Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Transport and Communications
Issue 8 - Evidence - May 6, 2003
OTTAWA, Tuesday, May 6, 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: Honourable senators, I see a quorum. I would like to welcome our witnesses to this third meeting of
the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications on the state of the Canadian news media.
The committee is examining the role the state should play in helping to ensure that our news media remain healthy,
independent and diverse given the changes that have affected this area in recent years, notably globalization,
technological change, convergence and concentration of ownership.
We begin today's hearings with Professor Chris Dornan, Director of the School of Journalism and Communication
at Carleton University. Many senators have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Dornan in other settings and we are glad
to welcome him back to participate further in our study.
Mr. Chris Dornan, Director, School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University (as an individual):
Honourable senators, thank you very much for the invitation to appear before this committee. I hope that my remarks
will be of some value to you.
As you are well aware, this is not the first time that concerns have been raised about the conduct of the media in
general, and the news media in specific, either in Canada or abroad. This body is not the first to bring official attention
to bear on the place and the comportment of the media in a free society.
The 20th century was dotted with royal commissions and other official inquiries in Britain, Australia, Canada and
elsewhere into how well or badly the media discharged their civic duties and what might be done to redress supposed
shortcomings and encourage greater responsibility.
Even the United States, of all the western democracies the one least inclined to entertain public policy interventions
that might influence the conduct of the media, yielded in the 1940s the Hutchins Commission, a searching and often
tortured attempt to grapple with the tensions between, on the one hand, the civic obligations of the media to the
democratic project and, on the other, the realities of a commercial media market.
Central to all these various inquiries are the following elements: First, the recognition that free media are essential to
a free society. A free media system is not simply a by-product or a dividend of an open society; it is, in fact, a principal
architectural agent of it.
One of the things that make freedom possible is a concourse of public address utterly unaccountable to political
authority. In totalitarian societies, the media are answerable to the state. They are indeed arms of the state. In free
societies, the state is answerable to the polity through the scrutiny brought to bear by an alert journalism and the fora
the media made possible for public discussion of political affairs.
At the same time, however, anxiety that the media play not be living up to their democrat obligations has been a
commonplace of the past 100 years. The media are base, it is said, they are venal, they are money hungry, and they do
more to frustrate the workings of democracy than assist.
If only to put things into historical context, I recommend this book to you. It is entitled How Can Canadian
Universities Best Benefit the Profession of Journalism as a Means of Moulding and Elevating Public Opinion? It was
published in 1903 — exactly 100 years ago. It is the progenitor of this Senate committee inquiry; the first time these
persistent anxieties about the media were set down for the record. It is actually quite illuminating.
The book came about because Sir Sanford Fleming, then the chancellor of Queen's University, was sufficiently
concerned, if not alarmed, about the increasing social influence of the newfangled, as it then was, mass circulation
newspaper that he commissioned a $250 essay prize inviting suggestions for the betterment of Canadian journalism and
the correction of its shortcomings. The best 13 submissions were collected in a volume and published by Queen's
What were they worried about in 1903? It turns out that they were worried about almost exactly what we are
supposed to be worried about in 2003. Uniformly, the various contributors to the volume lamented that the press,
unprecedented in its potential as a popular educator and a moral force, was in fact being squandered on the contrary. I
quote, ``It kills time, satisfies the thirst for scandal, and acts as a preventive to thought.''
In turn, each of the essays deplored Canadian journalism's preoccupation with lurid crime, its invasions of privacy,
the dominance of American news, the unsavoury influence of advertising, the literary bankruptcy of journalistic prose,
and the fact that newspapers had become ``a `rivulet of text' amid a wilderness of pictures.''
Their core concerns were twofold. First, they worried that crass commercialism had hijacked the very process of
public communication; and second, they fretted about how easy it would be for an unscrupulous proprietor to use his
media holdings to propagandize the population. That is, what most concerned these writers in 1903 was the prospect of
a media system in which political factionalism and a slavish devotion to the financial ledger override commitment to
One thing that did not exist in 1903 was concentration of media ownership or cross-media convergence.
Nonetheless, the writers of that time were quite aware of what might come about. I quote:
The growth of huge trusts in commerce has suggested the idea of a number trust which might be organized by
persons with large selfish ends to serve in gaining the ear of the public. ... The danger is not imaginary.
A commercial trust at the time was our equivalent of a corporate conglomerate.
The first point I should like to leave honourable senators with this morning is the following: There is nothing new
about the complaints directed at the mass circulation commercial press. On the contrary, these complaints are as old as
the media themselves. They are part and parcel of the rise of a mass circulation commercial press.
Second, these complaints are all but ineradicable. One cannot bring the press to heel, one cannot police the contents
of the media without compromising an essential principle of a free society, which is precisely that the media should not
be beholden to any political authority. Only immature societies have the state step in to correct media misbehaviour on
the grounds that the media are too important and powerful to be allowed to act irresponsibly. The best the learned
writers of 1903 could hope for was a kind of moral suasion: If only journalists were imbued with the higher ideals of the
university, if only they were guided at all times by an awareness of their civic obligations, would the press behave in the
best interests of the public good.
That is not to say that the conduct of the media system as a whole is off-limits to public policy intervention or that
such intervention is anathema to democracy. Indeed, this country made the singlemost significant public policy
intervention into the conduct of media in the 1930s with the creation of the public broadcasting system.
The creation of public broadcasting did not amount to interference in the affairs of a free and commercially driven
press. It merely ensured that the private sector, advertising-supported media would be complemented by a parallel
sector of the media, precisely impervious to commercial imperatives.
If the worry about the private sector media is that they are too driven by market considerations and too susceptible
to manipulation by proprietors, then the public sector media were supposed to offer a counterweight and an alternative
that would be insulated by commercialism and immune to political pressures.
As long as one has a robust and relevant public sector in the media — as long as the public sector are prominent,
truly autonomous from political control and genuinely independent of commercial motives — then it hardly matters
what the private sector media get up to. Let them chase markets wherever they might find them. Let them buy one
another up. Let them go bankrupt. Let them converge; let them diverge. Let them trim their staffs or bulk them up. Let
them marshal their forces as they see fit. However, just as it is essential to have an untrammelled private sector media,
it is equally essential to have a well-resourced, professional public sector.
That would be my major recommendation for the consideration of this committee. A key element in the Canadian
media creation is the place and vitality of the public sector. I daresay that, at present, because of a series of deep and
repeated budget cuts, the public sector media have been allowed to languish. The CBC should be given the resources it
needs to function as a strong and confident counterpart to the strong and proliferating private media.
It is obviously not as simple as merely giving the CBC more money. If the CBC were to use additional resources
simply to outbid the private sector for rights to professional sporting events, for example, nothing would be gained. In
many respects, the dilemma the CBC finds itself in currently is a consequence of successes of the private sector media.
Twenty years ago, the CBC was comparatively secure in its sense of itself and what it was about. It existed to provide
programming content that the private sector either could not or would not deliver.
