Archive for April, 2011

Playing the Politics and Press Game: Cdn Election Newspaper Endorsements Update

Okay, I’ve scoured the webpages of all of the major daily newspapers in Canada again this morning to see who has endorsed who.

Remember, the key elements in this little exercise that I embarked on in a post last night are five political parties, nine press groups with 61 daily newspapers under their belts and about 95 percent of the market as their own. The basic question: how well does ‘editorial opinion’ match up with ‘popular opinion’.

As of yesterday, recall, there were just four endorsements in.  One from the Globe & Mail and three from different papers belonging to Post Media — the reincarnated group that now owns the newspapers that used to belong to the defunct and bankrupt Canwest previously owned by the Asper family.  All four of those editorials backed their man Harper for PM.

And today?  The number of endorsements has risen considerably to twelve when counting the editorial endorsements for PM; 15 if we count three that urge citizens to “Just Vote”, but which I think are probably just place-holders until these papers editors’ show their hand.

Here’s an updated simplified table showing the nine major newspaper ownership groups and where they’ve cast their favour.

Parent Group & Titles Mrkt. Share

($ 2009)

Dailies / Group CPC Lib. NDP Bloc Just Vote
Post Media 27% 12 8
Sun Media 25.9 18 2 2
Toronto Star 13.9 1 1
Globe & Mail 7.2 1 1
Power Corp/ Gesca 9.8 7
Transcontl. Media 3.2 11
Glacial 2.9 6
Halifax Herald 2.2 1
Brunswick News 2.1 4
9 Groups Total Tally  61 Titles 94.2% Market Share 11 1 3

A couple of things stand out. First, the stable of Post Media papers from the Calgary Herald to the The Montreal Gazette appear to be taking their orders from “on high”. All are lining up solidly behind the Conservatives/Harper.

Just like the Aspers before them, the bully-pulpit of the editorial page for the new owners is dedicated to backing Conservatives. If (when?) the Windsor Star in my home town falls into line, you’ll get a feel for how impervious ‘editorial opinion’ is to the opinions of the people on the street.

Second, if we just count the 12 endorsements in so far from four different newspaper ownership groups, 11 are for the Conservatives.  That is, 92 percent of editorial opinion favours one man for PM: Harper. If Canada were a ‘banana republic’, this would look suspiciously like acclamation for the despot holding office, you know, in one of those faux elections.

Remember, here was the breakdown for the federal elections in 2008: CPC 37.6%; Liberals 26.2%; NDP 18.2%; Bloc 10%; Green 6.8%.  As of yesterday, pollster Ekos had public opinion is lining up this way : CPC 34.5; NDP 29.7; Liberals 20%; Green 6.9%; Bloc 6.3%.

Do you see the problem?

The Peladeau Sun Media Empire has yet to run things through its slate of eighteen papers, but in one where it did endorse a candidate today, The London Free Press, it backed, ahem: Stephen Harper. We can wait to see the rest fall into line over the next day or two, but I won’t be holding my breath for much different results.

Besides, why rush to plunk down your editorial chips when you can just smear surging candidates?  I won’t shil for QMI in any way shape or form, so you can go look for yourself what that means.

If you’re looking for the detailed breakdown, paper-by-paper of where things now stand, you can look at my super-duper updated Editorial endorsements list.

Politics and the Press: Counting Endorsements by Cdn. Press Group, 2011 Election

Well, you know what would be a lot of fun?  Counting up the number of endorsements each newspaper in Canada gives to each of the Prime Ministerial candidates.

There are roughly 100 daily newspapers in Canada. So far, four newspapers have registered their endorsements for Prime Minister: the Globe and Mail,  National PostTimes Colonist and the The Province. All have endorsed Harper.

On the one hand, one could say that there’s 96 papers to go. That would be a mistake.

The Globe and Mail and National Post are national papers and agenda setters. Besides, the last three on the above list all belong to one group of newspapers: PostMedia, the reincarnated Canwest.

Post Media still has ten papers to go across the country.  Will they all lean the same way, one city after another?

