we tried.
Once again, one of Canada's largest telecom companies wanted to play. We had a letter of interest from them and
yet, for some reason, trying to bring a convergent project together, that was not an in-house production of CTV or
CBC was virtually impossible. Ms. Smith and I worked 24 hours per day, seven days per week for two years to try to
make this happen. It was impossible.
There are many stories of voices and people trying to do exactly the same thing; plus you are out-of-pocket.
Senator Eyton: You talked about the people who could not do it. Is there anyone within North America who has
been able to do something along the lines that you suggest that is directed at teenagers?
Ms. Newman: Not that I have seen.
Senator Eyton: Are there examples?
Ms. Smith: There is 21C, which is in-house in Canada. There is Street Sense, which is in-house for CBC.
Ms. Newman: There was U8TV, which was more along the lines of lifestyle programming, which we were not doing.
Senator Eyton: Are people trying to do what you are doing, in the same way?
Ms. Newman: All of those things were in-house. None were done by independent voices, so to speak. It was all
centralized. I have the competitive analysis because we had to show this to our funders.
You could look at MuchMusic, U8TV, ZedTV and 21C. The closest thing, I would say, is Burly Bear in the United
States. They have just sold their show to the Turner Superstation. It was different but it was an independent convergent
property that was able to sell a television show to a network and have a dot-com that flourished. That is it, from our
Senator Eyton: You have much power and so you should be able to pull off something. The teenage market is vital.
Senator Hubley: You have been through an exciting process, although it has not been successful.
We would ask ourselves why you have not been successful? Are there other avenues that may be open to you to have
this form? I had forgotten about JonoVision because I did not think that was the kind of show you were thinking about
in terms of format. I saw Street Sense, but I did not know if it looked at a younger group of people. Certainly, I do not
think it had much in the way of current affairs in its format. I could not come up with anything that was similar to
what you were looking at for current affairs.
Have you tried other media sources? Have you tried the newsprint and such?
Where you frustrated by the view of ``news versus entertainment'' and questions as to what was the entertainment
value of your show'' Perhaps you did not envision that for your show. Although your show would be entertaining, it is
not in what we might consider the strictest form of entertainment — it does not need the clowns on the side to attract
When you mentioned the perspective that young people have on certain issues, you used education as an example.
We share those issues with you in many ways. Did you run into that when you were doing a current affairs program?
Did you find that many of your views were shared closely with the things that politicians and school board members
deal with? I would like your comments on that.
Ms. Newman: We stopped in Gananoque to speak with several classes about our idea. We talked about news and
current affairs and that lead to conversations about our production passion. The teacher there told us to go for it
because she believed it was exactly what was needed and that this country needed to be shaken up a bit.
Ms. Smith: People need to hear the voices of youth. The biggest indicator of the difficulty in getting a show and a
voice for youth has been the many adults who do not want to look at most of these issues they are talking about.
They want to reject it. They say they do not want their kids to do this or that. They do not want to see teens talking
about certain issues on television. Eminem sings about it. There is no term for a latchkey kid any more. Most kids
come home and they live with their tribe of friends. They do not come home to mom and dad any more. They are
raising themselves, so the world is a very different place for them.
We found that they are smart and so dying to talk. They have the Internet, but really, that is not enough. When we
talk about these quotes — and they are very harsh, the kids are saying, we do not trust the media — that is because
they are the most media-savvy generation. They understood more than, I would say, we did when we started our
careers. Their assessments of the media are so astute; they are so smart.
Ms. Newman: Getting back to what you said about entertainment, we were trying to capitalize on the idea of
Michael Moore — Bowling for Columbine, Stupid White Men, that kind of thing. That is what kids like. We were trying
to take it from a Michael Moore perspective when it comes to news and storytelling for young people — from a more
proactive stance. Young people do not just want to sit back and watch the world hit them; they want to fight back.
That is how we wanted to change news storytelling for young people — making it more proactive. Maybe that is a
little bit more entertaining, but that is what we were trying to do.
The Chairman: Thank you both very much indeed. It has been an extremely interesting session. You have left us
with some thoughts that may apply even in a broader optic than your own story. I am struck by your line, ``being
convergent is not feasible for independent producers.'' That is something that I will keep with me as we go on through
our learning process on this committee.
We are very grateful to you for having come, and we wish you luck.
The committee adjourned.