Since there was no money to be made in science programming, for example, the private sector media paid scant
attention to science. It fell to the CBC to make Quirks and Quarks, The Nature of Things, Découverte. Driven by the
need to assemble demographically significant audiences attractive to advertisers, the private media cared little for
content pertaining to faith and spirituality. It fell to the CBC to make Tapestry and Man Alive. It was the CBC that
that paid attention to books and to history, that aired long-form documentaries and produced good quality children's
programming untainted by commercial motives.
Today, however, the private sector has displaced the CBC in these and a variety of other programming genres. We
now have a very good 24-hour, profitable specialty channel, Discovery, devoted precisely to science and nature. We
have an entire channel devoted to books, another to history, and another to documentaries. We have an Aboriginal
Peoples channel. We have television catering to ethnic communities. We have a wealth of truly splendid children's
All this complicates matters for an institution such as the CBC. However, in my view, it makes the public sector all
the more relevant, not less so. Certainly, the public sector is faced with the challenge of finding its way in a multi-
medium spectrum in which many of its traditional functions have been taken over by the private sector. Even as the
private sector expands, the need is all the more pronounced for a robust source of media content that is not the product
of commercial motives.
How the CBC goes about establishing its place and asserting its relevance in the new media environment is a topic
for another day. I do not presume here to tell the CBC what to do. However, if in its conclusions this committee saw fit
to urge a renewed public policy commitment to the non-commercial media, I would take that as a welcome
Senator LaPierre: Welcome, Mr. Dornan. I saw the book that you referred to years ago, before you were born. I
thought it was really fascinating and interesting.
As you know, Patrick Watson suggested the creation of a public newspaper to this committee. That suggestion has
brought him more opprobrium than we have had for the past 45 years. I really like this idea. The argument that is used
against a public newspaper is that it would endanger the freedom of the press. However, you say that:
The creation of the public broadcasting did not amount to interference in the affairs of a free and
commercially driven press. It merely ensured that the private sector advertising-supported media would be
complemented by a parallel sector of the media precisely impervious to commercial imperatives.
If we were to replace the phrase ``public broadcasting'' with ``public newspapering,'' could this apply to Mr.
Mr. Dornan: In theory and in principle, I suspect it could. I believe that Mr. Watson's concept is fraught with all
sorts of other difficulties — not the least being the expense that would be entailed in mounting a nationally delivered
newspaper under the aegis of a Crown corporation.
Delivering a paper and ink product is extremely capital intensive. For an agency such as the CBC to undertake the
production of a national newspaper would require, just in terms of pragmatics and logistics, armadas of delivery
vehicles to ferry the newspaper to the doorsteps of subscribers from Newfoundland to British Columbia and the
Yukon. That seems to me to be an insurmountable expense, given the current media situation.
However, with comparatively few resources, the CBC was very quick off the mark to move into, not broadcasting,
but electronic publishing over the Internet. CBC.ca was up and running and much more advanced than the Web
presences of the Globe and Mail or the National Post.
It is not inconceivable, even as the newspaper industry moves into a form of electronic publishing, that the CBC
could, with the resources at its disposal, move into not simply broadcasting but publishing a journalistic presence on
the Internet that obviates a need for expensive delivery mechanisms, printing presses and newspaper carriers, which,
nonetheless, would be a vehicle for the delivery of precisely the type of not-for-profit journalism that Patrick Watson
Senator LaPierre: I believe that access to the Web is essential to the realization of Watson's idea. However, if we
leave it to the CBC to do this, we will have the same problem that we have today, will we not? In other words, the news
will all be reported and disseminated by one outfit and therefore the marketplace of ideas, which demands a number of
instruments to diffuse, will be seriously affected and it would create a monopoly on public affairs or information that
could easily be treated differently in the newspaper than in a three-minute television clip.
Do you think, therefore, that it could be possible to have a newspaper independent of the CBC and independent of
anything else as a public newspaper that would act as what we do not have today — impartial press? It would be able
to create a variety of ideas that we do not find today in the media?
Mr. Dornan: I do not think you have to set up a separate organization. Part of the obligation of an institution such
as the CBC is to be omnibus. It should not be monolithic; it should not be an undertaking that speaks with a single
voice. It should precisely be an opportunity for a panoply of voices to speak from different perspectives. If a full-service
public broadcaster such as the CBC does indeed speak with a single voice, it is not really fulfilling the type of
expectations or obligations that we would hope for it. It should cast a very large tent.
Senator LaPierre: Freedom of the press is a fundamental right of Canadians. Who owns freedom of the press? Who
incarnates it? Who is responsible to the citizenry for freedom of the press? Is it the journalist on a day-to-day basis, the
profession itself, or is it the owners of the newspaper, as has been suggested?
Mr. Dornan: I do not think they are mutually exclusive. There are property rights attached to freedom of the press
that reside with proprietors. However, freedom of the press is an ideal that must be defended day in and day out by
those who contribute to public expression, which includes journalists. Journalists are guided by a professional ethos.
They endeavour to tell the truth. Responsibly, they will not skew their accounts to serve political or economic ends.
Freedom of the press, as we understand it in liberal democracy, amounts to freedom from state or political
interference. That resides in the actions of everyone who staffs the media in a free society — from the proprietors to the
lowliest newsroom intern.
Senator LaPierre: The government has no place in the editorial rooms of the nation. However, can it not be argued
that what has happened over the past 10 to 15 years has been essentially to imprison the professionalism of journalists
within a very constraining editorial bind, resulting in the front page of a newspaper being not much different from the
editorial and opinion pages of the newspaper, thus conflicting with the essence of professional journalism ethics?
Mr. Dornan: I hope I understand the thrust of the question. If the intent of the question is that a newspaper that
betrays a political perspective in its accounts of the unfolding scene, nationally and internationally, has somehow
compromised its own integrity or the ideals of freedom of the press, I do not think so. All newspapers acquire a
personality of their own as a result of the people who work at the paper, the people who produce it, and the market
they are chasing.
We can use Toronto as an example. The Toronto Sun is manifestly a feisty, blue-collar publication that is
conservative in its leanings, that distrusts the nanny state, supports our police forces, et cetera. The Toronto Star, by
contrast, is an omnibus family newspaper, small `L' liberal in its outlook, probably with policy affiliations to the large
`L' Liberal Party. The Globe and Mail is a financially oriented, conservative business publication that, on social issues,
can take an editorial stance that would ally it with the left on issues such as rights for same-sex couples and
decriminalization of soft drugs. The National Post has, to this point, been a conservative journal of a decidedly
It is not that these newspapers wilfully fabricate accounts of events so as to suit a political line. They just naturally,
as a result of their market orientation and their own histories, adopt a perspective on the world that they bring to bear
to those accounts. There is nothing wrong with that.
If there is anything to be regretted, it is that the newspapers do not fully map the political spectrum. The complaint
of those on the left is that there is no prominent journal that would champion the perspective of the left in the way in
which the National Post clearly championed a certain stripe of conservatism.
Senator Day: My question arises out of your answer to Senator LaPierre's question and your comment that
journalists are guided by a professional ethos to tell the truth. You are a professor and the Director of the School of
Journalism and Communication at Carleton University so you are obviously involved with this issue on a regular
basis, and I have no doubt that you have discussed the issue of the embedded reporters during the Iraq war.
