Television &
Net Neutrality
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement
in Canada
Bob Hackett & Steve Anderson
by Robert A. Hackett & Steve Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5
Canada License. To view a copy of this license visit:
is research was assisted by a grant from the Necessary Knowledge for
a Democratic Public Sphere Program of the Social Science Research
Council with funds provided by the Ford Foundation.
e views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily
represent the views of any organization, including,
World Association for Christian Communication,
the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University,
the Social Science Research Council,
or the Ford Foundation.
Robert A. Hackett (Simon Fraser University) and
Steve Anderson (, formerly Campaign for Democratic Media, CDM),
with contributions from
Philip Lee (World Association for Christian Communication), Tony Oliver (Simon Fraser Uni-
versity), David Skinner (York University), Amber Woodward (Simon Fraser University), Marissa
Lawrence (Langara College) and Jacqueline Cusack McDonald (
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada iv
Table of Contents
Introduction & Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . vi
Partner Organizations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii
Methodology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix
1 Background 1
The Canadian Context . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Current Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
An Emerging Media Reform Movement . . . . . . 6
The Context of Scholarship . . . . . . . . . . . 7
2 An Online Survey of NGOs 9
Organizational Size . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Sector Participation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Participation in Media Campaigns . . . . . . . . 11
Sources of Funding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Organizational Challenges and Priorities . . . . . . 12
Organizational Activities & Strategies . . . . . . . 13
Organization’s Main Achievements . . . . . . . . 14
Collaboration Between NGOs . . . . . . . . . . 14
Familiarity with Organizations and Concepts . . . . 15
NGOs as Part of a Social Movement? . . . . . . . 16
Perceptions of Mainstream Media. . . . . . . . . 16
Other Media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Internet Use and Access . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Net Neutrality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Democracy and Media . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada iv V
3 Interviews with NGO Representatives 23
Organizational Goals and the Media . . . . . . . . 23
Goals and Strategies . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
Achievements and Obstacles . . . . . . . . . . 24
Position in the Political Field . . . . . . . . . . 25
Opponents and Allies . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
A Social Movement? . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Perceptions of the Media . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Democratic Media Activism, Anyone? . . . . . . . 30
4 The Toronto Workshop on Media Reform 32
5 Conclusions 33
Obstacles and Challenges . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
Springboards and Resources . . . . . . . . . . . 34
References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
I. Online Survey Questionnaire . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
II. Interview Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
III. Workshop Minutes . . . . . . . 51
IV. Organization Participants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
Media Dissatisfaction and Activism . . . . . . . . 21
Table of Contents
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada vi
What are the “building blocks” for an
emergent coalition aiming to democra-
tize public communications in Canada?
That is the central question that this report
aims to address. The collaborative research sum-
marized here comprises an online pilot survey, in-
depth interviews, and a strategy workshop with
key activists and organization leaders. The goal is
to identify issues, allies, resources and frames that
could facilitate campaigns and sustainable media
reform organizations, and to contribute to schol-
arship on media reform activism that has emerged
in liberal-democratic countries in the past ten years.
This is a collaborative project between Simon
Fraser University communication professor Rob-
ert Hackett, and two NGOs (non-governmental
organizations), formerly Campaign
for Democratic Media (CDM), and the World As-
sociation for Christian Communication (WACC).’s national coordinator, Steve
Anderson and Director of Operations, Jacqueline
Cusack McDonald took the lead role in arranging,
conducting and transcribing interviews, and in con-
ducting the online survey for this project. Jacque-
line also formatted and designed this report with
the assistance of Marie Elliott on table graphics.
Philip Lee from the World Association for
Christian Communication coordinated the work-
shop in Toronto, and provided a summary of
that workshop, included as an appendix to this
report. Professor David Skinner from York
University contributed to the Canadian Con-
text section. Tony Oliver and Amber Wood-
ward from Simon Fraser University helped
greatly to analyze and summarize the interviews.
& Acknowledgements
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada vi vii
Partner Organizations
Midway through this project, Campaign for
Democratic Media (CDM) changed its name
to ( The
name change is partly credited to the prelimi-
nary results of this study. To avoid confusion,
we shall henceforth use the name is a diverse network of pub-
lic interest organizations and people concerned
about media reform and media policy formation
in Canada.’s predecessor CDM was
formed in 2007 with encouragement from people
at Free Press, the Media Democracy Coalition
and other American media democracy groups.
With active support from academics, unions and
advocacy groups, mounted sev-
eral notable campaigns, linked existing media
reform organizations and is well-positioned to
amplify the public interest voice in policy-making. has launched national cam-
paigns such as Stop the Big Media Takeover,, and Community Media Now! It
has taken on digital media issues, organized large
media education events such as Media Democ-
racy Day and created a strong presence politically,
including staging a Net Neutrality Rally on Par-
liament Hill. In 2008, published a
series of reports during the election season: “Me-
dia and Culture: Where do the parties stand” and
“Fact vs. Fiction”, making both available online
as tools to inform citizens about important issues.
In 2009, has expanded exist-
ing projects and launched new initiatives. In July, along with key Internet experts,
presented a strong case for maintaining the open
Internet (Net Neutrality) in Canada at a historic
CRTC hearing in Ottawa. It organized an Internet
Dance Party in Vancouver and several packed town
hall events across the country to engage citizens
in discussions about the future of the Internet.
Most recently, hosted the Fresh
Media Festival in Vancouver on October 24, 2009.
