Roxanne Tellier – Sax and Violins? Never mind ….

Roxanne

When  I was a kid,my parents read the paper after dinner, and they were not to be disturbed while they did. It was important that they read the news, because otherwise, how would they know what was going on in their neighbourhood, their city, their country, or their world? The paper told you what you needed to know … and you believed it.

man reading paper

These days, print readership has gone way down, with most people preferring the immediacy of televised and visual ‘news,’ or of digesting the events of the day on social media. And most of us believe what we see or read.

Even if, like Emily Litella, we’ve misheard and misunderstood exactly what it is we’ve just been told. (Sadly, I couldn’t find the original Gilda Radner clip .. here’s an amateur ‘homage’ to one of her most famous routines…)

The thing is … something radical happened to journalism along the way. You may have sensed that media was different, but not realized that the rules were changed while you weren’t looking, by those like Rupert Murdoch,who sought to profit from the dissemination of misinformation.

“The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United StatesFederal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was—in the Commission’s view—honest, equitable, and balanced. The FCC eliminated the Doctrine in 1987, and in August 2011 the FCC formally removed the language that implemented the Doctrine….

In 1985, under FCC Chairman Mark S. Fowler, a communications attorney who had served on Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign staff in 1976 and 1980, the FCC released a report stating that the doctrine hurt the public interest and violated free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.”  – Wikipedia

Getting rid of that pesky Fairness Doctrine changed the way media represented itself forever. Rather than have an agenda that was “honest, equitable, and balanced,” media could now print or say any old thing, about anyone or anything.

We expect some kind of accountability from those who have the public’s attention. But that is no longer a view held by those who control what we see and hear.  And who controls media?

Almost all U.S. media comes from the same six sources, whittled down from the 50 companies that had that task in 1983 – GE, Viacom, Time Warner, Disney, News Corp and CBS.How did that happen? Aren’t there laws against monopolies? Why yes, there are ..and again, media magnates bend and twist the rules to get what they want.

Media O

“An oligopoly is when a few firms dominate a market. When the larger scale media companies buy out the more smaller-scaled or local companies they become more powerful within the market. As they continue to eliminate their business competition through buyouts or forcing them out (because they lack the resources or finances) the companies left dominate the media industry and create a media oligopoly.” -Wikipedia

And that’s bad ..why?

When the media align with the politicians of the day to manipulate how ordinary citizens interpret events, you’ve got trouble my friend, right here in River City.

thanks corporate news

“The explanation [of the extent to which government-produced news accounts have seeped into the broader new media landscape] begins inside the White House, where the president’s communications advisers devised a strategy after Sept. 11, 2001, to encourage supportive news coverage of the fight against terrorism. The idea, they explained to reporters at the time, was to counter charges of American imperialism by generating accounts that emphasized American efforts to liberate and rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq.” Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged TV News” – New York Times, March 13, 2005

In Canada, Bell, Shaw, Rogers, Newcap, Quebecor and the government-owned Canadian Broadcasting Corporation rule the roost.

“Canada has the most concentrated TV industry ownership of any G8 country, and the second most concentrated TV audience, says a new report that aims to measure the impact of the proposed Bell Canada-Astral Media merger.

The report fromBoston-based Analysis Group reports that 81.4 per cent of the value of Canada’s TV distribution (cable and satellite) market is controlled by companies that also create content, such as broadcasters and production companies.” – Huffington Post.

When so few companies control the message, the message can be made to say whatever the companies want you to hear. They can choose any direction, fill the airwaves with junk media or propaganda, and pander to the denominator that will keep their ratings – necessary to stimulate advertising sales – higher.

That’s a good thing for those who profit. Not such a good thing for those who need and want to know the truth about issues.

Example – Brexit.

brexit clubIt could be argued that the outcome of the Brexit referendum can be placed at the feet of British media.

“In the lead-up to the June 23 European Union referendum, British mainstream media failed spectacularly. Led, inevitably, by the viscerally anti-EU Daily Mail, Sun, DailyExpress, and Telegraph papers, most of Britain’s national press indulged in little more than a catalog of distortions, half-truths, and outright lies. It was a ferocious propaganda campaign in which facts and sober analysis were sacrificed to the ideologically driven objectives of editors and their proprietors.

