Parliament is taking another careful look at the state of the country’s news media.
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is in the midst of at least ten meetings in which it will collect evidence on “how Canadians, and especially local communities, are informed about local and regional experiences through news, broadcasting, digital and print media.” The committee has already heard from a swath of witnesses ranging from government ministries and agencies like the Departments of Industry and Heritage, the CRTC and the Competition Bureau, industry stakeholders like the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and the Canadian Media Guild as well as a handful of journalism professors and industry observers.
As even the most casual observers of the news media well know, it’s ugly out there: the context of the committee’s investigation is a Canadian media space roiled by changing consumer habits and declining print media advertising revenues. As readers move online, it has become increasingly difficult to make a buck in the newspaper game – particularly for smaller, local papers. The Guelph Mercury, one of the oldest newspapers in Canada, printed its final edition a few weeks ago. This followed the shuttering of the 141-year-old Nanaimo News earlier this year. By one count, 22 newspapers have closed in the last five years.
This is not the first time that Parliament has taken a look at the news. As Jennifer Ditchburn has reported, at least four other federal studies have been undertaken on the country’s media – none of which, in Ditchburn’s view, led to significant action. Media outlets and content producers should, however, watch for the committee’s eventual recommendations so as to be better able to respond to potential regulatory consequences.