Fresh Media Festival was a one-day forum to cel-
ebrate innovation and independent media and to
re-imagine journalism in the 21st century. Work-
ing with organizations, media-minded people and
citizens, this event explored the intersections of
media, art and technology through workshops,
panels, roundtables, live performances and a
hands-on, creative exhibition. The festival em-
braced all forms of media including social media
and the importance of citizen powered journalism.
The World Association for Christian Com-
munication ( is an interna-
tional organization promoting communication
for social change on the basis of solidarity, dig-
nity, equality, respect and human rights, and espe-
cially the right to communicate. It operates glob-
ally through its regional associations and through
its global headquarters, since 2006 located in To-
ronto, where WACC plans to create an interna-
tional Centre for Communication Rights. Its most
active constituents include religious communica-
tors, communities of faith (particularly the ecu-
menical movement), communication academics,
and development and human rights nonprofits.
Most of WACC’s work is related to the de-
mocratization of communication and the media
for strengthening democratic processes; com-
munication and peace building; gender equal-
ity in communications; the connections between
communication and poverty; and countering
stigma and discrimination associated with HIV
and AIDS, particularly among faith-based com-
munities. It tackles these through advocacy, edu-
cation, training, networking, the creation and
sharing of knowledge and project partnerships.
WACC works to expand the communication
spaces of vulnerable and marginalised groups and
to influence communication policy-making. It also
directly tackles communication poverty, believing
Partner Organizations
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada viii
What other groups or constituencies are
potential allies or beneficiaries of media re-
form? How does “the media piece” fit, if
at all, into the priorities and strategies of
other progressive groups that logically have
a stake in a more diverse, open media sys-
tem? How aware are such groups of the rel-
evance of the state of Canadian communi-
cation rights and media policy to their work?
The scope of this project is small and it must be
considered exploratory rather than definitive. We
hope however, that our data and interpretations
will help to identify issues, allies, resources and
frames that could give further traction to emerging
media reform coalitions in Canada, the northern
flank for progressive media struggles in the US.
In the sections that follow, we first briefly outline
the methodology employed. Then we sketch out
the political and academic context of the study, and
of media policy activism in Canada. Subsequent
sections summarize our findings from each of the
three stages of research, and discuss some of their
implications. We conclude with reflections on the
prospects for a media reform coalition in Canada.
that the relative silence of the voices of people
living in poverty in public communication pro-
cesses is a key dimension of their powerlessness
and is closely correlated with the extreme inequal-
ities that underlie human development deficits.
WACC’s work is currently organized under
six programmes: Recognizing and Building Com-
munication Rights; Media and Gender Justice;
HIV and Aids - Communication and Stigma;
Communication and Poverty; Communication
for Peace; and Communication for Ecumenism.
The Necessary Knowledge for a Demo-
cratic Public Sphere program, of the So-
cial Science Research Council, with fund-
ing from the Ford Foundation, provided a
collaborative research grant for this project.
Following up Hackett and Carroll’s (2006) re-
search on the politics of media activism, the proj-
ect is informed by crucial questions such as these:
What groups have been directly active in
media and communications issues recently?
What are their resources and main priori-
ties? What do they see as current threats
and opportunities on the policy agenda?
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada viii ix
The research comprised three basic elements.
First a list was prepared of Canadian NGOs in
different issue sectors or movements that might be
expected to have a stake in media content or regu-
lation, regardless of whether they were currently
active in media policy activism. We wanted to assess
how important communications policy and media
access are to the leading advocates of social change
in Canada, in the context of their main priorities,
and whether they would consider joining cam-
paigns or coalitions for democratic media reform.
Next we prepared and distributed an online
questionnaire to currently and potentially al-
lied NGOs. A list of potential respondents to
the online survey was compiled, partly through
personal contacts established by OpenMedia.
ca, but mainly (in the apparent absence of an af-
fordable and authoritative directory of Canadian
organizations) through several online databases.

For each organization, we sought to identify
the individual responsible for media relations
or policy development. Our list was intended to
include NGOs in each of the following sixteen
categories: peace, environment, ethnicity, gender,
religion, labour/trade union, independent media,
technology, arts and culture, civil and human rights,
First Nations, professional/service, general politi-
cal and advocacy, foundations, charity/education,
and research ‘think tanks’. (These categories can
of course overlap. In analyzing the responses, re-
spondents’ self-identification with a sector, rather
than our own initial categorization, was employed.)
Certain selectivity biases in this method must
be acknowledged. Activists who chose not to
work through formal organizations would be ex-
cluded, as would groups that were not listed in the
databases, for whatever reason. We also omitted
groups that do not operate in English, a decision
that would mainly exclude Quebec-based Fran-
cophone organizations. These selectivity biases
however, are consistent with’s own
coalition-building strategy of creating a network
of well-resourced NGOs in Anglophone Can-
ada, one that could work with parallel networks
or coalitions in the ‘distinct society’ of Quebec
and/or expand to this territory in the future.
Using our master list, and subsequent to ap-
proval by Simon Fraser University’s Ethics Review
Board, about 224 organizations were invited by
email to respond to our survey; ultimately, 57 of
them responded. (See Appendix I for the letter of
invitation.) Designed collaboratively by Hackett
and Anderson, the questionnaire focussed on the
priorities, resources, strategies, challenges, partner-
ships and achievements of each NGO, as well as
its use and perceptions of digital and news media.
