|Toronto’s traffic misery means I don’t fight my
way into The Six as often as I might, glad I
did on this occasion though.
We battled our way into The Six last night to attend TVO Today Live’s: Can Democracy
Survive the Collapse of Media? The documentary is the story of the Toronto Star as it struggles to survive in our diverse mediascape. Digital disruption came to newspapers at the same time the change from broadcast to the individualized, 2-way media access (aka, the internet) unhinged other traditional media giants. Many newspapers are hanging on by their fingernails as they struggle to develop a business model that would allow them to survive in the 21st Century.
The documentary raised difficult questions around the importance of an independent press as a means of holding government and business to account. It follows The Star as reporters exposed the many failures by the Ontario government during the COVID pandemic. By the end of the documentary it was hard to argue against the importance of an independent press as a pillar of democracy, though how they operate can no longer assume that they are the ‘information celebrities’ they were in the broadcast age.
|The premier took place on the
UofT Campus, just south of
Yorkville, which is surreal at
the best of times.
There was a lot of blame in both the documentary and the round table discussion afterwards aimed at ‘tech’ companies like Google and Facebook. While those companies depend on new digital media delivery systems, they seldom engineer their own tech. Google and Facebook aren’t tech companies, they are advertising companies who have exploited digital disruption in order to eat traditional media company’s lunches.
The fall-back position of the Fourth Estate (professional journalism) is that they provide an important balance in any country claiming to adhere to democratic principles. Transparency isn’t something that comes easily to people when they gain money and power, which tend to get used to gain more privilege and power. This is a difficult truth to dispute, though how the professional press operated in the time of broadcast media when profit margins were huge and they were the only voice to be heard came with its own problems.
I found the documentary interesting in terms of tracking our dance into the datasphere two decades into our information technology/media revolution. The problems from clinging to an out of date business model (predicated on privilege and a lock on the media people see), were clearly defined, but what prompted me to get up and ask a question in front of Toronto’s intelligentsia was the ignoring of foreign influence in this imbalance.
Next week I’m attending KnowledgeFlow & NATO Association of Canada’s DEFUSE project focused on how to battle disinformation in Canada’s fractured mediascape, and I’ve spent the last month attending cybersecurity conferences that made Canada lack of cyber-resilience when facing foreign cyber-powers terrifyingly apparent. Listening to reporters blaming advertising companies for how unfair it is that they share their journalism without any economic support pales in comparison to this more clear and present danger.
We live in an increasingly interconnected world, much of which does not place any value in the balancing act of a functioning democracy. I’d go so far as to say many of these unfriendly governments see Canada’s unregulated approach to online media as an opportunity to spread disinformation and fracture political cohesion. These unfriendly powers tend to focus on developing massive military cyber operations, some of which are larger than the entire Canadian military.
What finally got this introvert on his feet was Senator Pamela Wallin’s repeated statements that the Canadian government has no place in supporting an independent press. The question that sprang into my head was, why is the Canadian government so worried about staying out of influencing media when so many unfriendly foreign governments are actively engaged in spreading disinformation in Canada?
The Senator’s feelings are understandable as she used to work as a professional journalist and deeply believes in keeping government influence out of an independent press, but that ignores all those other governments who are already spreading misinformation in our country. Canadian professional journalists have to adhere to legal codes of conduct that anonymous, foreign backed social media ‘influencers’ and the new-media advertising ‘tech’ companies who deliver them to every Canadian blithely ignore.
There are a couple of ways the Canadian government could protect professional journalism, assuming the battered fourth estate can get past its own privileged past and focus on journalistic best practices rather than chasing the same advertising that the tech giants are. Funding with no editorial influence for news outlets that are providing fact-based, Canadian information is a good place to start. That funding should come directly from the new-digital advertising delivery services (Google, Facebook and the rest) who distribute professional journalism without supporting it in any way. By requiring the online advertisers to pay Canadian content creators for their journalism, this could be an influence free source of stability for the fourth estate. It would also help Canada moderate foreign influence in social media by enabling more transparent, Canadian made, fact-checked information online.
Bolstering fact-based Canadian journalism means Canadians are more likely to be seeing vetted information rather than foreign backed disinformation, but we also need to aggressively pursue anonymous sources of funding. The fourth estate could help there to. Transparency of online information funding should be another priority. By providing data on social media funding, the federal government would be publicizing data on information transparency that would assist academic and journalistic research into foreign influence in Canada.
In response to my question, the Senator emphasized the importance of understanding and preventing foreign influence, making specific reference to China’s worldwide disinformation campaign. She wrapped it up by noting that education is the key, which makes me happy as a cyber-educator, but it isn’t enough. We need intelligence apparatus that is providing much needed transparency into how social media is twisting our national conversation, otherwise we’re at the mercy of well funded, organized unfriendly foreign governments who are already neck deep in twisting our national media.
|Canada is up against giants, and our unregulated online media makes for easy access to Canadian politics by governments who happily leverage our lack of awareness for their own ends. Canadian journalists can’t get paid for producing fact-checked local content, but the lunatic fringe gets paid by enemy states to flood Canadian screens with disinformation. There is clearly a role for the federal government in Canada’s media engagement.|
|Tax this and then use the funds to support fact-based, Canadian journalism.|
from Blogger https://ift.tt/ev6QXbo