Well, it's over.
Canwest stock, which sold for $20 eight years ago and were among the TSX's blue chips, are now worthless. In early November, the stock will be delisted from the TSX.
This is a real tragedy.
Not the kind of "baby in a dumpster" story that newspaper reporters mistakenly call a tragedy. This story has flawed protagonists brought low by hubris.
I have been attacked professionally by at least one Canwest manager for following the collapse of this company. That's typical behavior of people blinded by failure and denial. Rather than address the problem, kill the messenger. Still, it's strange behavior for people playing at being journalists.
For three years, I have warned people that this day would come. In the first two years, all I saw was shock and denial. Canwest people claimed I didn't understand the situation. If that failed, they said I enjoyed this too much.
In fact, many good friends of mine have seen their careers cut short or have left journalism altogether. My former students at Concordia have almost no chance at a decent journalism job because of this mess.
Fortunately for Canwest apologists, we're in a recession. Eventually, the blame will fall on the economy because no one wants to look at the real problems.
This company is completely a creature of Canada's regulatory system. The CRTC -- along with Canadian academics and policy analysts -- bought into the flawed idea of media convergence. This absolute bullshit idea was engineered to break down the regulatory walls around broadcasters. Cross-ownership of media, decried in the Davey Report on Mass Media in Canada in the early 1970s, would not only be allowed under convergence, it would be encouraged. Media ownership concentration, the focus of the the Kent Commission on Canadian newspapers, would be ignored.
The public interest? Fuck it. We're too cool to worry about that.
But there was always important reasons to prevent too much media cross-ownership and concentration. People in Brandon, Victoria and Hamilton can tell you all about it. So can the readers of every newspaper in Canada, where news pages are empty of local coverage and columns are full of canned copy that's available for free on the Internet.
The Canwest mess is the worst, the fringe, of this regulatory failure.
Thank God the Internet is there to blame all this on. Forget the fact that the newspapers and broadcasters in this country made damn fine profits. Unfortunately, because Canwest was saddled with debt by its owners, those profits went to pay interest on junk bonds. Other Canadian media companies, with deeper pockets and less exposure to the convergence disaster, are quietly carrying on.
All this is a tragedy. We're a country of 30 million people spread out in a ribbon along the border of a superpower with ten times our population. We are trying to adjust to important changes to the economy, to demographics, and to the world geopolitical situation. We also should be having important debates on the environment, federalism and governance in general.
We need a strong media. Canwest's failure must be followed by a reconstruction of Canadian media that factors in the public interest and democracy's need for strong, independent, professional media.