(See Appendix I for the full questionnaire.) The
1. These included the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (
aspx), a list of national professional organizations; Charity Village (
asp), Canadian associations and affiliates, mostly non-profit; Sources (, a directory for jour-
nalists and researchers, of experts and media spokespeople; Canadian News Wire Group (
en/), circulating press releases and information from more than 10,000 sources across Canada, and thus useful
in locating Canadian groups who routinely use news media dissemination as an organizational tool; Steward-
ship Canada, Funders Directory (
me=geographicalFocus&value=Canada20%Wide), a directory of environmental organizations across Canada;
Canadian Peace Alliance (, a small directory of peace organizations;
and The Independent Media Arts Alliance (, a listing of IMAA
members, mostly locally based.
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada x
questionnaire was intended as an intervention and
not simply a positivistic social science method of
gathering ‘findings’ like pebbles on a beach. Some
of the questions are intended to stimulate thought
and action, reflecting’s intention to
use this project as a springboard for mobilization.
The second branch of the research entailed
eighteen telephone and in-person interviews
with key individuals in Canadian advocacy groups,
selected by on the basis of their
potential for future involvement.
Hackett and
Anderson designed a semi-standardized set of
questions, roughly parallel to those posed in
the online survey, concerning the NGO’s man-
date, strategies, priorities, resources, achieve-
ments, obstacles, opponents, allies, identifica-
tion with social movements, relations with and
perceptions of media, and involvement with
coalitions on communication policy. Each in-
terview was summarized and the most relevant
portions transcribed in full. Student assistants
Tony Oliver and Amber Woodward at Simon
Fraser University then summarized the data.
Thirdly, WACC arranged a workshop of 19 ac-
tivists, advocates, academics, trade unionists, and
independent media producers, including many
members of the national steering
committee. Held on May 26, 2009, at WACC’s
global headquarters in Toronto, the meeting dis-
cussed current communications/media policy is-
sues in Canada, current activities and campaigns of, the initial results from the above-
mentioned online survey of NGOs, the work in
this area done by workshop participants them-
selves, and potential future strategies and cam-
paigns. WACC provided minutes of this meeting,
which are attached to this report as Appendix II.
2. Chronologically, our interview respondents included John Urquhart, executive-director, Council of Cana-
dians, January 29, 2009; Bill Huzar, president, Consumers Council of Canada, Jan. 30; Ian Morrison, spokes-
person, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, Jan. 30; David Robinson, associate executive director, Canadian As-
sociation of University Teachers, Feb. 1; Steve Staples, executive director, the Rideau Institute, January 19; Pat
Kerwin, treasurer, Doug Massey, executive assistant, Frank Saptel, vice-president, Douglas-Coldwell Founda-
tion, Jan. 19; Joanne Deer, director, public policy and communications, Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Radio &
Television Artists, Feb. 5; Alain Pineau, national director, Canadian Conference of the Arts, Feb. 18; Ian Boyko,
Campaigns and government relations co-ordinator, Canadian Federation of Students, Feb. 19; Charley Beres-
ford, executive director, Columbia Institute, Feb 26; Kevin Millsip, executive director, Check Your Head, March
20; David Beers, editor/founder, The Tyee (online newspaper), March 23; Irwin Oostindie, executive director,
W2 Community Media Arts Centre, April 3; George Doubt, national president, Telecommunications Workers
Union, April 3; Markus Stadelmann-Elder, media officer, Maytree Foundation, April 8; Alice Klein, editor/
CEO, NOW Magazine, April 16; Alain Cossette, communications director, Public Service Alliance of Canada,
April 21; Joel Solomon, Renewal, May 21.
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada x 1
of Canada’s broadcasting policy review process
between 1985 and 1991 in seven issue areas,
painted a mixed picture. Public consultation and
favourable public opinion can generate posi-
tive outcomes for public interest groups in for-
mal policy. But sustained policy intervention by
public interest groups is costly, difficult and spo-
radic. By contrast, through their direct access to
regulators and legislators industry groups can
shape policy implementation and resource al-
location, incrementally subverting or constrain-
ing formally democratic policies (Raboy 1995).
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Canadian communications
policy has long embodied elements
of a democratic public sphere
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The sheer organizational and economic
weight of Big Media and Big Telecom, their
control over the dominant means of com-
munication production and distribution,
surely enhances that power, even if only by
making alternative policies seem unrealistic.
What about digital “new media”? A review of
the development of Canada’s digital communica-
tion infrastructure between 1993 and 2000 con-
cludes that three landmark enquiries were stacked
with industry representatives, held few or no pub-
lic consultations, and thus favoured neoliberal
policy outcomes. Two further reports, by the Ca-
nadian Radio-Television & Telecommunications
Commission (CRTC), had far more participatory
public consultations, but nevertheless generated
outcomes not responsive to public input. The
The Canadian Context
Because the public interest elements historical-
ly embedded in Canadian communications policy
have been eroding in favour of private corporate in-
terests, this project has responded to an urgent need
to revitalize a media reform movement in Canada.
In the 1930s, Canada was home to one of
the earliest and most successful communica-
tion reform movements in the mass-mediated
world – the Canadian Radio League. The League
spearheaded a campaign to create a public broad-
caster (now the Canadian Broadcasting Corpo-
ration or CBC) and was influential in histori-
cally less successful efforts to resist corporate
domination of the radio spectrum in the United
States (Peers 1968; McChesney 1999: 232-240).