And how about Quebecor’s Sun Media, with its eighteen newspapers scattered in major and minor cities across Canadas, to say nothing of its much vaster holdings across the media?  Will they step on the scales in the same way, further proof that rather than a watchdog, Peladeau’s Quebecor Media (QMI) is the populist mouthpiece of Harper and Gang?

I think building such a list of all the newspapers in the country might be a lot of fun.  We can even work this stuff out together.

Here’s a handy list of all the major newspaper ownership groups and all sixty-one of the daily titles held under their respective umbrellas, most with links direct to each title. Pick your newspaper from the list, watch for the endorsement, then send it to me: presto, a national snapshot of whether ‘editorial opinion’ in the press corresponds at all to ‘public opinion’ on the streets. No prizes, no gimmicks, just a ‘crowd-sourced’ creation.

For the time being, I’ve created a simplified list below. It brings us up to date as of the end of April 29th and identifies the 9 major newspaper ownership groups in Canada that account for 61 daily newspaper titles just mentioned and roughly 95 percent of newspaper industry revenues.

As individual papers within these groups announce their endorsements over the next 24 hours or so, I will tally up the results. Again, it’ll really help if some people look at the ‘handy list’ above and send in a link to your local daily newspaper when it takes a stand. In the meantime, here’s how things stand:

Parent Group & Titles Mrkt. Share($ 2009) Dailies / Group CPC Lib. NDP Bloc Green
Post Media (former Canwest) 27% 12 3
Sun Media (QMI) 25.9 18
Toronto Star 13.9 1
Globe & Mail 7.2 1 1
Power Corp/ Gesca 9.8 7
TranscontinentalMedia 3.2 11
Halifax Herald 2.2 1
Brunswick News 2.1 4
9 Groups Total Tally  61 Titles 94.2% Market Share 4

Harper’s standing at a perfect four for four.

My point is not to fetishize numbers and charts but rather to set up a question, and it is this:

If, in a representative democracy, a free press is suppose to reflect a plurality of a society’s voices and political forces, shouldn’t we hope that the range of editorial opinion in the press comes at least somewhat close to matching up with public opinion?

If so, the fact that Harper is currently standing four for four suggests that we’re off to a bad start.

Voting’s a pretty good proxy for popular opinion, so let’s set out some standards using that measure to help us assess the relationship between ‘editorial opinion’ and ‘popular opinion’. When Canadians went to the polls for federal elections in 2008, they voted as follows: CPC 37.6%; Liberals 26.2%; NDP 18.2%; Bloc 10%; Green 6.8%.  National turn out was 58.6%

Now, three days before the 2011 election, the pollster Ekos says that public opinion is lining up this way : CPC 34.5; NDP 29.7; Liberals 20%; Green 6.9%; Bloc 6.3%. Quite significantly different, actually, on close inspection. Advance polls were up by a third over the last election. People are in, even if somewhat begrudgingly.

Harper’s Conservatives have stayed remarkably steady since the last election and Ekos polling of the last few days. One third of the voters dig Harper. Four seasoned editorialists of four who have spoken, however, are ready to hand him the reigns of power despite their own acknowledged lengthy and, truth be told, tawdry list of abuses.

Anyway, the point is not to make the case against Harper but rather to suggest that there’s room for dispute and it would be nice to see such divisions reflected in the range of editorial sentiment available. So far, it has not.

Moreover, the endorsements that are in are not just any endorsement, but from two of the major national agenda-setting papers — The Globe & Mail and the National Post (Post Media).

Only the Toronto Star, so far, has staked out an “anything but Harper” editorial on the 28th. It will announce its ultimate verdict tomorrow.  Liberal, Layton or Coalition?

Now, to be sure, editorial opinion is not the opinion of the press as a whole. Nonetheless, it is one critically important indicator.

It is also an important questions about the free press and journalism in this country to know whether or not editors have to tow their respective owners’ line. Will each pen something ‘unique’ for the city they serve or broadly endorse the same candidate for PM right across the chain of a dozen (PostMedia) to a dozen-and-a-half newspapers (QMI) in one city after another across the country?

