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Carleton Journalism professor Chris Waddell (Bill Grimshaw)
Carleton Journalism professor Chris Waddell (Bill Grimshaw)

Earlier discussion

CanWest and the future of Canadian journalism Add to ...

Christopher Waddell: There could be two Torstar possibilities - the Windsor Star if the newspaper group decides to sell it and some of CanWest's community papers which presumably Metroland - the Star's community division - might try to buy. I don't think the newspaper group would consider selling the Ottawa Citizen. I know this sounds silly to say considering their complete lack of action or interest in the past (other than commissioning endless studies that have sat on shelves) but at some point might federal government policy be concerned about concentration of ownership. Don't forget Torstar owns a significant chunk of CTVGlobemedia. The other issue of course is that Torstar would incur additional debt to do it at a time when lenders may see media acquisitions to be more risky than in the past if for no other reason than it seems likely that the days of 20-30 per cent profit margins for media firms are history.

Ivan: What impact, if any, will the CanWest situation have specifically on CTVGlobemedia?

Christopher Waddell: I don't think it will have any immediate impact. Global TV should remain as a competitor to CTV and a strong one particularly in western Canada and I certainly hope we don't revert to one national newspaper.

Jim Bulgosi: At one time Moses Znaimer was trying to build a national network with the A channels City. Rogers wanted to buy some of it and was denied. Global was building a national channel with some gaps across the country. Will there ever be a third truly national network in this country?

Christopher Waddell: Probably not. The real focus these days is in specialty channels distributed over cable or satellite and in pay per view. That's where profit margins are still large and in the case of specialty channels owners have a steady stream of revenue from subscribers. Even in the US three over the air networks are having their troubles these days.

BC Reader: And what about the dozen or so CanWest community papers in the Lower Mainland of BC? They appear to be making money - no drop in paper sizes over the past few years - yet there's rarely any mention of their existence in these restructuring/bankruptcy stories.

Christopher Waddell: True enough. It is possible that they could be bundled together and sold to a separate owner or group of owners similar to the Black papers (not Conrad) now in British Columbia. Weekly and community newspapers have generally been less seriously affected by the advertising downturn and Internet competition than large metropolitan papers which could make them an attractive investment for someone.

Doug: Hello. A sidestep from the economic/financial questions: the Globe's own Lawrence Martin has pointed out that Canadian mass market print media (with the possible exception of the Toronto Star) are editorially tilted to the right, and often do not either give credit to the NDP or approach issues and stories from a left-of-centre perspective (by that I mean taking issues the left considers important seriously, not adopting a leftish bias on the news pages. The Guardian might be considered an example.) Anyway, my question is: do you see any potential owner or ownership group that might provide a broader viewpoint by the CanWest papers?

Christopher Waddell: That's always possible. It depends on who is out there who may want to purchase the group of papers or individual newspapers should they be put on the market. The Guardian is a bit unique in its operation as it is owned by a trust. Generally most papers tend to be owned by very well-off individuals or corporations neither of whom have much of a history of left-wing thinking. At various points in the past there were musing about the trade union moving owning its own media outlet but that hasn't really gone anywhere. If I could rephrase your question slightly I think there is a potential for a broader range of viewpoints being expressed by former CanWest papers should they be in the hands of a series of different owners but how those views may be placed on a left-right spectrum is impossible to predict without knowing who will own them. Individual ownership would give each paper a greater chance to reflect the views of their own community than sometimes exists in a chain.

Jeff: I think this is great news, and I echo your thoughts about Canadians having access to diverging points of view, rather than the homogeneous news that we currently receive. My main concern is with news coverage on the international stage - we currently are getting only a certain spin based on where the media companies' allegiances lie. What are your thoughts on coverage of international news as a result of the breaking up of massive conglomerates?

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