By Peter Menzies, November 7, 2022
How time flies.
It was just 2016, after all, when Terence Corcoran of the National Post, bristling at the thought of government intervention in the news business, wrote:
“The first battles against government control were fought centuries ago in England over Licencing of the Press laws and other variations on measures that limited press freedom. The fight was waged by the likes of John Milton, John Locke and John Stuart Mill. The result became known as the libertarian theory of the press. In Four Theories of the Press, a classic 1950s book once on reading lists in journalism schools, Fredrick Siebert summarized the theory. ‘Let all with something to say be free to express themselves. The true and sound will survive. The false and unsound will be vanquished. Government should keep out of the battle and not weigh the odds in favour of one side or the other.’”
Inspiring words. Yet five years later — almost to the day — Corcoran’s paper and 16 other skeletal Postmedia dailies joined forces with the Toronto Star and 70 of its satellites to demand the government put its thumb on the scale of the free market by forcing Google and Facebook to give them money for the value they claim to create for the web giants who give them free access to their users. Each published a front page that was blank except for the chilling words:
“Imagine if the news wasn’t there?”
I think what they really meant was “imagine if we weren’t here.”
So I did. Without them there’s still the CBC, the nation’s largest news provider. Then there’s CTV/Bellmedia. Global/Corus and Rogers and literally hundreds of radio stations across the country, almost all of which now have websites that provide, um, news. Not counting the likes of the Washington Post, BBC and The Guardian for international news. Then there are more than 200 Canadian startups including, but not limited to, National Observer, Canadaland, Western Standard, Blacklock’s Reporter, The Narwhal, Halifax Examiner, The Tyee, True North, The Hub, dozens of local outlets operating under the aegis of Overstory Media Group, and, yup, The Line.