Ottawa Looking to Fund Partisan Propaganda

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The folks in Ottawa have been dying to figure out an ‘innovative’ way to bail out Canada’s biggest media companies (besides the CBC, of course) without creating a massive voter backlash.  With that in mind, another hairbrained scheme has materialized:  spending taxpayer money on advertising (story details are pasted below).

The absurdity of this plan is laughable for a number of reasons:

  1. I normally try to avoid programming by Global, CTV or stations that are owned by these conglomerates.  A wide array of other Canadians have made a similar choice.
  2. You might as well just burn the cash because spending money on dead air to reach an audience that is gone or declining is nearly as wasteful.
  3. Using advertising to shout at existing watchers translates to paid propaganda.  This is morally reprehensible.
  4. Shouting at people with ad breaks and other interruptions is an antiquated mode of communication.

It’s the last point that I want to talk about.  We entered a massive transition more than a decade ago when technology made it easy for consumers of content to avoid advertising:

  • TIVO = avoid TV ads.
  • DVDs = avoid 20 minutes of previews, along with ads for mobile phones, cars and shoes.
  • iTunes & CDs = avoid radio ads.
  • Search = avoid online ads.

A good part of the mess that we’re in today is related to the notion that individuals can now think for themselves rather than have marketers and governments instruct them how to think and what to buy.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped people with large agencies from buying media and placing it with these companies for the Cons, largely in the form of ‘public service announcements’.  Our governments have a long history of spending oodles of taxpayer cash to inform us about ‘staying prepared for emergencies’, ‘how to spend your tax credits’, over-produced Department of Defense ads encouraging people to sign up for the reserves, etc.

Add that to the multi-billion funding of programs like the Canadian Film and Video Tax Credit which goes to channels like ‘The History Channel’ so they can show us ‘Red Dawn’ (I guess because fear mongering about Cuba has so much to do with history).

To think that we’re currently void of propaganda is excessively naive, but adding to the pile shows considerable contempt for the people of Canada.

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Source:  Globe and Mail

BRIAN LAGHI

The Globe and Mail

April 14, 2009 at 6:53 PM EDT

OTTAWA — Ottawa has a new option on the table for helping local TV stations make it through the recession: buy more government ads.

The idea, which is under discussion at the cabinet’s powerful committee on priorities and planning, is seen as a way to replace private advertising revenue that has fled since the onset of the financial crisis, a source told The Globe and Mail.

“In the short term, the most efficient way to get money out to broadcasters might be through advertising, because that’s where the initial loss was,” said the source.

“That’s where things have gone.”

Although a good number of MPs and cabinet ministers support help for the industry, the question of how best to deliver it is the subject of significant discussion. The government has talked about shelling out between $150-million and $75-million this year and $75-million next year in an effort to get money into the hands of the broadcasters quickly. However, some MPs are concerned that funnelling money directly to the broadcasters would not do much to prevent cuts. At least the government could benefit from the ads.

CanWest, CTVglobemedia and Quebecor have been lobbying the government for help as some of them consider closing or selling stations.

The broadcasters are looking for both short- and long-term aid as they battle to keep local stations and programming. Some MPs fear that the loss of local stations would rob them of a way to deliver their message to voters. It’s of particular concern to MPs representing rural areas and small towns, where communications outlets are fewer.

Simply providing more ad money won’t resolve broadcasters’ larger, structural problem, one industry source said. Revenues have been reduced through fragmenting of the market and competition from specialty cable networks and the Internet.

Another option to aid the broadcasters would be for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to allow cable companies to charge for transmitting their signals.

The companies have warned that at least part of such charges, known as fee-for-carriage, would be passed on to consumers, making the issue potentially difficult for the governing Tories.

“That’s becoming a bit more popular within the government, although there are points of reservation, to be sure,” said the source.

“But people recognize if they want to have their local television, there are structural issues that have to be dealt with.”

The concept of fee for carriage is expected to come up when industry players appear before the House of Commons heritage committee. The government could direct the CRTC to review the issue, or it could decide to look at it on its own. The CRTC could also consider reducing or removing certain fees broadcasters pay to the government.

It’s not clear whether the ad-buying idea would also apply to the CBC. The public broadcaster is planning 800 layoffs to cope with a $170-million shortfall.

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