A story on one of my favorite websites yesterday caught my attention. Apple had been suing a couple of prominent Apple rumour blogs to get the identity of the source who leaked information about a new Apple product. Although it looked like Apple was going to get its way initially, the case was eventually overturned on an appeal. Apple has now officially given up on the pursuit. Apple lost because the courts agreed that bloggers are protected by the right to protect their sources, just like journalists.
I think this is great news because it gives legitimacy to another form of media other than the traditional. I was quite disturbed yesterday to hear about Bell GlobeMedia’s acquisition of CHUM. There are fewer and fewer sources of information in Canada. The smaller fish keep getting gobbled up by the bigger ones. My professors in journalism school back in the 90’s warned us that the ownership of Canadian media was becoming increasingly concentrated, and they were right. Since then, Canada’s independent voices are falling silent, all because huge companies like Bell have the money to absorb them.
Southam Newspapers, the Financial Post, Sun Media, CHCH TV, and now CHUM are just a few of the names that have been rolled into the big media players recently. As they disappear, so does the variety that their newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations created. If you don’t believe me, flip through the 50 or so TV channels on the standard cable lineup. Notice how so many channels are showing exactly the same thing? Notice that same TV journalists are now on the radio and in the newspaper? It wasn’t like that before. It used to be about competing points of view. Now it’s all about optimizing markets for maximum profits. CityTV quickly became one of Toronto’s most popular TV stations when it was independent. It lost some of its most innovative programming when CHUM bought them and pushed Moses Znaimer out of management. Now that Bell owns CHUM, you can expect CityTV to degrade even more.
The CRTC, which is supposed to protect the interests of Canadians when it comes to broadcast media, will probably rubber-stamp this buyout and allow it to continue. And why not? You can’t put a gun to someone’s head and say, “No, you can’t make money selling your company to someone else. You must continue making interesting content for Canada.” It just wouldn’t work. Bell will buy CHUM, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
Why does this bother me? It seems so boring and academic, talking about the concentration of ownership in Canadian media. I guess I’m upset because it’s all contributing to my most hated enemies: Mediocrity and Uniformity. Those two villains are killing my hero, Independent Thought. Not only that, but it’s harder to see what’s really happening in the world when what passes for news is an update on who got kicked off the island in the latest Survivor.
Independent Thought’s saviour could be the world of blogging. The criticism against blogs as a source of information is that it’s not always checked for accuracy like the traditional media. I have to say though that the blogs I read most frequently are more accurate than the National Enquirer. Just because something is printed on paper doesn’t mean it’s true, and just because something’s posted on the web doesn’t make it false, either. Interestingly, the greatest criticism of blog-based news comes from the traditional media. The trick is to take all news with a grain of salt. Get your information from all sources. It all comes down to who is saying what, and why?