I am wondering how we analyze the professional ethos and the professionalism of the journalists as well as the
various aspects of that ethos in terms of telling the truth, getting the best story possible and being as close to the action
as possible. Furthermore, how do we balance those objectives, which are laudable, against the likelihood or the
possibility that the whole story might not be told or they cannot tell the whole story as a result of being where they are,
hence, as a result of that, they are giving opinion. They are only telling us part of the story. Therefore, are they doing
what they should be doing as journalists?
Mr. Dornan: Journalism is an inevitably disappointing undertaking because it is an attempt to bear witness to
complicated and nuanced occurrences, events and developments and to do so in a way that is arresting and intelligible
to a general readership. It must also be done extremely quickly. Therefore, the cliché is that it is ``history on the run'' or
it is the ``first draft of history'' and the first drafts are always wrong. Nonetheless, the hope is that journalists will
undertake their work to the best of their professional abilities and that they are seasoned and experienced and that
experience has informed their work.
To use your example of the Iraq war, it was better to have the journalists embedded so that they could witness what
the front line troops were experiencing, than not have them there at all. However, if all the coverage consisted entirely
of reports from embedded journalists, then the coverage of the war would have been very partial, fragmentary, and
told ''from a keyhole perspective;'' we do not see the big picture.
What you want is coverage that is manifold. You want precisely different perspectives offered on unfolding events in
the hope that from that concourse of coverage, commentary and debate, the members of the attentive public will have
enough information at their disposal to be able to come to sound judgments about what they are witnessing.
Senator Day: To what degree is it proper for the journalists to balance these various objectives and maybe sacrifice
one to achieve another?
Another example is a major broadcast news company in the United States. The general manager or the president of
that company told the public that in order to maintain their office in Baghdad, they were prepared to listen to the then-
government in Iraq and not publish certain stories so that they could stay there and be able to publish other stories.
The general public viewing these channels and listening to those journalists is unaware of that qualifier, ``Well, we
are only telling you half the story.'' They think these are the facts and these are all the facts and you can make our own
Mr. Dornan: That is a special circumstance, attempting to provide coverage from a totalitarian state that is under
siege or about to be attacked by military force.
Obviously, to maintain the journalistic presence — in this case in Baghdad — they will have to make compromises.
They will have to make some accommodation with the Saddam regime. That specific type of accommodation or
compromise would presumably not obtain in the coverage of political affairs in a free society such as Canada.
It is true that all sorts of things will compromise or inhibit the ability of journalists and journalism to do its work to
the best of its abilities — things as basic as the pressure of time: The newscast must go on the air at 10 p.m. or 11 p.m.;
the newspaper must go to press at 1 p.m. at night. Journalists do not have the luxury that academics or historians do of
waiting until all the facts are in before they render accounts of the unfolding scene.
Therefore, of necessity and unavoidably, journalism is an unsatisfactory business in which the truth is never total; it
is always subject to contestation. Nonetheless, one would hope that journalists would conduct their work, first and
foremost, keeping in mind that they conduct it in the service of the best public interest.
In the long view, to compare the conduct and the vitality of the Canadian news media with the news media countries
elsewhere in the world, our journalists are quite dutiful and responsible. Journalism in Canada is not marked by some
of the excesses that one sees for example in the British tabloids. We simply do not have that tradition in Canada. There
is no Canadian equivalent of Fox News or, dare I say, any Canadian equivalent of Geraldo Rivera. That is an animal
that does not exist in this country.
Senator Day: I wanted to get you to think about whether we rely on the integrity of the journalist.
The print and television media have a tremendous effect on public opinion. Do we need some sort of regulation to
ensure that there are qualifications such as ``This is an embedded story, therefore it has been sanitized and you are only
getting part of the story.''? Alternatively, do we rely on the media and the ethos of the media and the schools of
journalism to protect the public in that regard?
The Chairman: Senator Day, I believe the embedded journalists, without exception, filed stories identifying
themselves as being embedded. Most of the news organizations that I saw — at least on broadcast — also included
lines to the effect that some of the material might have been removed in order to meet the military requirements. There
was, if you will, truth in advertising on that one, more or less.
Senator Ringuette: Professor Dornan, last week a senior media expert told us that we are faced with the fact that
university programs in journalism tend to mould the future media professionals into the same method of analysis of
events. Such programming reduces the ability to innovate and so forth. This occurs not only in Canada and North
America, but probably in other parts of the world as well.
You are a key person to comment on this. Are we producing moulded journalists in Canada?
Mr. Dornan: If the suggestion is that journalists all think, comport and bring the same perspectives to bear to in this
country, no, I can assure honourable senators that the student population in our school of journalism — and surely the
others across the country — is as diverse as the student population anywhere. It is precisely a microcosm of Canadian
What we will drill our students in, is precisely this insistence that they conduct their work with a conscience; that
they keep in mind that they are in large measure, if not exclusively, public servants, though they may be employed
eventually by the private sector media. They are not in the profession for reasons of egotism or self-aggrandizement.
They are in this work because they believe that, in some measure, it serves the public good.
Having said that, it is one thing to say we conduct our work as journalists in the best interests of the public, but
democracy is precisely one long rolling argument about what is in the best interests of the public. That is why you have
and want dissent and debate on the broadcast airwaves and in the pages of the newspapers.
I assure you that that multiplicity and variety of perspective is present in schools of journalism, just as it is present in
sister departments in universities.
Senator Ringuette: I do believe that an individual is influenced by his or her environment as a child, as a teenager, as
an adult and as a university student. How much effort do universities put into trying to say to a student, ``This is your
perspective, with all your life experience.''? How can you ease for them the flipping of the coin and see if there are other
perspectives? How hard is it to do that?
Mr. Dornan: Not all of the students in a school of journalism are young. Many people coming into our programs
have already had established careers and have decided to switch careers. They come in as what one might call ``mature
However, the majority of them are, indeed, young. They are in their early twenties. They are looking for a good
solid university education, but one, in our case, with a professional degree that will prepare them to embark on a career
in the news media. People of that age are possibly much more open to entertaining competing perspectives other than
their own, than perhaps some of us who are getting on in life.
In fact, much of the enterprise in journalism education is precisely to get the students to be able to take that leap of
imagination by saying, ``You have to understand what it is like to be somebody else. You have to understand the
perspective of the Newfoundland fisherman who has just been told that that is it and there is no more cod fishing.
Though you yourself may not be gay, you must understand the perspective of the gay couple who would like their
marriage sanctified in the eyes of the state.''
This is a merit of a younger generation and perhaps a generational shift, in the conduct of journalism. In my day,
when I went to journalism school, you could write about various subcultures. You could write about the gay
community or the Somali community or the community of computer hackers, but you wrote about them not from their
perspective but from the perspective of sort of ``everyperson,'' this kind of idealized middle-class reader of the Ottawa
Citizen. Some of the young people today like to undertake and can undertake and have mechanisms — principally by
the Internet — where they can express this. It is journalism from the point of view of these various subcultural groups
that make up the rich and varied tapestry of society at large. That is a quite interesting and welcome development.