Of course, there is more diversity across the rank and file journos that fill out the rest of the pages of the press, but it would be nice to know that there’s some diversity in the editorial ranks, and a least a slice of clear blue sky between editors and the 9 entities that own the newspapers that they have been appointed to run.

Three Days ’til Canadian Election; Three Traditional Media Things to Ponder

Dateline: April, 28th, 2011. Ottawa.

I’m not usually crazy about jumping in and making judgements about media content, but three things in the context of the role of the press in the Canadian election today screamed out for some kind of observation and comment:

(1)  the Globe & Mail’s terrible editorial endorsement of Harper for the next acceptable PM;

(2) Conservative poster-boy, Andrew Coyne’s conversion to Liberalism in Maclean’s magazine.

(3) Sun TV/Quebecor media baron, Karl Pierre Peledeau’s, defense of bad journalism at his new SunTV — or the so-called Fox News North — as somehow being proof that the Quebecor Media Group that he presides over is not the mouthpiece of the Harper Government, despite the fact that

(a) Harper’s recent spin-doctor, Kory Teneycke is directing the operations of the newly relaunched Sun TV (aka Fox News North) and

(b) former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney sits on its board of directors.

In a ‘drive-by smear campaign’ on Michael Ignatieff gone bad, Peladeau’s Sun Media empire got caught with its fingers in the Harper Admin’s pockets this week. It’s crime? Publishing photos supplied by someone close to Harper’s Conservatives purporting to show Ignatieff at briefing sessions with military minions of the Bush Administration during events leading up to the invasion of Iraq.

Heads have rolled; Peledeau has tried to use this as an excuse to distract attention from the fact that the Quebecor Media Empire is a populist tool of the Harper Conservatives. The problem, however, is that while the photos were false, the story behind is basically true.

Michael Ignatieff was close to the Bush and Blair administrations. However, so caught up in contortions with its obvious political entanglements with the ruling political party, neither Peledau nor anyone else at QMG seems to know that, in its essential features, the story about Michael Ignatieff that the faked photo purports to tell was actually right.

As one of the main architects of the R2P (Right to Protect) Doctrine after the ravages of Rwanda and Bosnia, Ignatieff was an intellectual star at the early days of the 21st century with his new and improved version of ‘just war’: R2P, or humanitarian intervention.  He was listened to in high places.

In a famous essay that he wrote in the New York Times Magazine, in January 2003 — before the U.S. invaded Iraq — Ignatieff endorsed the war not only according to the standards of the ancient ‘just war’ doctrine, but by a new and improved ‘call of duty’: humanitarian intervention. 

The essay thrust him into the spotlight in ‘international circles’. He was a former BBC presenter now kicked into the limelight with big ideas that he could very ably defend from his perch at Harvard.

Ignatieff argued strenuously why the Bush II Admin was right to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. He called it Humanitarian Intervention, and so did the Bush and Blair administrations.

Turn-coat leftists like Christopher Hitchens espoused the ideas as well.  Rwanda and the former Yugoslovia made the ideas seem commendable too. For conservative hard-liners, the velvety words provided excellent cover for an iron fist and dubious motives.

In 1899, Mark Twain, yes the author of Huckleberry Finn fame, told us to be wary of the likes of Ignatieff and the allures of forays into distant lands on the grounds that somehow you’d help poor ‘brown’ people out, and then leave them shortly thereafter much better off than they had, or would have been.

As Twain said, these are the noble robes of empire and militarism, and the initiatives they justify typically end in tears. They rot the institutions and moral fabric of republican democracy.

From Twain to twits, all of this is public record, and so it should be part of the Canadian national election agenda. In that sense, Sun Media, despite itself, gave us a wee glimpse of something important, then backed away, frightened of what it saw.

So yesterday, Peladeau did all that he could to back his QMI group away from the truth, caught between a Harper Government that has put military muscle behind R2P, on the one hand, and a strategy to besmirch Ignatieff, on the other. Without a moral compass, what’s a poor media mogul to do?

