Friday, November 30, 2018

Canadian govt. budgets $600M to subsidize press

Andrew Coyne: Liberals’ $600M aid package for news media will irrevocably politicize the press | National Post:

November 23, 2018 - "[Newspaper] publishers have long been leading the charge for federal aid... The publishers’ association even went so far as to suggest a model of how the money might be delivered, complete with promises of what sort of coverage they would provide in exchange.

"This week all that effort paid off: a $600-million aid package, tucked in the middle of Wednesday’s economic statement.... In an election year, ... the Liberal government has agreed to supply the nation’s news media with pots of cash....

"[A]n 'independent panel' of journalists will determine who is eligible to receive the government’s cash.... [T]hey will be scrupulously non-partisan, of unimpeachable respectability, and dependably progressive.

"At least, they will until the Tories are elected. At that point, the new government will be presented with a familiar choice: keep on the Liberal appointees, and be congratulated for their statesmanlike impartiality, or replace them with others of a more right-wing hue, and suddenly arouse those hitherto-dormant fears about the freedom of the press....

"Until now, politicians have had to suffer journalists’ lectures to the effect that taking campaign donations from corporations and other vested interests might influence their judgment.... We will have to shut up about that now, as we will have to shut up about bailouts of other industries, and handouts to interest groups. We will simply have no standing to object to any of it.

"In time, it will no longer occur to us. The money the government is giving us is not going to solve our problems. It is only going to ensure we put off confronting them. Before long we will be back for more — after the same mutual dance of veiled threat and implicit promise.

"Perhaps some news organizations will refuse the government lolly. They will find themselves at a substantial competitive disadvantage to those who don’t. As of course will all those who are refused ... because they are not “professional” enough. Perhaps they will be deemed too 'ideological' by our panel of progressive worthies? Or perhaps they will be too small, too unusual, scrappy startups practicing journalism in a form unrecognizable to the sorts of people likely to fill such a committee.

"To hell with it. To hell with all of it. No newspaper publisher should have anything to do with this plan. And no journalist worthy of the name should go anywhere near that accursed panel."

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