Senator Spivak: What do you envision as the role of the newspapers in educating people? I ask this because you
mentioned Geraldo. The competition from television and the Internet is so fierce. We know that many young people
do not read the newspapers and as a result, they are woefully ignorant on many basic things because those other outlets
do not really educate them in the same way as a newspaper that has material in front of them and gives the daily events.
What role should the government have in this, if any? Given the woeful state of knowledge in young people about
Canada and about world events, what are we supposed to do about it, and what is the newspaper's role?
What about propaganda and hate literature? Aljazeera is up for CRTC approval. There was a documentary that
showed the extent to which Aljazeera is actually hate speech — fomenting hatred against Jewish people. This
documentary portrayed it vividly. They do not pretend to hide it.
What is the role there, given the fact that we talk about freedom of the press? What is the tension between freedom
of the press and outright propaganda, which will be used more and more? Fox news is not an accident. The attitude of
the American people, by and large, is not an accident. It is because that is what the media has indoctrinated them into.
What are your views on these two issues?
Mr. Dornan: In respect of your first comment, I am not sure I accept the premise, actually. My experience with
young people is obviously with university students, but a very large percentage of the Canadian population does go on
to attend university, certainly in comparison with other countries. I certainly do not find them ``woefully ignorant.''
Senator Spivak: You can look at any survey.
Mr. Dornan: You can ask them these Jeopardy-style quizzes such as ``Who was the third Prime Minister of
Canada?'' and they do not know. However, that is not a true register of intelligence and inquiry and curiosity. Young
people are, indeed, actually very engaged in the world about them. What may be interested them and what they may
value may be different from people who are 40 and 50 years old, but it was ever thus. There are always generational
divides in that regard.
There is a cascade effect. Everyone bemoans the state of education. The universities basically blame the high
schools. University professors say, ``What are they teaching them in high school? They got in here without knowing
how to write essays.'' High schools blame the primary schools. The primary schools blame the parents. Everyone
blames the media.
What is the role of the newspaper in educating people? Part of it is a public intelligence function. It is not the only
thing newspapers do, by any stretch of the imagination. Newspapers are an enormous compendium of information,
from front-page stories of the utmost import to supermarket advertising flyers and horoscopes and lottery results.
There is a public intelligence function to the newspaper. One hopes the people will carry away information that will be
of benefit to them, but at the end of a term of reading a newspaper, no one requires you to sit down and write an exam
to find out how much you actually learned from it. Public education, in and of itself, is not only the function of the
You asked me what the government's role should be in this? None. What should government's role be in public
Senator Spivak: I did not phrase that question very well.
The Chairman: We are tight on time. Do you have answer on the hate literature?
Mr. Dornan: The media in a free society are not completely unanswerable. We have rules that protect the
reputations of individuals and rules that would prevent the media from being used to foment anti-democratic or
We have laws of libel, for example. We do not have restraints on prior publication. If I were to say something
libellous about you, Senator Spivak, and you know I am about to say it, you cannot prevent me from saying it in a free
society. I am allowed to say whatever I want. However, if I say something that is libellous and injurious to your
reputation, then you have recourse to the courts. You can sue me in court.
Similarly, hate literature is dicey, because it does mean removing the right of public expression from a group or an
individual. Basically, you let them say it. If, in the eyes of the court, it amounts to hate literature, then we have recourse
to a policing mechanism and you can shut it down.
The Chairman: We will be asking the CRTC to come before us. We can probably ask them, among other things,
what criteria they apply for license renewals and all those kinds of thing.
Would you talk about the impact the Internet is having and will have or is likely to have on newspapers, because it is
changing the universe?
Mr. Dornan: Oh, yes. In my view, that is why this is such a propitious time to take a big-picture look at the state and
the possible trajectory of the Canadian media system as a whole. The single most consequential and crucial factor at
play at the moment is the advent of entirely new concourses of communication made possible by computer-mediated
communication, mainly the Internet.
It is a big question, but I would point your attention to two things, which may be competitive. The first is that the
primary concern of this committee is the news media rather than the media in general, and it may be that the Internet is
not particularly well suited as a vehicle for the delivery of journalism, or at least journalism as we know it. That is, the
Internet is really good at marshalling interactivity: It puts people in contact with one another in a way that was
impossible via the traditional media. If you think of something like eBay, it is nothing but pure interactivity. The site
consists entirely of the sum of the contributions of all the visitors to the site, all the buyers and sellers. It is pure
Journalism, by contrast, is not about interactivity. Journalism is about a single, centralized source speaking with
some measure of authority or credibility to a dispersed audience. Therefore, journalism might be as vestigial a genre of
information content to the Internet as it was to cinema. You received some journalism on cinema in the form of
newsreels, but the movies and the movie theatre were just not the medium for the delivery of journalism. The Internet
might be good at ticker-tape journalism, or bulletins of breaking events. Beyond that, the strength of the Internet will
probably lie elsewhere. There will be new forms of content, entertainment and engagement, but it might not be
Second, the big question is ``What Internet does to the advertising base that currently supports the media enterprise
and the journalistic institutions that we have?'' At the moment, the seamless marriage we have in broadcasting and
newspapers between the editorial content and the advertising has not been effected yet on the Internet. They have not
figured out how to make advertising pay for content on the Internet.
One of the sources for the newspaper industry in particular, is classified advertising. Classified advertising is a form
of advertising that is specific to newspapers because it cannot be delivered on television, radio or in magazines. The
newspaper industry has a stranglehold on classified ads.
However, the Internet is perfectly suited for the delivery of classified ads, much more so than newspapers, because
the Internet is a searchable engine. It is possible that classified advertising could be unhitched from the newspaper as
we know it and migrated to the Internet, in which case you would not need the paper link package of the newspaper
and classified ads. You could get your classifieds via the computer. If that happens, then the newspaper industry loses
one of its principal sources of revenue, with tremendous consequences for the news industry in this country.
In fact, I would argue that one of the things that drove the convergence strategy of a company such as CanWest
Global was the attempt to capture the classified advertising revenue stream that was otherwise lost to a company that
had all its holdings in broadcasting. There will be a fortune made from classified advertising delivered over the net. The
newspapers currently have a lock on the classified advertising market. The way to get the classified advertising market
is to buy the newspapers.
Senator Graham: I want to talk about journalism in the sense of education, but not in Canada, at least for the
moment. I will relate an incident that happened in 1989 in Paraguay to the situation in Iraq today.