Partly due to such citizen activism, Canadian
communications policy has long embodied ele-
ments of a democratic public sphere, including
public regulation and elements of public owner-
ship in both broadcasting and telecommunica-
tions; the “common carrier” principle in tele-
communications; public access or “community”
broadcasting; Canadian content rules in broad-
casting; tax subsidies and incentives for cultural
and media production; support for aboriginal
peoples and minority language broadcasting;
public consultation processes in broadcasting
and telecommunications policy-making; and sub-
sidies for public interest interveners in telecom-
munications; and limits on foreign ownership
and (minimally) concentration and cross-media
ownership. (See e.g. Raboy and Shtern et al, 2008).
None of these policies fundamentally al-
tered the commercial and corporate domina-
tion of Canadian media, however, and they are
threatened by recent developments. An analysis
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 2
prise a “sea change” in media structure (Skinner
2008: 42; Skinner, Gasher, and Compton 2005).
Current Issues
While there have been a number of key issues for
media reform building in Canada over the last few
years, since Fall 2008, the recession has both exacer-
bated those concerns as well as opened up new ones.
In the face of falling advertising revenues
and large payments on the debts incurred in es-
calating concentration of ownership of the last
decade, Canada’s big media corporations have
made major cuts to the newspapers and local tele-
vision. The Canadian Media Guild estimates that
some 3,000 media workers were laid off between
January and April of 2009 alone. At newspapers,
layoffs and budget cuts lead to centralizing pro-
duction and narrowing specialized and local cov-
erage. In terms of local television, there is some
question as to how profitable these stations might
actually be, but with national and regional adver-
tising revenues plunging, the networks are looking
for a number of regulatory concessions. These in-
clude: collecting a fee for carriage of their signals
from cable and satellite distributors; reductions in
the amount of local programming these stations
are required to produce; and rollbacks on the
percentage of programming the networks are re-
quired to purchase from independent producers.
For their part, the regulators would like to see
the networks spend less money on purchasing
foreign (U.S.) programming, which recently hit
an all time high and outstrips their expenditure
on Canadian programs. While attempting to work
these issues out, the CRTC is expected to grant
these stations one-year license renewals instead of
the usual seven. Meanwhile, the House of Com-
mons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage
has been holding similar hearings, asking ques-
tions about the different pressures on local broad-
casting and exploring suggestions as to how the
federal government might address the situation.
In the face of these cutbacks, finding ways
CRTC did not dare oppose the Canadian govern-
ment’s overall neoliberal model and, as a result,
the development, deployment and exploitation
of information and communication technolo-
gies was largely given over to powerful corporate
actors (Barney 2005: 106-107; Barney 2004: 67).
Across media sectors, a series of mergers and
acquisitions since 1998 has aggregated over half
of all Canadian media revenues in the hands of
three firms (Winseck 2008: 31). Under the banner
of convergence
and international
competi tiveness,
such media con-
centration has met
with regulatory ap-
proval. The prin-
ciple of Canadian
ownership is being
reconsidered by
Stephen Harper’s
federal Conserva-
tive government
and has been erod-
ed by regulatory
decisions allowing
increasing Ameri-
can minority own-
ership of Canadian
media companies (Moll and Shade 2008). Regula-
tory and funding support for the CBC has been
whittled down. Community broadcasting, though
recognized as one of three pillars of the broad-
casting system, continues to struggle with minimal
resources. The CRTC is considering de-regulating
the cable, satellite, and telephone companies that
control television distribution (CRTC 2007). Pro-
posed federal copyright legislation (currently with-
drawn) threatened to restrict users’ rights of “fair
dealing”. In the crucial field of new digital media,
the issue of web-based Canadian media content
remains unresolved, and escalating violations of
the principle of “net neutrality” threaten to create
an increasingly tiered Internet (Anderson 2008).
As in the U.S., such developments potentially com-
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 2 3
port or subsidies for new media broadcasting, it is
not clear what effect the new definition will have
on independent, community, public and private
media that broadcast online. Media reformers will
want to ensure that independent, community and
public media outlets are included in any future pro-
grams created to support new media broadcasting.
The new media ruling marks another occa-
sion where the CRTC has refused to deal with
Canada’s prevailing “digital divides” based on
geography (rural, remote, inner-city), ability
(cognitive, physical), class, age, gender, and eth-
nicity. However, perhaps the most significant as-
pect of the CRTC’s new media ruling is its call
for a “national digital strategy”. While the
CRTC’s ruling on new media essentially delays
and sidesteps many of the key issues raised at
the hearing, it also sets the stage for a high pro-
file debate over Canada’s national digital strategy.
With pressure building, in June 2009 Industry
minister Tony Clement hosted a Digital Economy
Conference to discuss the possibility of a national
digital strategy. In 2010, the policy-making process
concerning Canada’s digital strategy promises to
be a crucial and highly contested space to raise the
above issues and much more. Chairman of the
National Film Board Tom Perlmutter, captured
the essence of the issue in a recent interview say-
ing “a digital strategy has to look at how we posi-
tion ourselves into the future, how we position
ourselves so that we’re able to deal with all of the
things that have to do with the technology, with
innovation, with productivity, with education,
with issues around the digital divide between the
have-nots and the haves” (Perlmutter, 2009: 1).