There is good reason to be skeptical of Michael Ignatieff, but not for the banal stuff that the vast Quebecor Media Group typically peddles.

Perhaps, then, and when cast in this light, the Globe and Mail‘s editorial endorsement of Harper as PM today was the right choice? Actually, it is a travesty of observation and reasoning.

Surveying the scene, the editors announced:

“We are nearing the end of an unremarkable and disappointing election campaign, marked by petty scandals, policy convergences and a dearth of serious debate. Canadians deserved better”.

Unremarkable? By what standards? Petty scandals? Only when you list them in the banal way the editors did.

A lack of serious debate? Isn’t that what the press, and especially national agenda setting media like the Globe & Mail and the QMG are suppose to do? Is this really an indictment of the sad state of Canadian politics, or an admission of failure on the Globe’s and the rest of the media’s part?

The campaign is remarkable for both the reasons it was called — “a disrespect for Parliament, the abuse of prorogation, the repeated attempts . . .to stanch debate and free expression, as the Globe editors list but fail to elaborate on — and for just how f*%cking exciting it’s actually been for anybody who cares to have a look. A Layton-led coalition anyone? I’m not advocating, just saying . . .

Advance polls are up 35 percent; neighbourhood by neighbourhood combat for voters, so some commentators say, is taking place, although the jury is still out on whether this is a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ thing; young people who are taking their first ‘official’ political steps are organizing vote mobs on campuses across the country and partying like it is 1999; local debates like the one my eighteen year old daughter attended tonight that have an airy sense of political community about them; Jack Layton storming Quebec, and perhaps on to taking Manhatten, I mean Moncton?

This is not boring stuff.  The editors of the Globe & Mail are off by a mile. Perhaps we can be thankful that editorial opinion is typically so out of touch with ‘popular’, or public opinion.

While it is a ‘power without responsibility’, as James Curran states, it is the prerogative of newspaper editors to use the bully pulpit of the “free press” to espouse their views. It is fundamentally, and at a gut level, why people care about ‘who owns the media’, and whether those voices are concentrated and influential or dispersed and based on the ‘just powers’ of persuasion and ‘right thinking’.

In a network media system, there are still ‘primary’ definers of ‘reality’ and ‘public discussion’, even when distilled and filtered through the blogosphere, twitters and watercooler conversation. Watch and listen each day as the key stories cascade from the Globe and Mail, CTV, CBC, Global and TVA throughout the ‘media sphere’ and the ‘body politic’, with interjections coming spasmodically from elsewhere as well to do their part.

The ‘sluices of public life’, as one of the great thinkers on these topics, Jurgen Habermas stated not so long ago, are coursing with the criss-crossing circuits of public conversation, from ‘big media’ to small conversations. While no longer citadels amidst the great sea of the unwashed, the ‘mainstream media’ are still at the centre of public conversation, especially when it comes to major events, from elections to tsunamis and earthquakes.

And caught up in these sluices and events people sometimes changes their mind. And for the best change of heart of the day award, I select Andrew Coyne, who announced in an essay published in Macleans (think, Rogers Media) and on his own blog today that he will be voting for Ignatieff.

For those in the know, Coyne is and has been one of the poster-boys of hardline conservativism for the past 25 years. Now he tells us that he is voting for Ignatieff because he cannot, in good conscience, vote for Harper. To do so, he asserts, would be a travesty for democracy.

He argues that Ignatieff might screw up the economy marginally more than Harper would by pandering to the little slices of the political universe that he wants to buy off. However, on the more important and fundamental question of democracy, he observes that Harper and Gang have already destroyed a lot. He worries that Canadian Parliamentary-style democracy might not survive another Harper term. The danger is not worth the gambit, Coyne frets.

I’m not sure if I smell a rat, you know, something along the lines of an attempt to split the Liberal/NDP vote by inflating Ignatieff and letting Layton wilt, while Harper runs up the middle. Maybe that’s too clever by half?

I do think, however, that Coyne is right to worried about the ‘machinery of democracy’. If he’s seeing the wreckage from where he’s at, just imagine how bad it must really be.