I did three election observation missions in Paraguay. The first was in 1989, and it was the first democratic election
following the Stroessner 34-year old dictatorship. The night of the first so-called democratic election, which was not
really democratic, but they had made some progress, the publisher of a newspaper called ABC Color came to see me. It
was an intervention by the journalist in that sense. He said, ``Do not love us and leave us.'' I asked him what he meant
by that. He said, ``Well, I was at the meeting that you had arranged to have some journalists attend when you met with
President Rodriguez, who had overthrown Stroessner in a military coup. He promised to you a new constitution and a
new electoral law within two years,'' which they brought in by 1991, and then they made more progress in 1993 and so
We come to the situation in Iraq today. The big question is how they could possibly bring democracy to a place like
Iraq. Last week, I happened to be in Washington with the Foreign Affairs Committee. In some of my fringe meetings, I
met with a gentleman by the name of Lawrence Eagleburger, whom I had known from other days and who had been
Secretary of State to Bush Senior and is still well plugged in. I also met with the president of the National Democratic
Institute and, by implication, the head of the International Republican Institute. It seems to me that these are the
people, after the generals are finished, who must be in Iraq to attempt to bring a civil society, and educate the people
about not only their rights but also their responsibilities in a democracy. I am led to believe that could very well
happen, because I have continued some discussions with these people.
Do you see a role for journalists in helping to educate the people? I believe that that would be a positive role. We
cannot be everywhere but we have to be somewhere. Instead of all of the journalists pulling out because the drama of
the war is over, do you see a useful function that journalists could play in helping to educate the people? They would
not be part of a team or compromise themselves — they would be reporting independently.
Mr. Dornan: Yes. However, a distinction must be made between the Western journalists, who are reporting the
situation for the benefit of audiences at home, and the Iraqi journalists, who will have to rebuild institutions such as the
Iraqi Broadcasting Corporation and newspapers in a way such that their fealty is not to the Baath Party or Saddam
Hussein, but to precisely this notion of the common weal.
This is not confined to Iraq. Think, for example, of South Africa at the end of apartheid. The South African
Broadcasting Corporation, SABC, was clearly an instrument of apartheid. It was seen as de Klerk's private fief.
However, once apartheid ended and Mandela came to power, what were the South Africans to do with the SABC?
Were they going to burn it to the ground? What good would that do? The SABC had the entire infrastructure, the
The task was to reform the South African Broadcasting Corporation in such a way that it would win the trust of the
population and assist in the process of nation building. It would aid the South African population — who were unused
to the mechanisms and the institutions of democracy because they had lived under an anti-democratic order — to get
them to embrace truly the mechanisms of a democratic society.
It is a lot easier said than done. A democratic society like ours was forged out of history. Its institutions arise over a
long process of living in the country and adhering to the ideals of a liberal democracy. It cannot be just parachuted in
overnight. The situation you point to in Iraq obtained in South Africa; it obtained in the former Soviet Union when the
wall collapsed. Certainly, in the case of the former Soviet Union, what happened was quite instructive. What was the
role of the West and Western journalists in teaching the Russian population to build and embrace a media system that
is not subservient to a party line?
Basically, you have a competition between different Western countries. The Americans flooded in and more or less
told the Russians that what they wanted is a completely free media system that is supported by advertising, entirely
commercial, and built on the American model. They saw Russia and the Russian media as a market to be exploited —
to make it entirely commercial.
The Brits went in and said, ``No, no, do not do it the American way. Yes, what you need is a commercially driven
media system, but there is also a model of the public broadcaster, which is a Crown corporation that is not beholden to
commercial motives.'' The same type of situation will obtain in the case of Iraq. The West has lessons to offer to a
country such as Iraq, not only as a model to follow but also, in some cases, models to avoid as well.
The Chairman: We are out of time but we are not out of questions. I will make a suggestion. I know Senator
LaPierre had another question, Senator Graham had a supplementary and I had another question. I will ask everyone
to put their question in 10 seconds or less and ask if you would write us a letter with your answers?
Mr. Dornan: Sure.
Senator LaPierre: Are you looking for another job? The schools of journalism are as obsolete as dodos.
Senator Graham: The usefulness of the broadcasting system particularly, and in some remote areas of remote
countries, in radio is extreme. I give you the example of Namibia.
When I was down there when they had their first democratic election, they had been ruled by South Africa illegally.
I met with their administrator, Louis Pienaar. We convinced them to give equal time to the opposition parties and to
use SWABC, the Southwestern African Broadcasting Corporation to educate the people in the remote areas who did
not know anything about democracy, or about voting or how to get to the polls or what voting meant.
Would you see a role for an outlet such as that in Iraq?
The Chairman: My question related to your view that if you have a really well resourced professional public sector in
the media, it really does not matter what the private sector media get up to.
Does that include, in your view, foreign ownership restrictions? Are you saying that they do not matter either? I am
very interested in your answer, but you can write us a letter.
Mr. Dornan: The response is complicated.
The Chairman: Thank you very much, Professor Dornan. We are very grateful to you as always.
Our next witness is Ms. Denise Bombardier, a well-known writer and broadcaster in Quebec and France. She has
hosted many cultural television programs. She is the host of Parlez-moi des hommes, parlez-moi des femmes on Radio-
Canada and Conversation on TV5 international. She has received the Légion d'honneur of France and the National
Order of Quebec. She is known for her frank opinions. We thank you for accepting our invitation. You have
approximately ten minutes to makes some introductory remarks, which will be followed by a period of questions.
Ms. Denise Bombardier, writer and broadcaster: Thank you to the committee for inviting me. I will not make any
statement of principle because everyone is in favour of virtue and freedom of the press and it seems everyone is
officially in favour of public service.
Actually I would like to share with you some of my observations about public service since that is my work. I am not
an employee of Radio-Canada, I have always been a freelance at Radio-Canada and I produce my own programs. I
speak on my own behalf and I am going to tell you what I think.
I would like to tell you about the erosion of the notion of public service in the field of radio, television and in general
those being challenged in other areas. This is a political choice, but we are a people of hypocrites when we talk about
the importance of public service in radio and television. The society in which we now live does not promote the values
that support such public service.
When I talk about the erosion of public service, we know that for tens, even hundreds of years, whenever we have
talked about culture and education, all we have had to do was go back to Plato to realize that questions of education
were open to discussion. Be that as it may, we only have one life to live.
I am living this life by working in public service. When I chose public service, we had the option of going into public
service or private television. I chose public service television because I believed in education. I thought that television
was a fabulous tool for social change — which was true at one time. I lived through this evolution and I adjusted over
the years, while noticing actually that some things were disappearing.
First of all, we noticed a shift in the vocabulary. You know, words are not innocent. At Radio-Canada, we used to
talk about television programs. Now we do ``shows.'' And when we leave the studio, we say: ``That was a good show.''
I hear people at Radio-Canada talking about ``la compagnie'' or ``the company.'' When I was with the Corporation,
these words did not exist. We were in public service. In a way, really, we had an almost religious attitude towards
public service. Now we do ``shows,'' we are in the ``business.'' We do programs that are ``business'' programs, that is,
we are keeping up with the times.
We know the private sector argument. Radio-Canada, in television, does exactly what the private sector does, with
the help of subsidies — which is not entirely true. It is a political choice in Canada. The CBC's budgets, the way they
are allocated, thus the obligation for the CBC to go and seek commercial revenue, forces it to make a certain number
of concessions. It nevertheless remains that nowadays, the obsession with ratings — since we are living in a pop culture
— is such that quantity and quality are confused. To caricaturize, we could say that Céline Dion is better than Mahler
because Céline Dion sells more records than Mahler.