Calls for a digital strategy will likely become
more vociferous considering Canada has fallen
behind many European and Asian countries in
terms of Internet access, speed, and cost, mov-
ing Canada from 2nd to 10th place within the
30 OECD countries (OECD, 2008). Canada’s
broadband connection speeds have also fallen
below the OECD average, and now rank 27th
in terms of cost versus speed (OECD, 2008).
to support innovative local and national pub-
lic interest journalism should be at the top of
the reform agenda. Rather than yield to the de-
mands of the large private media corporations,
efforts should be placed on developing new in-
dependent mandate-driven or not for profit
community media outlets and building support
for increased resources for the CBC in this area.
As the impacts of the recession on local
media occupy headlines, a number of impor-
tant longer standing issues continue to work
their way through the system. These include:
Canada’s digital strategy; net neutral-
ity, and community television broadcasting.
In February 2009, the CRTC held hearings on
whether to roll back their 1999 decision to exempt
the Internet from regulation. While some Inter-
net applications, like Voice over Internet Protocol
(VOIP) are now regulated, the vast majority of
what passes across the Web, including broadcast-
ing, is not. Some of the questions that were under
consideration: What is “new media” (read Inter-
net) broadcasting? What might be its impact on the
Canadian broadcasting system? What regulatory
measures and/or incentives are needed to boost
Canadian broadcast programming on the Internet?
On June 4, 2009, the CRTC decided to “continue
to exempt new media broadcasting services from
its regulation and monitor trends as they evolve”
(CRTC 2009). The ruling also indicates that for
the time being, the CRTC will not create the much
debated “New Media Broadcast Levy”, which
would subsidize Canadian new media content and
potentially Internet access, through a small levy
on the revenue of big Internet service providers.
Under the previous definition of “broadcast
program,” websites might be seen as a form of
broadcasting, but only if they do not consist “pre-
dominantly of alphanumeric text.” The CRTC’s
new media ruling did expand the definition of
new media broadcasting undertakings to encom-
pass all Internet-based and mobile point-to-point
broadcasting services. In lieu of regulatory sup-
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 4
According to OECD, for countries to remain
internationally competitive, “Governments need
to promote competition and give consumers
more choices. They should encourage new net-
works, particularly upgrades to fibre-optic lines”
(OECD, 2008). In the 2009 Federal budget, the
Conservative gov-
ernment pledged
to commit $225
million over the
next three years
for broadband to
unserved com-
munities (Depart-
ment of Finance
Canada, 2009).
By contrast, Aus-
tralia, which has a
similar geograph-
ic breakdown to
Canada, is re-
portedly commit-
ting AU$4.7 bil-
lion to a similar initiative (LeMay, 2007). Not
only is the Conservative’s commitment rela-
tively weak, it also does little to get Canadi-
ans hooked up to next generation networks.
Mobile Internet and phone access promises
to be another important aspect of the digital
strategy debate, and should be high on Canada’s
media reform agenda. Mobile devices promise to
comprise an increasingly important point of ac-
cess to the Internet as well as traditional phone
services. New policy in the public interest con-
cerning wireless access to the Internet is perhaps
the most promising opportunity to close the
digital divide since the invention of the Internet.
The Canadian cell phone market is highly con-
centrated with more than 95 per cent belonging to
Rogers Communications Inc., Bell Canada Inc. and
Telus Corp., notably the most profitable wireless
services in the developed world (Nowak, 2008). A
report by Merrill Lynch found that the Canadian
wireless market was the most profitable of 23
developed countries surveyed. Despite Canada’s
wireless market’s profitability, the OECD found
that Canada has the third-highest wireless rates
among developed countries and Canada is falling
behind on usage, ranking last for cell phone users
per capita. In 2008, the CBC’s iPhone index com-
pilation compared
costs of the iPhone
in 21 countries and
found that the device
was most expensive
in Canada and Italy.
Canadians face
high prices, poor
service and highly
constricted choice;
a reality that most
Canadians are, in
fact, aware of. More
than half of re-
spondents (53%) in
a 2009 Angus Reid
Public Opinion
poll reported that they believe Canada is one of
the most expensive countries in which to use a
cell phone (Angus Reid, 2009). If this public
opinion can be harnessed to an intervention in
the government spectrum auction, taking place
sometime in the next two years, Canada’s wire-
less market could take a 180º turn. The dismal
state of the wireless market, coupled with highly
critical public sentiment, suggests wireless could
be a fruitful subject for a media reform cam-
paign - a campaign potentially connected to new
policies focused on Canada’s digital strategy.
Net neutrality is another urgent matter requir-
ing policy attention. At the 5th Canadian Telecom-
munications Forum, representatives from both
Bell Canada and Telus indicated an interest in pro-
viding a priority access fast lane to the Internet for
those content providers who can afford extra fees.
However, on October 22, 2009 the CRTC issued
new rules that are intended to prevent Internet Ser-
vice Providers from discriminating against certain
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 4 5
types of traffic and content. Furthermore, both
the New Democratic Party and the Liberals now
have official policies supporting Net Neutrality.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
It is imperative to maintain
pressure on the CRTC and elected
ocials to ensure that Internet
trac is treated equally
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
These are huge milestones in the effort to
keep Canada’s Internet open, but at the mo-
ment, several ISPs continue discriminatory traf-
fic throttling practices. The CRTC guidelines put
the onus on the consumer to file a complaint and
to prove that ISPs are “unjustly” throttling traf-
fic. Furthermore, while political support for Net
Neutrality has grown rapidly, there is still no in-
dication that a Net Neutrality law is imminent.
