Canadians are well aware of how government funding compromises the independence of the press.
A new Angus Reid survey shows a clear majority of Canadians reject the idea of the government funding newsrooms.
The survey asked respondents to pick between the following responses:
“The government should fund newsrooms because of the importance of journalism.”
“The government should not fund newsrooms because it compromises journalistic independence.”
Just 19% said government should fund newsrooms, while 59% said government should not do so.
22% said they were not sure.
The partisan breakdown is interesting, with 83% of Conservatives, 48% of Liberals, and 38% of New Democrats rejecting government funding for journalism.
Meanwhile, 5% of Conservatives, 28% of Liberals, and 30% of New Democrats want the government to fund journalism.
Thus, opposition to government money for journalism outstrips support in all three of Canada’s largest political parties.
This is bad news for the Liberals, and it follows on the heels of previous findings showing a plurality of Canadians rejecting the main political arguments the government is using to promote Bill C-18:
The latest Angus Reid survey shows Canadians more divided on the issue of whether to “completely defund the CBC,” with 47% opposing defunding compared to 36% supporting it. While CBC still holds a plurality of support, this is a decline from their once-strong image across the country, as the government-funded organization has been losing viewers/readers for quite some time.
Journalists should not be government workers
By definition, if a news organization survives only because it receives government funding, that organization is an extension of the government.
It may not officially be part of the state apparatus, but everyone who works for it must always keep in mind that the government is their benefactor. There is no way a news organization could be in that position and still retain their independence.
Journalists must be prepared to criticize the government and hold the government accountable. If those journalists work for an outlet dependent on the government, then they face a serious conflict of interest. They will always know in the back of their minds that if they anger the government too much their job – and perhaps the entire organization they work for – could be deprived of funding and thus collapse.
This is why a journalist should not be a government worker.
The government has many people who do things similar to journalists and opinion columnists, but they are rightfully referred to as public relations consultants, communications staff, speechwriters, and social media managers. Similar, but not the same.
Many authoritarian states fund the media, and the media in those countries is thus filled by those who push pro-government propaganda under the thinly-veiled guise of objectivity. But nobody is really fooled by that, because it is obvious when a country lacks true freedom of the press and truly open debate.
Why would Canada want to move in that direction?
Why would we want to throw away the independence of the press by making the press dependent on the government?
To do so would be to throw away a pillar of our democracy and a pillar of our free way of life.
Thankfully, Canadians appear to recognize that. The fact that opposition to government funding of journalism so substantially outweigh support indicates that Canadians have not been swayed by the arguments put forth by the Trudeau government – arguments meant to provide a cover for subsuming the free press into the state apparatus.
Private media is essential to democracy
Those who disdain competition and meritocracy, and those who want to centralize power in the hands of the government love to disparage the private sector. However, the private sector is one of the greatest sources of freedom and innovation. The idea that you can own something, that something is yours, not the government’s, not the public’s, is a profound concept when you look back throughout human history.
For this reason, private media is essential to democracy. A media organization that depends on the support of voluntary contributors and private sector ad revenue is an organization with the freedom to criticize the government. And, since there is a wide range of demand for different perspectives, private sector media organizations also hold each other accountable through competition and direct criticism.
As a result, if we really want to preserve Canada’s democratic system and ensure freedom of expression, we must reject all government attempts to fund or prop up the media, and ensure that the free press is solely the domain of the private sector.