There has been a trend towards entertainment in the very notion of information. We are in an entertainment culture,
and television's primary objective is now to entertain, not incidentally, but in a less important way than to inform.
Information, you know, is ``show'' information.
You have no doubt heard experts and read about sensationalism. Sensationalism in information drains it of its
content. How can content regain its favour? This is a social problem but also one of education. Television cannot be a
systematic tool to make up for what schools do not provide. The journalists who convey the information are also
responsible for the shift towards entertainment.
As far as journalism training is concerned, my position does not make me very popular among the heads of
journalism schools. Moreover, the journalism schools and communications departments in Quebec have each invited
me just once. I tell the students that journalism schools and communications departments are unnecessary. In my
opinion, if you want to do print or broadcast journalism, you have to have talent.
Some people have talent, but you have to have talent and a general education. At present, there is a lack of general
education among journalists. Especially in this era of globalization, the era of complexification of problems, we need
experts in international relations, experts in economics, in law, social science, who are also capable of expressing
themselves and expressing themselves in remarkable language. In this regard, those who govern us are partly
responsible for the deterioration of the quality of language — and I will not name anyone. Those who do print
journalism have to know how to write. The place to start is to train these people properly.
One of the reasons why we feel unsatisfied when we watch news and information programs is the following.
Journalism schools offer education in conformity. Florian Sauvageau said, if I recall rightly, that in fact all young
people are taught to approach a news item in the same way. But the education of a journalist should be an education in
indignation, in dissidence, in divergence. That way, you get what you all hope for, namely, a plurality of points of view
on a single issue.
I would like to end by saying that the public is responsible for what it does not read and what it does not watch.
When programs are produced that appeal to one's intelligence, programs that educate while entertaining in some way,
such programs do not have to be boring. When programs try to transmit knowledge to their audience, while keeping an
eye on the ratings, we realize that increasingly people are deserting the programs that require a certain intellectual
effort. It is a problem of every citizen's responsibility. So an education in responsible citizenship is what is needed.
People have to assume their irresponsibility with regard to this whole media world. What people watch has an impact
on the quality of democracy.
Senator Ringuette: I am pleased to hear you talk about your experience and to hear your comments. You represent a
breath of fresh air. When you talk about ``shows'' and ``business'' at Radio-Canada, do you think the French are going
through the same thing? I think you are in a good position to answer this question, in view of your experience in
journalism in Paris. We have been through many years of Anglicization of the French language.
Ms. Bombardier: That is not what I was referring to. When we are talking about public service and we are within a
public service, thinking oneself to be in a ``business,'' doing ``shows'' rather than programs, does not fill the normal role
of a public service. We do less than a public service is required to do. Basically it is a question of commercialization of
the philosophy with which we approach public service. It is obvious that the day public service is no more than a pale
copy — and I do say ``pale'' as we can see from the surveys — of what private television does, obviously then we can
ask why public funds should be used to maintain a service that does the same thing as private television. We are not
there yet, and there are still lots of responsible people in the public service who think that we can curb this trend which
has become more marked, this sort of slope on which we have been placed by our political leaders. It is up to this
country to decide whether we really want to pay for that.
A public service is like a school, it's not cost-effective. If the notion of cost-effectiveness is the primary notion for
maintaining the public services that exist in Canada, obviously public services can be expected to disappear. Cost-
effectiveness is not the only thing that counts in this world.
Senator Ringuette: You mentioned with a lot of emotion that to be a journalist nowadays, you need talent. Since we
are looking at media convergence and the impact on editorials, do you think that a journalist can work for television,
newspapers and the Internet?
Ms. Bombardier: It is absolutely impossible. They produce stuff for immediate consumption. It is impossible to have
an analysis because there is no distance. If we believe that the transmission of knowledge takes time, some things
cannot be ``intuited.'' To find out about the geographical situation in Baghdad, we have to look at a map of the world.
We cannot ``intuit'' the history of this country and more broadly the history of the Middle East. You have to read,
become informed, and that takes time. That is why there is no longer really any investigative journalism. That is why
there is no more intellectual curiosity.
I am always surprised when I am interviewed — and it is often as a writer that I am interviewed, not as a journalist
— when I am asked how often I have been married. But no one has ever asked me what my qualifications are for being
a journalist or what my intellectual development was. First, we are not asked these questions and they are not the ones
the audience wants to hear now.
Clearly, for less personal questions, you have to have read about the issues. It is easier to ask a man in an interview if
he is married or has mistresses than what he thinks. For that, you have to prepare yourself, study the issues. When
people do not have time, that is the sort of information we receive. It is very superficial information, for immediate
consumption, that disappears immediately from the minds of those who absorb it.
Senator LaPierre: If people were graduates and were trained in a professional school of journalism, do you think it
would be better?
Ms. Bombardier: This is the system they have in France. For the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes, we did
a comparative study of journalists in France and Quebec. The French journalists have four more years' education to
begin with. They have a bachelor's degree from a university, a general degree or a degree in areas conducive to the
practice of journalism.
Yes, the schools can be helpful. Personally, I do not believe in them. Writing is not learned, nor is expressing oneself
well. To begin with, you need a will and an ability. There are some people who use the spoken word better, others the
written word. There are people who do not write, do not read and do not talk. So they should not be in journalism.
Sometimes they can run newspapers.
Senator LaPierre: It does not take a lot of intelligence to own a newspaper.
Ms. Bombardier: You have to be intelligent to know how to make money.
Senator LaPierre: Has the public sector been weakened because now everything is measured not by quality but by
the number of viewers? Are commercials responsible for this? Even if the CBC did not have any ads of any kind, would
it, at the end of the day, have to show its ratings to the general public? Even if there is not any advertising, you still
have to try and get the largest number of spectators possible by doing whatever is necessary.
Ms. Bombardier: We are living in a world in which efficiency is a fundamental value. From the time efficiency
becomes a fundamental value, it is obvious that whatever the service — especially a general-interest service — we want
to reach the largest possible number of spectators.
I am the last one to believe that public service should be a confidential television service. That is not my business
either, confidentiality. Self-effacement is not one of my dominant characteristics. Women were modest for centuries, I
decided that would stop with my generation. Definitely, the pressure is that much greater when we say to ourselves: if it
is paid for with public funds — we see the reaction in the newspapers — how come the ratings are low?
A program that has a rating of 200,000 people cannot exist on a private network, compared to a popular program
that can get 1.5 million viewers. We can assume that the 200,000 people who watched a program that requires an effort,
where there is really some quality information, where there is a sort of education and pedagogy, are clearly leaders in
their field. Which means that the program has repercussions on an infinitely larger population. Nor do public services
have to be the medium of the elite, but at 200,000, we are not exactly elite.
The former director of the newspaper Le Monde in Paris used to say that his newspaper had an influence on people
that have influence. It is also necessary to the quality of information. Those who teach our children, who lead us, who
define our policies have to be properly informed. Public service is useful for that, among other things.
