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The Spin Doctors

By Laura Ryckewaert      

"What's your take on the Rupert Murdoch and The News of the World controversy, do you think this story has an influence on Canada's national media?"

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Fred DeLorey

Conservative strategist

“Let’s be clear, hacking someone’s private voice mail and stealing their personal information is beyond contempt. The actions taken by those members of the press have certainly given a black eye to media.

“I deal with members of Canada’s national media on a regular basis and have for some time, and though I’ve met some incredibly aggressive reporters who work hard to get their story, I’ve never once experienced any of them doing anything even close to this sort of breach of ethics, let alone legality.

“If any member of the media here in Canada ever thinks of crossing that line, this controversy should give them pause and force them to remember that one of the largest-selling newspapers in the world was brought down because of it.”

Ian Wayne

NDP strategist

“Fortunately, many elements contributing to News Corps’ perfect storm aren’t present in Canada the way they were in the U.K. For starters, we don’t regularly see the kind of ruthless competition you see with Britain’s tabloids. Furthermore, that kind of frenzy over prying for salacious gossip goes beyond anything Canadians are traditionally comfortable with seeing in their newspapers. I think for many of us, Trudeau’s famous statement that ‘there is no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation’ still resonates.

“That said, in these days of 24/7 news and breaking stories released on Twitter, the Murdoch experience does serve as a cautionary tale for the Canadian media. I think if you look hard at what happened in Britain, it raises serious questions about the effect of over-concentration of media ownership and what checks and balances are in place to hold media conglomerates accountable.

“The News Corp example—and questionable reporting tactics of outlets like Fox News in the U.S.—also should serve Canadians as a cautionary tale about just how toxic things can get if the media is too close to politicians, or vice-versa.

“I think Canadian journalists can be proud of how they have stayed, as a rule, committed to a higher standard than what we have seen elsewhere in the world. Let’s hope that continues.”

Greg MacEachern

Liberal strategist

“Certainly The News of the World controversy had an effect on Canadian media, in terms of the breadth and type of coverage the resignations and arrests of those involved received here. But if you’re defining ‘influence’ as ‘can it happen here?’ the answer is pretty unlikely.

“The British tabloid culture is not replicated in Canada for example, and you don’t have someone like a Rupert Murdoch, with the concentration of media ownership and power that he possessed, here either. The Globe and Mail‘s Jeffrey Simpson recently wrote about both the media culture and the larger-than-life media barons including, and preceding, Murdoch. The column used as its title Stanley Baldwin’s view of tabloids, a ‘Tabloid culture: Britain’s ‘harlot throughout the ages.’ Old Stanley didn’t hold back.

“Simpson also pointed to another British trait, that of Prime Ministers attempting to cultivate relationships with media owners. As Simpson put it, ‘knowing how a series of British prime ministers kowtowed to Mr. Murdoch (and selected other media barons), David Cameron merely being the latest, makes it easy to see why no one was willing to call Mr. Murdoch to account for his shoddy products.’ Not exactly the Canadian tradition, thinking back to prime minister Chrétien’s less than friendly dealings with Conrad Black, or our present Prime Minister’s view of media in general.

“Let’s not forget that The News of the World was suspected for some time to be hacking into the phone messages of Royals and celebrities. Not much of an outcry at the time, perhaps because society views there being a price associated with those roles. But when that behaviour extended to the voice mail of murdered children—well, Brit or Canadian, no one was going allow that to pass.”

Camille Labchuck

Green strategist

“Canada is lucky to be free of Rupert Murdoch’s unethical, biased, and ideological news empire. But while we haven’t experienced problems with our own national media engaging in illegal activities designed merely to sell more papers, our national media still deserves scrutiny. Let’s not forget the anti-democratic and unethical exclusion of Elizabeth May from the 2011 election leaders’ debates by a handful of powerful TV executives.

“The concentration and corporatization of news ownership in Britain and the U.S. has received major attention, but Canada is no better. With news media ownership in Canada among the most concentrated in the world, nearly every daily paper and most TV and radio stations are now owned by only a small number of companies.

“Media monopolies harm diversity of opinion by nationalizing content, preventing local issues from receiving the coverage they deserve, and increasingly moving journalism toward the lowest common denominator. Add to this the severe cuts to our public broadcaster, the CBC, and the Canadian media landscape isn’t looking very rosy.

“The Greens are hopeful that something good will come from Hacker-gate. Media concentration and corporatization threatens democracy, and Canada needs a climate where journalistic independence and integrity are allowed to flourish. It is time to act on recommendations from many commissions and studies to pass anti-trust legislation to break-up media conglomerates.”

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