Business History Paper

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From Black to Asper: Effects of Ownership on Political Coverage
Kevin Brick ­­ 1223700
History 3G03
March 31st, 2015
Dr. Ward The structure of Canadian media industry is ever changing due to constant mergers, acquisitions and the creation of new companies. Information is now considered to be a power commodity, like money and wealth. Mass media companies that exercise control over the information that is relayed to the masses are now seen as a threatening force in binding or shaping public opinion. Press ownership not only holds a theoretical power to greatly influence what the public knows, but to what is to be considered of importance. It is argued that owners have an awesome opportunity to influence the way Canadians think about pertinent issues and their governance. The question remains how frequently, if at all, do owners utilize their enormous power to mould the public’s mind? In August 2000, CanWest Global Communications
Corp. purchased the largest newspaper chain in Canada, Southam Inc, from Hollinger
International Inc. By examining newspaper articles under Black and its transition to Asper ownership, this paper argues that this change in ownership resulted in media coverage that was much less anti­liberal which suggests that the personal opinions of the owner directly impacts how political content is covered.
The mass media is more than just a medium for someone to find out simple facts about the world they live in. It also sets context for the facts that are gathered, determines how such

facts should be viewed and debated and offers in depth analysis and positions on significant events and issues. Given this, the news media has the theoretical power to shape how events are presented as well as how they are relevant to the public. Dean Alger, a political scientist and media analyst at the University of Minnesota, suggests that a democracy is a marketplace of ideas, where a wide range of people and organizations have the opportunity to express information and ideas for the population to consider1. Along with this is the popular western concept of the free press, which is based on the idea of free and open exchange of ideas and expressions. The
 “marketplace
 of
 ideas”
 metaphor
 originated
 with
 the
 writings
 of
 17th
 century
 poet
 John
 Milton,
 and
 was
 more
 formally
 developed
 in
 the
 works
 of 19th
 century
 philosopher
 John
 Stuart
 Mill
.2 Both
 writers
 developed
 notions
 whereby an
 understanding
 of
 truth
 could
 be
 achieved
 through
 the
 free
 exchange of ideas. While 
the 
use
 of 
the 
“marketplace
 of
 ideas” 
metaphor 
has 
clearly
 entailed
 both
 economic
 and
 democratic
 considerations,
 there
 appears
 to
 be
 broad
 agreement
 that a
 competitive
 market
 is
 necessary
 for
 the
 exchange
 of
 ideas
;
 that
 consumers
 in
 the
 market
 are
 rational
 and
 are
 able
 to
 make
 informed
 decisions
.3
In order to maintain a productive marketplace, media outlets must include both the choice of outlets and diversity in content. One of the major concerns of media ownership is that it will not serve the ideals of democracy because a small number of owners may provide a very limited choice in terms of where consumers can get their information from. This is largely due to the fact that newspapers,


Alger,
 D.
 1998.
 Megamedia:
 How
 Giant
 Corporations
 Dominate
 Mass
 Media,

Distort
 Competition,
 and 
Endanger 
Democracy, p 1.
2

Gordon, J. 
1997. 
John 
Stuart 
Mill 
and 
the 
‘Marketplace 
of 
Ideas, p 235.
3

Napoli, P. 
M. 
1999.
 The 
Marketplace
 of 
Ideas 
Metaphor 
in 
Communications, p 135.
1

in our modern era, are now considered as a business rather than a basis for democracy. The specific interests of the media owners may not intersect with that of the consumers. As
 an
 example
 of
 this
 viewpoint,
 James
 Squires,
 former
 editor
 of
 the
 Chicago
 Tribune,
 has
 referred
 to
 the
 modern
 press
 “as an…