The interests of readers, much less the interests of British democracy, were barely considered. Three days after the vote, I spoke to a Labour Member of Parliament who represents a constituency in northern England with one of the lowest proportions of immigrants in the country. Despite this, a majority of her constituents had voted to leave the EU. Why? Mainly, she said, because they were convinced that waves of immigrants would soon overwhelm their communities, take their jobs, and undermine their way of life. They were particularly concerned about the looming massive influx of Muslims, given the imminent European debut of Turkey – a country that stands no chance of joining the EU in my lifetime, let alone in the next few years.“  foreignpolicy.com/2016/07/08/the-tragic-downfall-of-british-media-tabloids-brexit/

brexit bus

The many years of cultivating eyeball catching, right wing ,schlock journalism inevitably led to a public that would swallow any  innuendo or lie placed before them. They might spit it up again, but they’d swallow first. Accuracy? Respect for privacy? Decency?Impartiality?Nope, nope, nope and nope.All gone in pursuit of shrinking ad revenues.18 percent of British media coverage was pro-Remain compared with 82 percent pro-Leave.

straight outta europeThe morning after #Brexit was indeed #Regrexit, as horrified Britons realized their folly of the night before. And that’s lead to some pretty nasty changes in Ol’ Blighty, that will indeed reverberate for decades.

Boris Johnson, one of the most prominent Leave campaigners, simply announced post-vote that he’d gotten quite a lot of his information wrong.  All that spare money that would result from a Leave vote wouldn’t actually be going to causes dear to Britain’s heart … like the National Health …

“Vote Leave assured the electorate it would reclaim a supposed £350m Brussels takes from us each week. They knew it was a lie. Between them, they promised to spend £111bn on the NHS, cuts to VAT and council tax, higher pensions, a better transport system and replacements for the EU subsidies to the arts, science, farmers and deprived regions. When boring experts said that, far from being rich, we would face a £40bn hole in our public finances, Vote Leave knew how to fight back. In Johnsonian fashion, it said that the truth tellers were corrupt liars in Brussels’ pocket.” – theguardian.com

An ‘oops!’ of rather massive proportions. The media rarely admit to errors, or if they do, a ‘correction’ is generally buried in small print somewhere that it’s unlikely to be seen.

a lie can travel TwainSocial and digital media can only democratize communications so far. Even those at the forefront of the ‘new journalism’ (BuzzFeed, Vice,  Huffington Post,)  have to remain vigilant of either being gobbled up by a key media player, or of falling prey to the same mentality that has created the media kingpins of the past.

Can anyone control what media publishes, in an era when everybody and their dog has a blog? Can government do anything more than recommend that bloggers and websites  practice accurate, true, and balanced  journalism? For that matter, has professional journalism devolved to a constant stream of badly spelled and grammatically challenged OpEd?

dog with a blog

Britain’s barely two year old IPSO (Independent Press StandardsOrganisation,) owned and operated by the major publishers, has failed miserably at regulating their members. In the U.S., Trump’s declaring war on any media entity or person who dares to speak out against him. And Canadians saw in glorious colour Harper’s stranglehold on the mainstream media and on his own All Harper All The Time public relations  barrage. The Conservative government’s Economic Action Plan ad campaign in 2009-10 cost $52.3 million, and never really yielded any actual action. Government ad blitzes cost taxpayers  an estimated $750 million in the 10 years of  Harper’s reign. You’re soaking in it, alright.

We the people have changed right along with the media. Years of misinformation ladled alongside shocking images and gossip pieces disguised as hard news has made us weary and distrustful. The internet, with its hoaxes and clickbait, has made skeptics of us all.

The Washington Post recently put an end to its popular “What Was Fake on theInternet this Week” column after just 82 weeks; it had lost faith in their readers.

what was fake“Walter Quattrociocchi, the head of the Laboratory of Computational Social Science at IMT Lucca in Italy, has spent several years studying how conspiracy theories and misinformation spread online, and he confirmed some of my fears: Essentially, he explained, institutional distrust is so high right now, and cognitive bias so strong always, that the people who fall for hoax news stories are frequently only interested in consuming information that conforms with their views — even when it’s demonstrably fake.”

Nature abhors a vacuum. When professional journalism fails, unprofessional opinionating rushes in. When the ‘facts’ don’t work, and readers can no longer trust the media to give them honest truths, we make up our own ‘truths.’

The consequences can be devastating.

=RT=

Roxanne’s column appears here every Sunday 

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-button7Roxanne Tellier has been singing since she was 10 months old … no, really. Not like she’s telling anyone else how to live their lives, because she’s not judgmental, and most 10 month olds need a little more time to figure out how to hold a microphone. She has also been a vocalist with many acts, including Tangents, Lady, Performer, Mambo Jimi, and Delta Tango. In 2013 she co-hosted Bob Segarini’s podcast, The Bobcast, and, along with Bobert, will continue to seek out and destroy the people who cancelled ‘Bunheads’. 

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