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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: I would like to think there would be a revival of Canadians covering the world for Canadians but in truth that's probably not likely particularly if newspapers are individually owned. However if there is more competition out there one organization may decide that its future lies in international news and so focuses more on that than local news. It's hard to predict who may see what niche and decide to try to take advantage of it. One problem though is that the Internet gives news readers access to news from so many places around the world in real time that news organizations would have to think hard about what they could provide that readers would think is distinctive enough to make it worth the cost of doing it.

Nicola: How will this affect local newspapers? What was wrong with the strategy of buying up many papers?

Christopher Waddell: It depends what you define as local. If you mean community papers or weeklies, probably not much impact. The problem in buying up many papers is that it has been followed by layoffs and consolidation that has generally meant papers have fewer reporters, more centrally designed and controlled packages of information are given to them and there is less flexibility for individual publishers and editors to make news and management decisions to shape each paper's content to the local community and to cover local stories and issues. Readers notice that and they stop reading.

Patrick: What is your opinion regarding what the fate of the Global Television Network will be? Will they continue to air American programming into the foreseeable future or do you believe that the US studios will pull their shows from Global?

Guest: I'm interested to know what is the predicted outcome of the two CanWest Canadian television groups as a result of the recent filings, and potential subsequent actions: 1) the Global TV network group and 2) the newer, digital specialty channel group bought from Alliance Atlantis, which is not part of the filing.

Alberta Reader: Who are the most likely players in your mind that would interested in the broadcast assets if the Global Television Network and Specialties were to be broken up?

Christopher Waddell: The US studios won't pull their shows from Canada unless CTV, Global and CBC stop paying for them. In fact some argue that the financial difficulties the over the air networks currently face is in part the result of paying too much for US programming. I would guess the Global network will stay pretty much the same and the specialty channels could be sold either individually or as a group to one of the other specialty players in Canada but I have no inside ideas on who might be buyers in either case. The one thing I do know is that foreign ownership restrictions currently prevent non-Canadians from buying the television assets. I don't think those foreign ownership restrictions benefit Canada so would hope that they be dropped,. If we are concerned about ensuring we have Canadian content, regulate content and then enforce the regulations, don't pretend we are ensuring content through ownership.

Jane: What role do you think social media (Twitter, Facebook, FlickR) will play in the future of Canadian media?

Christopher Waddell: They are already playing a role in a lot of fascinating ways - everything from tipping news organizations off to stories and events to undermining the ability of the legal system to protect the identities of young offenders, of victims of crimes or to maintain publication bans. They also become a way for the public to contribute to the media and to challenge it. Figuring out how to use social media is one part of the Internet-print-broadcast balance that everyone is trying to find at the moment. I don't think anyone has it yet.

Claire Neary, Reportonbusiness.com: Any final thoughts, Christopher?

Christopher Waddell: Only that this is going to take some time to work out and some of our assumptions at the moment will turn out to be wrong. The only certainly is that CanWest won't continue as the conglomerate it has been to date. I hope the result is more widespread ownership of the media in Canada, more competition, more surprises in content and a recognition of how wrong-headed and detrimental to public discourse the whole conglomerate-concentrated-converged approach to media ownership has been.

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