I’m also interested in the ‘culture’, or sensibility of democracy. If we wreck not just the machinery, as Coyne worries, but also the ‘sensibility’ of democracy, we’re in deep shit.

Decision time is nigh; the right choice is ready-to-hand. Go, good fellow citizen, and vote it.

Telus Hearing Angels?

The other day I posted that Telus stands apart from the other dominant integrated telecom and media giants in Canada — Bell, Rogers, Shaw, Quebecor and Cogeco — on several grounds.

First, that while it has Usage Based Billing and bandwidth caps on the books, it has yet to implement them — although it has just announced plans to do so. If it does, it will be in the same league as the rest of the incumbents. Until then, there is still a chance that it will back down.

Second, unlike the other ‘big 5’, it is not a fully-integrated media conglomerate. It does not own broadcasting or other major ‘content’ services.

Third, it is opposed to vertical integration because companies that own the ‘medium’ and the ‘message’ lock up content in ways that are anti-competitive and against open networks. It is already encountering the difficulties that that entails in its attempts to gain programs for its IPTV, mobile tv services, etc.

Today, Telus filed documents for the upcoming CRTC hearings on vertical integration outlining that opposition. It is worthwhile to read. Here’s a link and another.

The following quote from Telus press release announcing its position gets to the thrust of its position:

“The unprecedented concentration of market power in the broadcasting sector created by the common ownership of programming services and distribution platforms requires regulatory safeguards to protect consumers . . . . The potential for abuse of market power is real and the risk to consumers is significant. Without proper regulatory safeguards consumers could soon be facing increased costs and reduced choice in their TV viewing options.” Michael Hennessy, senior vice-president Regulatory and Government Affairs at TELUS.

To be sure, unless it renounces plans for UBB, bandwidth caps and to stop throttling P2P services and OVP (online video providers), Telus is certainly nowhere being on the side of the Angels. However, it has gone part way down the right path, and in so doing, broken ranks with the others who simply see the Internet as a threat and merely an adjunct to their ‘business models’ when useful.

Angels to Telus: Don’t be Evil

A reader, Sean, sent me an email yesterday, two actually and a couple of questions. They reminded me of something, and then inspired me to read and write. Thanks Sean.

The immediate point was that Shaw Media and Telus are about to ramp up bandwidth caps and UBB — the cornerstones of the the pay-per Internet model — in western Canada. To be sure, people in Alberta and BC have already had lots of this model already.

However, while both Shaw and Telus have had ‘bandwidth caps’ and UBB on the books, they have not used them. That looks set to change.

Shaw appears to be first off the mark in wanting to kick these into action, as it told, again, those pesky investment bankers who are now hovering around companies because it is the ‘end of quarter’ reporting season of its plans. As Shaw stated, it has the market power to impose the pay-per pricing model and supposedly the consent of its users. I don’t doubt the former, but the latter claim is circumspect.

Shaw has come full circle in the past sixth months after acquiring Global TV and has begun to sing a new gospel from the top of its lungs in favour of regulating OVP (online video providers) such as Apple TV, Google, Netflix, etc..

Telus, too, has had pretty tough bandwidth caps and UBB on its books.  It’s cost per ‘extra’ GB when going over the cap is a punitive $2-5. Telus infamously shut down access over its ISP to the website “Voices of Change”, a site run by the Telecommunication Workers Union, during a strike in 2005.

It has been no angel. However, I am also reminded that amongst the ‘big six’ — Bell, Shaw, Rogers, Quebecor, Telus and Cogeco — Telus is something of an exception, or at least has a few characteristics that distinguish it from the others and put it on, as my friend Marc-Andre put it, “the side of the angels”. We should probably give credit where credit is due.

First, we must remember that in a situation where Canada stands unique, if not completely alone, in the universal coverage of ‘bandwidth caps’ and pay-per GB ‘excess usage charges’, Telus has not yet made the move to implement these measures and might yet be dissuaded. So, for what that’s worth: Telus, please don’t be evil.

