February 14, 2016 12:11 pm

Should the government step in to save Canadian media?

Carleton School of Journalism's Susan Harada and Jane Hilderman of Samara join Tom Clark to discuss the demise of the news business and its effect on civil discourse.

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News outlets across the country are imploding.

From print to radio and television, the story is the same: revenues are going down, journalists are losing jobs as the industry becomes more concentrated. But even as these traditional outlets wither, there has been an explosion of information online, and it has never been more accessible. So what does this all mean for democracy? And is it time for the federal government to step in?

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To answer those questions, The West Block turned to Susan Harada of Carleton’s School of Journalism, and Jane Hilderman of the democracy think tank Samara.

“Our information environment has never been so rich, but journalism has long had a history of trying to fact-check, provide analysis, and help Canadians understand what’s happening,” explained Hilderman.

“Without that, we risk, I think, losing that environment that citizens need to be a full citizen, to be a full democracy.”

Harada agreed, saying the erosion of unbiased voices holding decision-makers to account will eventually lead to a drop in civic engagement.

“There are links and connections between having a thriving news media and having civic engagement,” she said. “And information does come from all over, but you do need those people who are one step removed, and that’s the role that journalists have always played.”

As mega-companies like Postmedia Inc. struggle to stay afloat and lay off journalists across the country, it may be time for the government to consider stepping in, the panelists said. That could take the form of a public inquiry into the state of news media in Canada, or a more direct approach like increased funding or tax breaks. Or both.

“I think there is some room for creative thinking though, that isn’t necessarily a policy solution, but also recognizing that there could be space for new models … that just aren’t similar to what we’ve seen in the past that have been so dependent upon advertising revenue,” Hilderman said. “I think we have to be careful about trying to create an environment that still allows for some of those creative structures rather than creating a whole new environment that’s strictly dependent upon government.”

Watch the full interview above.

© 2016 Shaw Media

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