Throwing $50 million at the media is a waste of money

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
February 28, 2018 - 5:11am Updated: February 28, 2018 - 11:45am

TUCKED AWAY behind all the budget speechifying Tuesday by federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau about pay equity, gender equality, pharmacare and so on was something you might not have noticed.

Over five years, the Liberal government intends to put $50 million towards saving local news.

It’s not nearly enough to accomplish that and, of course, the question is whether taxpayers should be footing the bills for media at all.

I have to admit this one caught me by surprise because I’d gotten the distinct impression that the Trudeau Liberals weren’t much interested in the media industry’s subsidy proposals.

The $50 million is to be spent on helping what are referred to as “under-served” communities. It should be quite the challenge to figure out which communities and which media deserve our money.

There’s no doubt that mainstream media are in trouble. Dozens of daily and so-called “community” newspapers have been closing their doors. The problem is that fewer businesses want to advertise in them, because fewer people want to read them.

There’s also no doubt that newspapers provide an important service to communities. Without them, Canadians simply don’t know as much about what’s going on where they live.

As soon as we open the door to government subsidies, though, we’re really talking about a new, non-profit model for our media.

Opponents of public subsidies for the media say they will come at the cost of the editorial independence of those media. More to the point, though, is that people are already making it clear that traditional media, especially newspapers, don’t fill their need for news information any more.

A year ago, I wrote that if the public didn’t stop being satisfied with click bait and start wanting traditional journalism again, they would soon lose it.

Well, the ship has now sailed. The public has spoken.

Fifty million dollars won’t save a single newspaper, and it certainly won’t save local news.

It’s a half-hearted measure, too little, too late. Save the money.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.