The most exemplary is what happens on public service radio, on the Première chaîne and the chaîne culturelle of
Radio-Canada. They do not have any commercial constraints, but they are hard on the heels of the private networks
when they are not backpedalling. They do something that is not done anywhere on the private networks, not that the
private networks only do poor stuff. That is not it at all, but they do what they are paid to do. In this regard, they are
If we give means to television broadcasters, not just funds, we can create a working context in which there is less
pressure from the need to get the ratings.
Senator Day: You have worked in France and Canada. Can you explain the differences that exist between these
media but also between the training given to journalists in the two countries? You said that you did not like journalism
schools. What training is there for journalists in France?
There is no need to do a B.A. because these people already have a basic education. Obviously for those who are
going into the print media, these journalism schools set great store by the quality of writing.
Someone who does not write elegantly, perfectly, without mistakes, has no place in these schools, they are told to do
something else. It is the same thing for the spoken language. Someone who does not know how to express himself is
told to go look somewhere else. These schools have a world vision of what the media are and Canada is generally a
positive reference where organization of radio, television and freedom of the press are concerned.
In Canada, they get there after graduating from a cégep. Sometimes they come out of the cégep with the easiest
option they can get. That is when we realize that there are some gaps in their culture.
Senator Day: Are there any other differences of experience?
Ms. Bombardier: As far as television is concerned, I did a doctorate on French television 25 years ago. France is a
country of great culture. We know the importance France has had in the past. Now it is a middle power that has
preserved an intellectual tradition, a literary tradition, a tradition of ideas and debates.
I must say that, in France, television has gone downhill and that even on public television, I see things that one
would never have imagined seeing so soon. I remember a time when people said those things only existed in the United
States. The villain was the United States.
There is the whole phenomenon of the ``reality shows'' that now exist in France. They do all that and worse. The
public television service in Canada plays an important role in the Canadian conscience and it is in this respect that this
public service should be defended.
The Chairman: What are the appropriate limits of the state's role? There are limits after all, and the freedom of
expression is first and foremost freedom from government control.
Ms. Bombardier: Yes.
The Chairman: How can we set these limits?
Ms. Bombardier: My position on this issue is very ambivalent. The fact is that I am not in favour of government
intervention. The fewer laws and regulations, the better it is, to my mind. Having said this, I know that where
Canadian content and minority French songs are concerned, we have set the example, since France has followed it. It
went halfway because it did not want to intervene, and this allowed French songs to exist.
In a way, if we wanted to take an absolute policy stance, we would leave French songs on the market even if nobody
listened to them. In a way, you have to regulate. For example, I am absolutely not in agreement with Mr. Watson's
proposal to create a newspaper. I find that by doing so, we are already completely off on the wrong foot and the wrong
discourse. Furthermore, where principles are concerned, we are putting ourselves in a very debatable, indeed rejectable
position. In my opinion, the state does not have a role to play here.
There is one newspaper, which outside the large media groups in Quebec, has a lot of influence and that is Le
Devoir. This is a newspaper that is not read a lot. In fact, people laugh at its circulation of 28,000 copies, 35,000 on
weekends. If you multiply by 100 to see what the result is in France, that is the equivalent of the newspaper Le Monde,
which prints 300,000. On weekends, Le Devoir prints a little more, in proportionate terms.
So it influences people who wish to be informed. It is a newspaper that, in financial terms, remains in a very
precarious situation. But financial precariousness also has its good sides. It means we have to make a bit of an effort.
Pressure is like Quebec in relation to Canada, it is this kind of fantastic bargaining power that provides something
dynamic. Sometimes we find it is a bit too much, but let us say that it is not just negative.
The Chairman: To return to the matter of the government's role. If I understand correctly, you say that more
extensive regulation should be applied to the electronic media, but not the print media?
Ms. Bombardier: With the current concentration and convergence, things are no longer what they were. Just like
you, I saw what happened recently with a television network that produced a program. On top of that, the daily
newspapers jump on the bandwagon and make headlines with what is happening in that television program, instead of
news and information. It is grotesque, we tell ourselves it is a joke, that we do not believe it, but it is there. How do we
Senator LaPierre: You allow the state to spend close to a billion dollars a year to have a public television service like
the CBC, a service which is growing in importance on the Internet. How can you rationally say that a newspaper based
on the same principles and in which there was no advertising would be a great sin against democracy? It seems to me
that you have a double standard.
Ms. Bombardier: I am paradoxical and, as you know, paradox is the characteristic of human beings. I will answer
like this. In any democracy, the frequencies are public property and the actual existence of a newspaper is not public.
Obviously, it is on the market, but there is a difference in nature between a public service that operates within an
audiovisual landscape and what happens in the print media.
Senator Graham: I wanted to recognize the witness because her bona fides are well recognized, and her experience in
this field is applauded.
Could highlight any differences between journalism in English and in French Canada, and perhaps focus on the
different emphasis on issues that are current in our country today.
Ms. Bombardier: There are differences. First, I think that journalism in Quebec has a mix of French from France
influence, so there is the European influence in the way we see the news, and the North American influence. There is a
difference in the approach.
Also, there is another difference, that is, broadcasting for a minority audience. We realize that we are working to
defend our identity, to keep it different from that of English Canada. We are not running along behind the Americans
like English Canadians.
In other words, when we are very good journalists, we are not going to work in the United States. We are not going
to work in France when we are journalists at home because, even if France influences us, it is also another conception
of journalism. It is much more a journalism of opinions, more remote from the event. It is also easier for us because we
are not constantly competing with what goes on in the United States. Which is so for English Canada since we know
that the majority of the English-Canadian audience watches American programs. So we have a more captive audience.
We have the feeling of having a mission, which is to convey this different culture, but which is also what makes this a
I am a fan of CBC Television news and information. I watch the news because I find they do a remarkable job. They
are very often exemplary in the way they cover the news. It is different from what goes on on the private English-
There are some important differences when we watch television regularly, we can see them, and I think it is really to
Canada's credit that it has a public television service of such quality. We may think at times that it is a bit biased, but I
do not have a problem with that as long you have a diversity of points of view expressed.
Since they feel they are competing with the Americans, we feel there is a constant effort to go for excellence. It is
In Quebec, you know that the television news and information programs on Radio-Canada are being beaten in the
ratings by the private television programs, and this is something new. Before, our telecasts held their own, were really
the most watched. This is no longer so.
I think that in the public service, we are making some adjustments. Part of the Radio-Canada audience has left us
for the specialty channels because they did not like to have short news items in their telecasts, the way there have been
in recent years. There will be a correction and if it were the way it is at the CBC, that would be great.
Senator Graham: The support of your unique culture in the French press is to be applauded. We have heard much
talk of media concentration and cross-media ownership. Some commentators have suggested that the increase of the
prevalence in recent years of this concentration and this cross-ownership might limit the diversity of news and opinions
in Canadian media. If that is so, would this be more of a problem in French Canada because of its relatively smaller
Ms. Bombardier: Yes, of course it is. This concentration is the reason the public service is so necessary right now.
When we watch TVA, read the Journal de Montréal, listen to radio stations, and read all those magazines, of course we
need the public service more than ever to give this diversity. That is why we have to be very careful about what is going
on in Quebec on that matter.
