IFJ Condemns Canada Over Broadcast Licence Awards: “Journalism and Quality Will Suffer”

MThe world’s largest journalists’ group, the International Federation of Journalists, today condemned Canadian broadcasting authorities for “sacrificing standards and quality journalism” in their decision on Friday to award new seven-year licences to CanWest Global and CTV, companies with both newspaper and audiovisual interests.

“These awards appear to endorse the notion of sending a single reporter on assignment to produce both audiovisual and print stories,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “If so, by this process Canada is sacrificing standards, diversity and quality journalism in the face of media concentration and convergence.”

The IFJ has endorsed the concerns of its Canadian affiliate, The Newspaper Guild of Canada, which says the decision will cut diversity of voices and coverage and goes against the public interest.

The awards by the Canadian Radio and Television Commission come despite appeals from media unions for a stronger decision explicitly separating TV and newspaper newsrooms at the operating level. The Newspaper Guild argued strongly for the Commission to protect diversity by separating out different news-gathering systems, along the lines of earlier Commission decisions to keep Quebecor Inc.’s print and TV properties separate,

The Commission has implemented a Statement of Principles and Practices as a condition of licence, but the IFJ and the Canadian Guild are sceptical about its impact.

“While this code deals with news management and presentation structures, it completely sidesteps the whole issue of day-to-day doubling up of workloads, one of a number of convergence initiatives we are told CanWest and CTV have in mind," said Aidan White. “It is a decision of concern not only to colleagues in Canada, but has implications for broadcast and newspaper journalists everywhere.”

The IFJ says this issue will be taken up in the framework of a new campaign for the defence of public broadcasting launched by journalists’ unions in Tokyo and Seoul in June this year.