Parties must come clean on media issues - union

OTTAWA (20 May 2004) - Political parties must state their positions on the ownership of Canada's media corporations and public broadcasting in order to avoid election coverage being biased by self-interest, says Canada's largest media union.

"Legislation is being considered that is worth billions of dollars to Canada's media giants," said Peter Murdoch, Vice-President Media of CEP. "Issues such as lifting foreign ownership of telecommunications and media, concentration of media ownership, and the funding of the CBC, puts election coverage in danger of being tainted with perceptions of 'you scratch my back I'll scratch yours.'"

BCE, owners of CTV and The Globe and Mail has lobbied hard on foreign ownership; CanWest/Global and Quebecor want no one to tinker with the unprecedented concentration of media ownership, and the CBC owes its life blood to the government in power.

"These media giants, who practically control the nation's election coverage, may have their future set by the next government. The perception that coverage could be spun with corporate self-interest can only be eased by political parties stating where they stand on the issues."

While ordinary journalists, many of whom are CEP members, will resist bias, owners and management have many tools at their disposal to shape coverage, said Murdoch.

Murdoch said all parties have as a reference guide the recommendations of the 800-page report of the all-party Heritage Committee. "What we need to know is where parties stand on the proposals their MPs helped write. And we need their positions writ large and clear so voters understand."

Murdoch will be taking his concerns to the Senate committee on news media next week.

"I will be calling for the setting of guidelines for absolute transparency by political parties regarding issues related to the media. It is a must prior to an election. It is critical for Canadians, and for journalists exercising their craft working for these media conglomerates."

For information: Peter Murdoch at 905 516-5720

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