Senator Spivak: I only read Le Devoir. I find it easier to read than some of the other newspapers. I have found that
their environmental coverage is excellent. They often have inside information about federal government affairs that
you do not find in the Globe and Mail or the National Post. That is interesting. I consider that as part of the network
However, amusingly, sometimes the Globe and Mail will cover some major event in the world but Le Devoir will deal
with a language question or a constitutional question. I find the emphasis on language and Constitution particularly
interesting. As well, there is a lack of information about the rest of Canada. Sometimes there is information about
things that happen in Alberta, certainly, but never about what is happening in Manitoba. That is a difference.
I have also find the quality of the writing in Le Devoir fabulous.
Ms. Bombardier: I have a column in Le Devoir, so I thank you for that.
As for the rest of Canada, yes, I know what you mean. However, what kind of information do you have about
Quebec in the other newspapers in Canada, except in the national ones?
Senator Spivak: That is true.
Senator LaPierre: They are all ``national'' now. They are owned by one person.
Francophones outside Quebec are forced to watch the world through the hole in Montreal's belt. At the Forum on
Culture and Diversity, many francophones outside Quebec told Mr. Gourd that they never saw themselves either in the
news or in the entertainment programs on Radio-Canada. Allophones and Native people said the same thing — that it
belonged to the mainstream and that all that interested mainstream people was mainstream people. The same criticism
is made of the CBC.
Essentially, the CBC is a nineteenth-century English-speaking broadcasting system. French Canadians rarely find
themselves included. Certainly, the visible and invisible minorities never find themselves included — in particular as far
as entertainment is concerned. A Black person is always a driver. A native is always an Indian with whatever it is that
In other words, I am talking about the life and personality of the very nature of Canada, which is based on the
reality of diversity. Some 43 per cent of the people who have immigrated to Canada are from Asia, Africa and Latin
America. They are not from central Europe or anywhere else like that.
Both Radio-Canada and the CBC are failing the Canadian public miserably as public broadcasters, whose
operations are paid for by the taxpayers of Canada. Consequently, they must be severely criticized for their lack of
capacity to represent the realities of Canada to Canadians.
That is not a question, but a comment.
Ms. Bombardier: You are talking to me as if I were the president of the CBC or the president of the French network.
Senator LaPierre: I am asking for your comments as a learned person.
Ms. Bombardier: Some 85 per cent of the French network's audience lives in Quebec.
Senator LaPierre: That is no excuse.
Ms. Bombardier: I understand, but this is political. On the other hand, I am not trying to justify it. When I came to
CBC 27 years ago, the first assignment was at that time — and it was formidable — because we were sent to see all the
French outside of Quebec, so we were travelling around Canada. Those arguments were true at that time and it still is.
This is another problem. This is a Canadian problem and it is a political problem, yes. I understand.
I will tell you something that is not very politically correct. When a singer from Acadia, for instance, is successful, he
or she is on the French network.
The Chairman: Indeed. The problem of minorities being covered I know, because I belong to a minority myself, is
existential. It will never go away and it must always be brought forward because majorities must always be reminded
I have another question. You talked about the erosion in the audience ratings for Le Téléjournal on Radio-Canada.
What was the impact of creating the Réseau de l'information, as a news channel in general? As the audience, we say it
is fantastic since it gives us a lot more news and information. On the other hand, for the providers of this information,
is it positive or not?
Ms. Bombardier: My fear in the beginning, when the Réseau de l'information was created — and I was one of the
few to see it this way — was that the main network was being emptied of its content and that was justification for
saying that everything could now be found on RDI, and that we no longer needed to do it on Radio-Canada, on the
main network. It is like in the Catholic church, where we need leftist priests to assure all those on the right and the
official positions of the church. Moreover, they accept them in South America and Africa; they are colourful,
diversified and they justify the institution.
I was afraid they would do the same thing with ARTV, that is, that the cultural programs would be taken and that
Radio-Canada would be left with just entertainment and comedy programs. Because we like to laugh a lot; actually we
are dying laughing in Quebec. But that is another problem. It is true that ate up part of the audience and it is true that
the Réseau de l'information does a terrific, consistent job in news and information, with analyses. These are things that
used to be done and that are no longer done on the main network, but I know there will be a correction and that these
programs will regain favour. There are no more discussion programs on the main network. We no longer have those
solid documentaries that we took time over. There is also the matter of money. A lot of human interest things are done.
But human beings are only interesting if we understand their behaviour, are they not? So we are still filming what they
do, and understanding a little less why they do it.
Senator Spivak: We should not forget that we do not want just diversity in multiculturalism, we want excellence. In
this respect, I want to point out the contribution of Peter Gzowski — we should not forget that — who really showed
Canadians other Canadians and it was because of his talented team. We have another program, The Passionate Eye,
which also has a wide panorama of different cultures that they show to us in fabulous documentaries. It is really a
question of talented people giving us sources from everywhere and searching out that talent.
Senator LaPierre: Why do you allow so many people who have no intelligence whatsoever to do all kinds of
programs about French-speaking Canadians and English-speaking Canadians?
Senator Spivak: If I had my way they would be eliminated, but I do not know the programs in Quebec, but there
must be some programs in Quebec.
Ms. Bombardier: We have a few talented people in Quebec you know.
Senator Spivak: Of course you do. I mean that there should be diversity, but not just for the sake of diversity. There
is nothing worse than having a diverse program without any cachet.
Ms. Bombardier: Yes. Political correctness is boring.
Senator Spivak: That is right, it is boring.
Senator Day: I would like to hear your comments concerning the war in Iraq, about the journalists that travelled
with the soldiers in the armed forces. Is it possible to remain independent in this kind of journalism?
Ms. Bombardier: You know, now we think that reality is defined by television. But this was a war and television
went along with the war. This war was not waged to make a television ``show.'' Obviously, all the journalists there were
closely watched. I was not there when war was declared. I was in Ukraine, in Kiev, and then in Odessa. Then I came
back to France and later Dublin. From Dublin, I arrived in Montreal. So I saw everything. I saw all the networks I
could see on cable.
But one thing is certain, and I was sorry about that. It was that the journalists did not say enough about the extent
to which they were constrained, not only those who were with the American army, but those who were in Baghdad
itself. As long as the regime had not fallen, all we were shown was propaganda. There were casualties. But they were
taken there and not elsewhere. All these people were monitored, weren't they? So the news and information was
completely organized. It was staged and we watched this staging of the various parties involved, of the staging of the
war. I must say that I thought the BBC was remarkable. Because, in addition, they were at war and their journalists
kept a distance at the same time from their country's policy. In this way, we see that we cannot break with tradition.
If I could say just one thing to conclude, it is that there is a tradition of public service in this country. There was a
tradition in the way of doing news and information. I am in favour of memory, I am in favour of memory triumphing,
and I am against the tyranny of ratings. That is my position, while being entirely of my time.
The Chairman: That is a nice way to end. Thank you very much, Ms. Bombardier. This has been fascinating for us
all and we are very grateful to you for your presence.
I thank all our witnesses and I thank all the senators.