Second, on some key ‘structural issues’ that go to the heart of the organization of the network media in Canada, Telus stands alone amongst the ‘big six’ for not following the path of ’empire’ by becoming vertically-integrated with a dominant broadcaster.  This means that its voice has been absent among all of the others who have called in unison for the CRTC to regulate online video providers.

Third, Telus recently told the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage  in no uncertain terms that it opposed the Shaw-Global TV and Bell-CTV amalgmations, respectively. In sum, Telus has not embraced the shangri-la of ‘media convergence’.

That, however, does not mean that it is not in the TV business. It serves as distributor of Bell satellite TV in the west. It has its own IPTV service, mobile tv channels, and so forth. It  needs programs and ‘content’ for its IPTV service, mobile tv channels, and so forth as well, and therein lies a problem.

Telus already claims to be having a lot of difficulty getting the programming that it wants on reasonable terms. This is more grounds for its opposition to vertical integration still. For that reason, Telus will stake out a unique stance at the upcoming CRTC hearings on vertical integration in being the only major incumbent likely to argue on behalf of some form of structural separation. This is a good thing and, again, Telus is on the side of the angel

Having just been blessed by the CRTC (and Competition Bureau) over the past six months, it is hardly likely that the CRTC will do much more than tinker around the edges with vertical integration. The fact that Industry Minister Tony Clement has already voiced his view that vertical integration is the way of the future and structural separation irresponsible only reinforces the impression.

All of this reminds me that the commitments to open networks is not about paying homage to abstract principles but to a concrete trilogy of real considerations: open networks, open sources and open societies. At the present conjuncture, each is under severe pressure, but yet to be bowed.

While no angel, Telus is on the side of the good with respect to open networks and should be applauded to the extent that it is. In terms of open source, the approach helps generate ideas, examination and conversation like Sean’s email did yesterday. Several others have written lately too, so thanks, but I would also like to suggest that it is best to raise issues here. That way others can weigh in, and go off on their own, too.

These are also the things upon which an open society — the ultimate endpoint of the trilogy to begin with — depends.  There are important questions about just how far Canada has fallen from that standard.

We have corporate disclosure rules that pale alongside those in the United States. Not just the major network media conglomerates, but publicly-traded corporations in Canada generally disgorge far less information to the CRTC and Competition Bureau than their counterparts in the US are required to do by the FCC and Department of Justice.

The Harper Government has clamped down on information flows and the general tenor it has set has simultaneously fortified and calcified the historical proclivity towards information secrecy in Canada relative to other capitalist democracies. Without a full-commitment to open societies and open sources and open networks, none of these elements can flourish on their own. It is a thought worth bearing in mind, I think.

Media Regulation, Public Memory and the WayBackMachine

The WayBackMachine is a colossal public digital archive of the Internet backed by the massive resources of the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress in Washington. There is nothing even close to it Canada and that is a problem because it means the many of our public records from the online world no longer reside in this country.

And so it is, for instance, that the oldest known digital copy of the CRTC’s website – dating from May 1, 1997 — can only be obtained from the WayBackMachine. Not only is this an important document because it is the earliest record of the agency’s activities online, but also because the ‘snapshot’ of the website taken on that day reveals a bold statement of principles that were supposed to guide all of the CRTC’s activities: “Communication in the Public Interest” – as had been the case for more than twenty years before that.

The last known digital record of this statement is from December 20th, 2008. A visitor to the website on that day would have still seen the words “Communication in the Public Interest” right at the top of the page.

Moreover, the fact that the phrase had risen from the bottom of the page to the top over the years might have suggested that the public interest had become even more important as time passed in light of the momentous changes that have been sweeping the media and Internet. Indeed, no matter what it did, the CRTC’s decisions would shape these developments for decades to come, and so it was wise to have a sturdy set of values close to hand as it navigated the turbulent waters ahead.

Such wishful thinking, however, would have been mistaken. Indeed, while many Canadians were celebrating holidays and ringing in the New Year, sometime between December 20th, 2008 and January 21st, 2009 when the WayBackMachine took its next snapshot of the CRTC’s website, the “public interest” had vanished. Forever.