Consequently, it is imperative to maintain pres-
sure on the CRTC and elected officials to ensure
that Internet traffic is treated equally. In 2010, Net
Neutrality supporters will need to push the CRTC
to enforce its own traffic management guidelines
by either submitting a formal traffic manage-
ment compliant or convince Industry Minister
Tony Clement to mandate regular compliance
audits of ISP traffic management practices.
Community broadcasting is also on the
policy agenda in the near future. While framed
in Section 3 of the 1991 Broadcasting Act
as one of the key elements of the Canadian
broadcasting system, community broadcasting
has not been very well supported in Canada.
With private local broadcasting in crisis, there
is room for a much expanded role for both ra-
dio and television community broadcasting.
In 1997, community channels became op-
tional. Cable companies have since “professional-
ized” the now optional channels to make them
a competitive advantage rather than a commu-
nity resource. The result is that fewer than 10%
of Canadians can access a “community chan-
nel” to express themselves or make a program.
In 2010 the CRTC will review the communi-
ty television sector and will collect citizen input
though Consultation 2009-661. The Canadian
Association of Community Television Users and
Stations (CACTUS) proposes that the money al-
ready spent on community channels as a license
requirement ($116,000,000 in 2008), be liberated
to an independent production fund whereby com-
munities could apply to run these channels them-
selves. The production fund could support com-
munity media centres that would provide training,
equipment for sound recording, television pro-
duction, web design, broadband streaming, and
share resources with other community organiza-
tions that specialize in communications, such as
community newspapers, libraries, and theatres.
Helping develop a broad vision for community
broadcasting and working to ensure that adequate
sources of funding are available to support that vi-
sion are key projects for reform. There is also po-
tential to integrate efforts to support community
broadcasting into a larger initiative to re-imagine
and re-invent journalism in the face of journal-
ism cut backs and increasing media concentration.
Two other seemingly less immediate concerns
are also worth noting, the first being the switch to
digital television. With the deadline for switching
in Canada scheduled for August 31, 2011, private
broadcasters are already looking for ways to avoid
what they perceive to be the costly conversion of
their over-the-air (OTA) broadcast transmitters.
But while, for the most part, they would like to see
the elimination of this service, the conversion to
digital promises to free up space in the radio spec-
trum and opens up the possibility of increasing
the number of OTA signals, and thereby diver-
sity within the system. While the cost of conver-
sion presents particular challenges to community
and not-for-profit broadcasters, finding ways to
meet those challenges and exploit possible oppor-
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 6
quality and quantity of Canadian programming.
Several smaller under-funded organizations lob-
by on telecommunications issues and copyright
from a consumer-rights perspective, and several
unions have developed detailed policy propos-
als and collaborated with other organizations
on policy-oriented campaigns (e.g. Communica-
tions, Energy & Paperworkers Union 2004). In
1996, a “common front” called the Campaign for
Press and Broadcasting Freedom (named after a
long-standing British media reform organiza-
tion) campaigned against press concentration in
the wake of Conrad Black’s takeover of South-
am newspapers. At the local level, media activ-
ists have organized an annual Media Democracy
Day since 2001, in Vancouver and other cities.
Other progressive advocacy groups and networks
not centrally concerned with communications
policy have often supported media reform.
A recent entrant to Canadian media reform is
one of the partners to the present project – the
World Association for Christian Communica-
tion, an ecumenical group which has promoted
communication rights internationally for several
decades. In 2006 WACC transferred its global
headquarters from the U.K. to Toronto, where it
is seeking Canadian partners for media reform,
and developing a global web portal as a clearing-
house for information on communication rights.
These groups have worked in relative isolation
from each other, however, and policy processes
tend to treat them as (at best) individual stakehold-
ers rather than representatives of the larger public
interest (Skinner 2004). But increasingly they are
looking to collaborative models like the Media &
Democracy Coalition in the U.S. With encourage-
ment from experienced people at Free Press, the
Media Democracy Coalition and other American
media democracy groups, and a nation-wide net-
work of Canadian organizations and individuals,
the other NGO involved in this project, Open-, was formed in Summer 2007 to seek
common ground for specific campaigns. With ac-
tive support from academics, unions and advoca-
tunities is another important project for reform
The second concern is a possible merging
of Telecommunications and Broadcasting
Acts. Given ongoing convergence at both the
technological and corporate levels, industry and
government officials have hinted at the possibil-
ity. While such a merger would raise a number of
public interest issues, perhaps the biggest concern
is what would happen to the cultural objectives
now contained in Section 3 of the Broadcasting
Act. Those objectives set out the public interest
in broadcasting and are the product of decades
of struggle. Any discussions of new legisla-
tion should be closely monitored in this regard.
An Emerging Media Reform
It is not difficult to see the broader democratic
values that are at stake in the above-mentioned
developments: access to, and diversity of, citi-
zen-relevant information; community-building,
at both local and national levels; domestic con-
trol over Canada’s communication policies and
institutions, as a prerequisite for citizen partici-
pation in policy-making; universal access to the
key means of public communication, as a basis
for equality and participation in society, cul-
ture and politics; accountability of media in-
stitutions to publics and to policy goals. These
values, all highly relevant to democratic gover-
nance and citizenship, are at risk of further ero-
sion in current policy developments, particularly
with a federal government arguably more com-
mitted to neoliberalism than any in the past.
