Monthly Archives: February 2009

Canada’s Explosive Media Situation

The Canadian media industry and communications infrastructure is about to explode.

I’m finding it very difficult to defend the CBC in its current state. They’ve spent a lot of money outbidding companies like CTV on shows like Jeopardy, they’ve lost the National Anthem, er Hockey Night in Canada Theme to TSN, and they’ve dropped a raft of successful shows.

For these and other reasons, the CBC is going to run short of funds this year, despite a massive $65 billion deficit perpetrated by the Conservatives.

Of course, that’s just one-one-thousandth of the expected budget shortfall over the next two years, but the Conservatives will do everything they can to generate the most explosive politics from the situation.

They position themselves as great overseers of the market, free trade and other elements of neo-liberal economics and here they are, the greatest socialists on the planet.  Of course, you’d better be wearing caviar tuxedos when you go to the trough with this one.  In other words, people who aren’t friends of Conservatives (FOCers) need not line up.

That means if you’re in public broadcasting, hit the streets.  Chump.

I’ve heard rumours about a number of public programs and how much they cost the Canadian public on an annual basis.  Most of them suggest a figure in the $2-3 billion range. These taxpayer-funded pork-barrel programs for the media industry are positioned as thinly-veiled ‘Can Con’ initiatives.  Two of the more popular programs include the “Canadian TV and Video Tax Credit” and the “Canadian Magazine Fund”.  There are many, many other programs that divert, rechannel, misuse and abuse piles of Canadian cash, but we raraely hear about those programs.

To my knowledge, these programs have yet to come under any kind of intense public scrutiny.

I wonder why?

Is it because, like just a few days ago, when Heritage Minister James Moore announced more than $75 million in funding for Canadian magazines, most of that cash will go to fund major Canadian media players such as Transcontinental, Rogers and Quebecor?

Research:  http://www.cbc.ca/arts/media/story/2009/02/17/magazines-fund.html

Here’s just a sampling of the publications that will be ‘capped’ with a taxpayer subsidy of $1.5 million per year:

  • Canadian Living.
  • Maclean’s.
  • Western Producer.
  • Reader’s Digest.
  • House and Home.
  • Chatelaine.

Do I read this right? We give $1.5 per year to Maclean’s so that they can support people that become subject of Human Rights Tribunals?

Give me a break.

As one of millions of Canadians that want public radio, TV and web (skip the print – too many dead trees), I have to sit idly by while Conservatives load up the coffers for organizations that should go to the stock market for funding?

This is an issue that will get nuclear quickly unless we all work together to figure out a more sustainable way to manage our content, our media and our national identity.  Yes, our national identity.

The current CRTC hearings are focusing on tiny issues that remind me of the ‘pieces of the puzzle’ expression. Net neutrality: piece. Funding for SOCAN artists: piece.  CBC funding: piece . CanCon: piece.

All of these pieces need to be considered as a larger puzzle that we can put together if we want to.

Unfortunately, the current government would sooner light a match to the pile of TNT that sits under all of our media behinds and light it up with great glee.  They would sooner ruin one of the last remaining (and most successful) broadcasters on the planet, but their actions will invite intense scrutiny to the small handful of massive media conglomerates in this country that profit from our subsidies every year.

Other research:

http://www.canadianheritage.gc.ca/cavco/pgm/cipc-cptc/pubs/103-eng.cfm

http://www.pch.gc.ca/pgm/fcm-cmf/index-eng.cfm

(PS:  If you have other links that describe the details of funding for these and other programs, please let us know.  Either post a link in the comments or email info@exciteddelirium.ca))

Net Neutrality Video – Please Share With Friends

A lot of Canadians are relatively unaware of the issues associated with what’s called ‘Net Neutrality’.  In the last election, the only party that even dared make it a modest political issue was the NDP.  If the Liberals are seeking ways to get Canadians on board with their new leader, this would be a great issue to support.  It’s a seemingly small issue, but it would differentiate themselves from the Conservatives, something they’ll desparately need in the coming months.  Universal support for Net Neutrality would also ensure that we take action against Canada’s largest media companies and their poor Internet management habits.

