The Canadian media crisis is worsening

By Matthew Sylvester, Special to the Record

Wednesday, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters released an economic study of the current state of privately owned media businesses in the country. Titled “The Crisis in Canadian Media and the Future of Local Broadcasting,” the study paints a grim picture of the future of small media enterprises by highlighting declining job availability and constant ongoing closures.
“Canadian private television and radio is in crisis,” said Lenore Gibson, Chair of the CAB Board of Directors in a press release. “Without immediate action, Canada will see a wave of local television and radio closures over the next three years. This will deny many communities a daily local media voice, and significantly reduce the diversity of news choices and voices in almost every community in Canada.”
According to the Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report of 2020, the average Canadian has come to rely on privately owned media for much of their information intake. Among the top 5 media institutions in the country, 4 are privately owned.
The ability for the comparatively small local media companies to hold their own against tech giants like Google and Facebook has been gradually ground down over the years. According to the CAB, lax taxation and regulatory treatment has led to the financial crisis facing private local television and radio stations, which rely almost exclusively on advertising revenue.
While the crisis faced by local media is nothing new, the shutdown of the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problem. The CAB predicts local television and radio broadcasters will face a revenue shortfall of over $1 billion over the next three years. This translates to the possible closure of over 200 radio stations nationally over the next two years, as well as 94 private TV stations.
The continued cuts faced by the Canadian news sector also mean more and more job losses. In private radio alone this could lead to an estimated loss of 2,000 jobs, or 24 per cent of 2019’s total listed for the sector.
“For generations, local news and journalism have been critical to keeping Canadians informed about the issues that are important to them such as holding governments to account and providing oversight of taxpayer dollars,” commented Carmela Laurignano, Vice President and Radio Group Manager, Evanov Communications Inc.. “If we allow local news to die, the health of Canadian society will be seriously undermined.”
On July 13, the CAB filed an application for emergency relief for local broadcasters before the end of the summer. They hope that the funds received will “create a more fair and sustainable future for local broadcasting, ensuring a diversity of editorial voices stay on-air across our provinces and territories.”

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