The bottom falls out of Canadian media

“A federal innovation fund will spark the blooming of a thousand digital media startups. Well, okay, maybe 20 or so.”

In 2017, the foundation will fall out from under Canada’s so-called legacy media organizations. Postmedia will go belly up, leaving more than 150 newspapers, including 44 dailies of Canada’s remaining 100, to be bought for cheap by local interests. That’s the best chance we have that local newspapers will truly serve their communities, rather than generate cash flow for American hedge funds engaged in liquidating Canada’s media patrimony. It won’t be pretty, but it’s long overdue.

erin-millarThe situation is so dire in 2016 that the federal government took notice, commissioning an inquiry into the state of public-interest journalism. In 2017, the government faces a choice — prop up the big institutions and prolong the death throes of legacy media with public subsidy, or produce policies and funding to help create a self-sustaining and diverse media ecosystem. The result will shock sceptics when, overcoming institutional bias, the government puts in place innovative policy to incentivize innovation.

The Liberal government will modernize Canada’s tax code to allow money from charitable foundations to flow to journalism, a practice formerly forbidden on the grounds that journalism is political activity. Philanthropic contributions, if tax reforms really do happen, won’t come close to replacing the $700 million in annual revenue lost to Craigslist and Kijiji, but maybe a bit of juice will be squeezed from what should be low-hanging fruit when it comes to policy change.

A federal innovation fund will spark the blooming of a thousand digital media startups. Well, okay, maybe 20 or so. Each will attempt to bring a unique viewpoint and funding model, transforming Canada’s media market into an entrepreneurial laboratory for the future of media.

Canada’s media revolution will be our next best thing since global peacekeeping. While Canada contributed precious little to the last technological revolution in journalism, this time will be different with such a significant disruption occurring during a relatively stable consolidation period when it comes to the Internet. Our leadership moment will be in fashioning a new form of journalistic practice that elevates democratic discourse and ushers in a new world order of public-interest, solutions-based, citizen-centric journalism. The populists will perish under the weight of their lies and truly representative governments will abolish war and embrace compromise and diplomacy. Why not?

Or maybe only some of that will happen. But at least Peter Mansbridge will retire from the CBC…sort of.

Erin Millar is editor-in-chief and CEO of Discourse Media.

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