For those who are unfamiliar with the issue, this video explains a lot of the concerns raised by SaveOurNet.ca :

A neutral Internet acknowledges that the world of media and content creation has changed.  Significantly.

The last decade has seen a shift in the ability to influence the public.  We’ve seen mainstream media lose its grip on control of our ‘mindshare’ as individuals have gladly leveraged the tools at hand to create content and send messages to the public that are inconsistent with those of Bell, Rogers, Videotron and others.

With content creation (and ownership), comes the power to influence the markets through advertising and mass appeal.  Now that companies like Bell and Canwest no longer control the content – either from their own ‘pundits’ or from corporations selling us more ‘stuff’ – they no longer control the message either.  They have lost the ability to ‘massage’ people into following specific agendas and this is the central reason why net neutrality is so important to average Canadians (and people all over the planet, for that matter).

Another important element related to net neutrality is the notion of innovation and ecommerce.  It may sound like a severe statement, but the two will not survive without a neutral net.  Innovation – and a lot of new wealth creation – in the last decade or so has come in the form of new web sites selling unique products and services to Canadians.  Many of these sites and services help Canadians bypass inefficient structures like big box retailers and those that don’t believe in basic principles like fair trade and environmentally friendly product development.  For the same reason, the future of ecommerce in Canada relies on net neutrality.  Forcing Canadians into single channels of consumption (be it for content, products or anything else) is undemocratic to say the least, but more importantly, it strangles the ability of Canadians to launch their own businesses in the online environment.

It’s this latter notion that should inspire ALL Canadian entrpreneurs that rely on the Internet for their web sites, their blogs and their online stores to support a cause like SaveOurNet.ca.  If you profit from the web, please consider giving a small portion of that profit to SaveOurNet.ca (I’m not sure if similar organizations exist in Canada – this is the main one that I’m familiar with).

With so many people balking at the notion of leaving regulation and control to the government – which is at the very least elected by the people of this country – I’m always stunned to see that the alternative is to leave our future in the hands of a select few that only want to shout at us and sell more crap.

Atheists 1. God 0.

The Canadian Freethought Association is out to send their message.  Their official site can be found here .

The message is simple:  "There’s Probably No God.  Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life."

On the surface, they’re getting beat up quite badly in their efforts to advertise that there probably (leaving just a hint of doubt) is no God.

Ottawa won’t run the bus adsAdditional story here .

Halifax won’t run the bus ads .

Edmonton probably won’t run the bus ads .

Vancouver won’t run the bus adsAdditional story here .

Islamists will likely help other religious groups and run Pro-God ads in other jurisdictions .

According to some, they’re too much like attack ads.  Toronto may join the club of cities determined to squelch the horribly antagonizing message of the Humanists.

I can see it now:  "The Humanists are coming!  The Humanists are coming!" like they’re some kind of Godless horde determined to sack our villages and rape our women (or maybe men as well).

Or, more publicly, we get titles like this:  "Atheists entitled to their views, but … bus ads about ‘no God’ a little over the top" .  That’s like saying to a woman:  I support your right to work … just not in my office.

But where did it all begin?

You could argue that the debate is thousands of years old.  It’s said that Socrates may have developed his sense of morality, despite not having a Bible to guide him.  It’s said that many other ancient Greek philosophers shared his views.

From this list, the collection of people who have described themselves as atheists is really quite impressive.  Abraham Lincoln.  Woody Allen.  Ayn Rand.  John Stuart Mill.  James Joyce.  John Lennon (I actually remember when WKRP had an episode Mr. Carlson read ‘Imagine’ and a sponsor called him a Communist).  Thomas Edison.  James Madison.

It seems atheism is more widely accepted than many paranoid bureaucrats would have us believe.

But let’s get back to recent history.  The Canadian campaign is a continuation of efforts started in Britain by a related organization, the British Humanist Association.  When they ran these campaigns in the UK, they faced similar challenges, but ultimately, they achieved their goal.

