In Vancouver and Toronto, Citizens Demand Democratic Media

In both Toronto and Vancouver people have taken to the streets to engage fellow residents in the media and communication issues dealt with at Media Democracy Day. In Toronto citizens put together a cardboard TV prop and asked Toronto residents to tell people on camera what they think is missing in media. Those grassroots media anti-moguls will be back out on the corner of College and University at 5:30PM on October 23rd.

In Vancouver, citizens disgruntled by the fact that they live in one of the most concentrated media markets in North America blanketed streets and public spaces with posters bearing bold simple statements: "Whose view"? and "Whose Voice"?

Kim Elliott, one of the organizers of Media Democracy Day Toronto and publisher of rabble.ca, recently noted, "Truly, if there is one thing missing from the big media it is the diversity of voices and perspectives so crucial to ensuring that no one set of interests – largely the corporate interests of the highly concentrated media giants – can drown out all others."

Late October marks the 8th consecutive year of Media Democracy Day activities in Canada. Media Democracy Day (MDD) is a multi-city forum including panels, workshops, training sessions and speakers addressing media and communications issues. The street actions of citizens in Toronto and Vancouver are part of the buildup to upcoming MDD events in each city.

A very brief history of Media Democracy in Canada

In 1996 the Campaign for Press and Broadcast Freedom (CPBF) formed a national common front launched to challenge Conrad Black’s takeover of the Southam newspaper chain. This coalition lasted about a year, but the Vancouver chapter lived on and would host the first Media Democracy Day event in 2001. A similar group in Toronto simultaneously decided to organize its own MDD day of action.

The idea of an annual event, like an Earth Day for media democracy, had caught on. The first successful events occurred in Toronto and Vancouver. Since then MDD organizers have put together workshops, panels, Media Democracy Fairs, and keynotes for 8 consecutive years, held in many cities across the country.

According to SFU Prof. Robert Hackett, the initial drive of MDD was to “build a greater sense of community for those fighting for media democracy.” For Hackett, Media Democracy Day does provide that sense of community, but it has lacked a cohesive national campaign to push media reform efforts to a more transformative level. Now with a plethora of media focused groups emerging, like the media reform network Campaign For Democratic Media, that cohesion is starting to mount.

A Focal Point
In 2002, an Ipsos-Reid poll found that 86 per cent of Canadians believed that the federal government should do something to alleviate public concerns about media concentration. In 2007, the CRTC Diversity of Voices hearing resulted in an outpouring of nearly 2,000 submissions from citizens calling for more democratic media ownership rules. And the recent Canwest/ Goldman Sachs/Alliance Atlantis deal was met with well-attended public events through the Keep It Canadian campaign.

Net neutrality rally

The recent conspicuous activities of Bell Canada and other dominant ISPs who “throttle” Internet service have sparked a national movement, including the diverse SaveOurNet.ca coalition consisting of public interest and labour groups, businesses, and individuals. In May, public concern boiled over, resulting in a net neutrality rally with several hundred people on Parliament Hill demanding government action.

Clearly, Canadians are passionate about communication and cultural issues. With all this energy, we need a focal point to galvanize the diverse communities working toward media reform in Canada.

That focal point is Media Democracy Day.
This year marks the eighth consecutive year of Media Democracy Day, and the scene is set for it to be the biggest yet. Media Democracy Day may be a single day event, but it can also be a rallying cry and a platform for a broad constituency for media democracy in Canada. As we attend Media Democracy Day this year, we will once again celebrate the independent sources of information we have, and deepen our resolve to build a truly democratic media system in Canada.

This year's MDD festivities include public speakers, panels, workshops and screenings in Vancouver, Toronto, Kingston, Ottawa, and Montreal. More information about all Canadian MDD activities can be found at www.mediademocracyday.org

Steve Anderson is the national coordinator of Campaign For Democratic Media (DemocraticMedia.ca).


http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/ca/

More in

Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.