Fortunately, there are signs of resistance. Que-
bec has a long history of support for participa-
tory, community and movement-oriented French
language media (e.g. Raboy 1984). In Anglophone
Canada, an advocacy group called Friends of Ca-
nadian Broadcasting has worked since 1985 to de-
fend public interest principles and to promote the
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 6 7
tions; and fragmented identities and weaker sense
of pan-Canadian nationalism, associated with
strong regionalism, cultural and linguistic dual-
ism, and Quebec’s “distinct society”. Diversity
as a policy goal in Canada hinges around linguis-
tic, regional and political/ideological axes as well
as race and ethnicity (Beaty and Sullivan 2006).
That said, while the current report is intended
to shed light on the terrain for media reform in
Canada, we also intend to make a modest con-
tribution to the more general literature. Social
movement theory (SMT) forms one intellectual
backdrop for this proposed project. There are
several major traditions in SMT, from Smelser’s
classic but now unfashionable structural func-
tionalism, to Melucci’s (e.g. 1996) emphasis on
“new” social movements’ challenges to the alleg-
edly state-centered “old” left, Foucault’s radical
pluralism, and neo-Gramscian hegemony theory
(cf. Carroll, 1997; Hackett & Carroll 2006). We are
not wedded at the outset to any particular SMT
tradition, but given our concerns with the mobi-
lization, framing, political opportunities, alliance
structure and sustainability of media reform, our
survey and interview questions are inspired par-
ticularly by the Resource Mobilization tradition.
This model suggests that successful movements
need to find ways to reduce the costs of mobili-
zation, to identify opportunities within the politi-
cal environment, and to provide collective action
frames that identify shared grievances, villains,
allies, and remedies (e.g. Klandermans 2001).
As background, our work has also been in-
formed by Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory (e.g.
1993). A field is an institutional social universe
with its own relatively autonomous logics, and re-
sources for which agents compete; yet it is situated
within a broader “field of power,” notably com-
prising state and capital (Benson & Neveu 2005).
Some pioneering work has applied field theory in
mapping the stakeholders and trajectories of me-
dia activism itself (Hanke 2005; Klinenberg 2005).
Hackett and Carroll (2006) considered the impact
on media activism of communications institutions
cy groups, such as the 60,000-member Council of
Canadians, has already mounted
several notable campaigns, linked existing media
reform organizations, and is well positioned to
amplify the public interest voice in policy-making.
The Context of Scholarship
Many readers of this report will be familiar with
some of the recently burgeoning academic litera-
ture, both case studies and theoretical overviews,
on media reform as a social movement in the US,
and at the transnational level (e.g. Dichter 2005;
Klinenberg 2004; Klinenberg 2007; McChesney
2004; McChesney & Hackett 2005; McChesney,
Newman & Scott 2005; Opel 2004; Thomas 2006;
Napoli 2007). There is also now a substantial lit-
erature on alternative/citizens’/radical media as
another fundamental (and we would argue, com-
plementary) route to media democratization and
social transformation (e.g. Couldry & Curran 2003;
Downing et al 2000; Hanke 2005; Rodriguez 2001).
Little in this area has been published on the
Canadian context, however. There is a growing
critical literature on Canadian media policy, con-
tent and structures (e.g. Babe 1990; Beaty and Sul-
livan 2006; Edge 2007; Hackett and Gruneau et
al 2000; Moll and Shade 2008; Skinner, Gasher
and Compton 2005; Raboy 1990; Winter 2007),
but little of it focuses on policies or strategies for
building a more democratic media system. And
we cannot simply extrapolate from the U.S. lit-
erature, given some important differences in the
landscape for media reform. Compared to the
U.S., Canada has a more strongly institutionalized
political Left, labour movement, and social demo-
cratic element in the political culture; a stronger
though beleaguered public service broadcaster;
historical though contested support for “cul-
tural sovereignty” vis-à-vis the powerful pull of
American media industries; a much higher degree
of media concentration; a weaker libertarian tra-
dition; far fewer philanthropic funding founda-
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 8
as a field with distinct characteristics – notably, po-
rous boundaries, a high capacity to intrude upon
other fields, and vulnerability to influence from
political and economic fields. Is this perspective
consistent with the evidence offered in this study?
If media democratization comprises a field,
what is its scope? Scholars have drawn a distinc-
tion between grassroots
activism, and policy-
oriented national-level
advocacy (e.g. Mueller,
Kuerbis & Page 2004;
Napoli 2007). Others
have categorized dif-
ferent forms of media
activism on the basis
of their origins, lo-
cus of activity, tactics,
ideological perspec-
tives, and/or object
of change (e.g. Hackett & Carroll 2006: 54-57;
Opel 2004). This project focuses on media re-
form (defined by its intention to achieve institu-
tional change of existing media) as a subset of the
larger field of media democratization. Specifical-
ly, we focus on policy-oriented advocacy groups,
not the entire media democracy movement, but
always mindful of the actual and potential links.
In particular, we wanted to address a theoreti-
cally and politically vital question: Is media reform
best framed as part of other movements – per-
haps as a “movement nexus” (Hackett & Carroll
2006: 199) – or rather, as “a distinctive indepen-
dent identity” (Napoli 2007:51)? If the latter,
then a strategy of appeal-
ing to the instrumental
communicative needs of
other movements may
be less successful than
a more “universalizing”
appeal to democratic
and humanistic values
(solidarity, dignity, equal-
ity, community, racial,
social and ecological jus-
tice). Such a framing/al-
liance strategy suggests,
in turn, an especially critical role – viz., consci-
entizing constituencies for media justice – for
progressive communities of faith, like WACC,
that nurture ethical values (Powers 2005).
