Thursday, October 15, 2009

Canwest delisted

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.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Here, here. I am struck by how the recommendations of the Kent and Davey Reports seem to have been viewed simply as unfashionable by media commentators and journalism academics. Seems like there's been either a chill or a herd mentality - in either case, an avoidance of any substantive analysis of convergence and/or media concentration for the last while.

Ottawa Watch said...

Should have come here!

Warren K said...

You should write your next book on this. I'm serious.

Anonymous said...

Canwest Global's treatment of their own television productions is not good either even when compared to the CTV. Ever noticed how Global stopped showing episodes of The Guard in the middle of the second season without making any formal announcement of it at least being cancelled. Well those missing episodes have aired elsewhere but certainly not on any CanWest affiliate like Tropicana (a dumping ground for shows like CarlaWood and the the Bob & Doug MacKenzie cartoon). At least with the CTV when Listener and Defying Gravity got canned in the United States they still showed the unaired episodes on their Space network without interruption.

Anonymous said...

TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL PARK:: WHAT MINISTERS???

Canadian Press reported on Friday, Oct 16, 2009:
On another ethical front Friday, a non-partisan group asked the ethics, lobbyist and elections commissioners to investigate a fundraiser organized for Tory MP Rick Dykstra.
Democracy Watch said Dykstra hosted 60 “friends” last month in the owner’s box at Toronto’s Roger’s Centre for a Blue Jays baseball game. The donors got tickets to the game, access to the owner’s suite, food and drinks, an opportunity to attend batting practice and meetings with unidentified federal cabinet ministers and Blue Jays players.
The group wants to know what, if anything, Dykstra or the party paid for the various perks – particularly the owner’s box which can’t be rented and is only used with permission of owner Rogers Communications Inc., a company which lobbies the federal government.

Ottawa Watch said...

Wow.
My, my, what a difference a month make in terms of going from squeaky clean to grim and grimy.
How is Rustay Baord gonn 'splain this one away?
The cozy relationship between big media owners and pols (and the CRTC-media companyn- advocacy three-step, in which staffers and execs bounce between regulators, lobby companies and media head offices) is something that Opposition research should be digging into. There are more of these stories in there, I'm sure.

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