They identified the obvious foibles that arise when people try to subject their ‘principles’ on the minds of the public. It’s OK to allow mysoginists depict women as whores.  It’s OK to talk about sex.  It’s OK to advertise salvation as a proxy to joining the Canadian military.  It’s OK to advertise religion.  It’s OK to advertise the thousands of wasteful consumer products.

But apparently, it’s not OK to question any of that.

A tragedy for free speech, right?

NOPE.  The net result:  The Freethought Association of Canada (the sponsors of the ads in Canada) have raised substantial amounts of money in new donations and they’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg.

I’d also suggest that they take this to the top courts and challenge public authorities and their right to dictate who should appear on bus ads.

What’s more important is that given all of the fuss from local transit authorities, municipal councilors and the media, the Canadian branch of Humanists haven’t had to spend anywhere near as much as they had originally planned.  Or, maybe they expected this to happen and didn’t budget anything anyways.

What’s happened is that the marketing is coming to them FREE OF CHARGE .  In an effort to inflame the hearts and minds of Canadians, our media has generated lots of publicity, but very little public outrage.  The news reports that exemplify the close-mindedness of our country’s leaders clearly shows that a good campaign is not so much about the actual ads running and being in your face, but by the level of discussion and public dialogue that you create as a side-effect.  Ultimately,the buzz eliminates the need to advertise and get to declare a financial, moral and social victory.

Atheists 1.  God 0.

Category: media, Politics | Tags: , , ,

Stop the Bleeding, Cut the Defense Budget

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The Harper Administration has made a commitment to spend more than $500 billion (BILLION) over the next ten years on the Department of Defense.

Because most of this expense will be on non-Canadian companies and companies in the US and elsewhere that are committed to one thing – eternal strife – we need to seriously re-evaluate this expenditure.

And when we do, the rewards will be fantastic .  Even if we’re brave enough to cut $20 billion from this budget, we’ll easily cover the lion’s share of what’s recently been pledged by the Harper Administration.

If you need rationale for this argument, I came across this piece which might be of interest . The general thought: The Pentagon shouldn’t be used to create jobs.

The Financial Crisis: Why Current Actions Won’t Work

I put a couple of articles on the back-burner, waiting for a chance to read both before commenting on them.  As it happens, this most recent article reminded me a little of this one so I thought it was time to explore them a little further.

Ultimately, the conclusion that both seem to have is that we’re going to run out of taxpayers.  And the problem with the financial crisis is that it’s nuclear:  we might be able to bail out a few banks now, but we’ll have toxic debt issues related to the bailouts for generations to come.

The solutions offered were mixed.  The Reality Sandwich article is really only in ‘Part I’ of a series, but towards the end, they seem to speak fondly of nationalization of the money creation process.  This would marginalize the demands placed on all capitalist countries by the financial community to borrow as they print money.  Instead, they would simply print money.  As someone who warns against the ills of abusing those things that come for free, this solution might create more ill than good.  It’s called inflation.

However, inflation only comes when people expect more from their economies.  Perhaps if we tuned ourselves to think in terms of zero growth (zero growth of money supply (unless under economic ‘duress’), zero growth of economies, zero growth of wages, etc), it might actually be feasible.

Good luck with that, though.

Enter the Socialist Project, with another lengthy and more current article, focusing mainly on the use of Keynesian philosophy and who’s doing it better.  They argue that China and other countries are better positioned to jump-start their economic bodies because they have a healthier attitude towards Keynesianism, but again, I’m concerned that we’ve really missed the point: we no longer have the luxury of infinite growth .

All of these policies, be they monetarist or Keynesian or whatever, simply don’t account for the notion that it’s irresponsible to fashion economies around the principles of endless consumption.  At some point, the party has to end.  We’ve already talked about the impact that demographics will have on our current situation , but the truth is that we don’t think anyone is listening.  There are too many special interests at risk (big banks, big unions, big government, etc etc etc).

What are your thoughts on this situation?  What do you think our governments should do to pull us away from financial ruin while trying to also encourage people to have a positive attitude about their futures?  Post your thoughts below.