Ever since, the CRTC has recast itself in a decidedly different mold, as its new ‘mission statement’ asserts:

“An Independent Public Authority in charge of regulating and supervising Canadian broadcasting and telecommunications”.

“Authority”, “supervising”, “regulating” – these are not words that reflect a democratic frame of mind that aims to inspire public participation in the processes that will shape the digital media landscape of the 21st Century. Instead, they are a brusque assertion of authority and part of the linguistic fortress put into place by a ‘muscular state’ under the Harper Government that seems designed more to keep the public at bay rather than to deepen its involvement in such affairs.

It is also a language that conceals major issues and values behind a thicket of techno-bureaucratic mumbo jumbo: User Based Billing, Internet Traffic Management Practices, Bandwidth Caps, etc. These are not words that aim to inspire people, but to make their eyes glaze over and to turn away. It is a language that only lawyers and lobbyists can love.

Remarkably, no record at all of this change from the “public interest” to “public authority” standard of regulation exists in Canada, either from the CRTC’s own website or other Government websites. Library and Archives Canada maintains some records for all Government websites, but its records of the CRTC’s digital online footprint are pitiful, covering two years from 2006 until 2007.

This extremely limited coverage not only applies to the CRTC, but appears to be the standard practice adopted for all Government websites in Canada. It is an incredibly weak standard in comparison to those in the U.S. and Britain, for example, where snapshots of all domains (not just government sites) of the “national Internet space” are routinely added to the national digital archives and extend much further back in time.

It is a sad indictment of the Harper Government that we, as a country, have to rely on the WayBackMachine to cobble together the bits and pieces that make up public memory as well as the evidence needed to illustrate the change from the public interest to the “public authority” model of regulation that has taken place. Indeed, it is an irony of the highest order that the effort to scrub the CRTC’s historical record of its past commitments to the “public interest” can only be discovered on a website stored and run out of Washington.

If there was ever a way to kill off the notion of “the public”, this is it. We must ask, why has the “public interest” been thrown under the bus on the Harper Government’s watch? And why should we rely on digital archives set up and operated at public expense out of Washington to fill in the gaps left by our own public institutions – the Government and the CRTC – who have failed entirely to maintain a comprehensive, digitized public historical record of our own?

The WayBackMachine and other, publicly-supported, user-driven social media projects like it usefully create, store gather, organize and disseminate a wealth of ideas, memories, records, and knowledge. Some such sites, such as Wikipedia, are stunningly successful, consistently ranking among the top ten websites in the world — except in authoritarian countries such as China and Iran.

As records are scrubbed and left to vanish, we need the WayBackMachine and others of its kind more than ever. Nonetheless, such efforts are no substitute for an official digital record of where we have been in Canada, where we are going, or of the silent switch that has taken place between the principles of the past and the lost souls who govern in this country today.

Democratic societies demand nothing less than regulators – and a government, first and foremost — who are steered by an informed appreciation of who the public is and what they want. We also need a clear digital record of that commitment.

Shouting from the Rooftops: Blog Goes Big

I don’t usually like to shout about my successes from the rooftops, but in the past week two fantastic opportunities have landed in my lap that I would like to share.

Starting today, I will be writing a regular column on the media, telecom and Internet industries in Canada for the online edition of the leading English-language, national newspaper in Canada, the Globe and Mail. The column will appear in the GlobeTech section every second Tuesday and can be found here:

I have also joined the Internet advocacy group,, to be their ‘Chief Policy Blogger’. Open Media’s ‘Stop-the-Meter’ campaign has gained more than a half million signatures opposing efforts afoot to transform the Internet in Canada into a pay-per model ruled by ‘bandwidth caps’ and ‘excess usage charges’. The group has put the politics of the Internet in the public spotlight in ways that few could have imagined. Their introduction to the role that I will play with them can be found here and my first post specially for them is here.

Thank you everyone for reading and, in some cases, subscribing to my blog. It’s been a great help in bringing some very exciting and worthwhile things my way.



Categories: Internet
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