In the next two sections, we offer evi-
dence from our survey and interviews
that may help to address these questions.
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 8 9
inequalities within the sector may well contribute
to different organizational cultures, and differ-
ent levels of commitment to the existing field of
state-recognized, politically legitimized advocacy.
That said, a cross-tabulation of organizational
budget size with past and likely future participation
in media/communication campaigns or coalitions
(Q21, 26) revealed a striking contrast. Groups
with budgets under $250,000 were much more
likely to participate than their wealthier counter-
parts. In the past five years, twelve (57.1%) of the
21 smaller groups confirmed their participation in
such campaigns, compared to just six (28.6%) of
the 21 larger groups. Similarly, asked to estimate
the likelihood of future engagement on a scale
from 1 (very unlikely) to 5 (very likely), the small-
er groups averaged a score of 4.19, compared to
3.11 for organizations with budgets of $250,000
or more.
This finding suggests two points. First,
from a methodological viewpoint, organizations
with smaller budgets and presumably fewer staff
may have been more likely to respond to our
survey if they already had an existing interest in
media and communications issues. Second, stra-
tegically, it would be important for a Canadian
media reform coalition not to overlook the po-
tential for support from and collaboration with
a variety of small but dedicated organizations.
Sector Participation
Of the 224 organizations that were invited to
participate in our survey, 57 did so – a response
rate of 25.4%. In terms of self-identified “main
area of focus,” (Q3/4) the NGO’s were distribut-
We will now summarize some of the emergent
Organizational Size
Compared to some of their US counterparts,
the NGOs that responded are mainly modest in
size, though there is a wide distribution. The medi-
an category of membership size is 500-999. Seven-
teen of 57 NGOs had under 500 members, 18 had
over 1,000; 14 are not membership-based. None
had more than 100,000 signed-up members. (Q4/5)
Interestingly, this picture does not change
much when the NGOs identified the number of
people on their main contact email list (Q5/6).
This suggests that the groups make little dis-
tinction between “membership” and inclusion
on an email list, and/or that the groups do not
communicate regularly with publics or potential
supporters beyond their formal membership.
Indeed, at least one major organization told us
informally that it emails action alerts only to a
minority of its own members, expressing an un-
willingness to add to their supporters’ inbox clut-
ter.’s experience corresponds to
that of other groups: NGOs regard their email
list as a hard-earned resource, and a kind of trust.
In terms of annual revenues, the median is
about $250,000 (Q6/7). Thirteen have budgets of
over $1 million, ten have $250,000 to 999,999, ten
have $100,00 to 249,999, and fourteen have less
than $100,000, including nine with under $25,000.
One can surmise two points. First, few organiza-
tions appear to have surplus funds available for
campaigns unrelated to their primary mandates,
and some cannot afford paid staff at all. Second,
An Online Survey of NGOs
3. The response “don’t know” was tabulated as 3, the middle point on the scale.
An Online Survey of NGOs
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 10
are those accustomed to supporting research (po-
litical advocacy and research/policy institutes),
but others have a fairly clear stake in communi-
cations policy – independent media, arts/culture,
and arguably gender: in struggles for women’s
equality, in particular, media representations loom
large. There is an ongoing tradition of feminist
activism around media issues – e.g. Canada’s Me-
diaWatch took a lead role in coordinating the first
Global Media Monitoring Project (1995) pro-
moted by WACC, a project that takes a content
analysis “snapshot” of women’s representation
in news media every five years. (Now that Me-
diaWatch’s funding has declined, that coordinat-
ing role has since been assumed by WACC.) The
participation of faith-based groups, perhaps en-
couraged by WACC’s sponsorship of the proj-
ect, is encouraging. This suggests an often over-
looked constituency for media reform – perhaps
on the basis of “universal” human rights and
ethical values, as well as by religious denomina-
tions’ more immediate need to find new ways to
reinvigorate communities of faith in a cultural
climate of declining intermediate organizations
(like community churches) and the rise of mass-
mediated syncretic belief systems (Hoover 1994).
By contrast, the minimal participation of
peace and environmental groups is disappoint-
ing, but is consistent with impressionistic evi-
dence. With some notable exceptions, groups
in this sector tend not to theorize or prioritize
the connection between dominant media, on
the one hand, and consumerism and militarism
in the culture, on the other. It is also likely that
some NGOs in these sectors feel that they have
won some respect and space in the media, which
they do not want to jeopardize through cam-
paigns perceived as hostile to corporate media.
The low participation of ethnic/vis-
ible minorities may reflect a preference to
ed as follows: Media, 14; Arts/culture, 8; Labour/
union, 6; General political advocacy, 6; Research
institute/think tank, 4; Religion, 4; Gender issues,
3; Professional association/service organization,
3; Civil and human rights, 3; Foundations, 2; Envi-
ronment, 1; First Nations, 1; Other, 9; Unstated, 2.
No respondents situated their groups in the peace,
ethnic, technology, or charity/education sectors.
This is a small sample, and the results must
be taken as suggestive rather than definitive.
Nevertheless, the proportion of organiza-
tions within each NGO sector that chose to
complete our survey, shown in Table 1, could
be taken as a rough indication of the poten-
tial for future engagement in media reform.
Some of the ‘high’ responders to the survey
4. Particular caution must be taken in interpreting this table. Not only are the Ns small, but the two columns
are not strictly compatible. The N s are unavoidably based on our own sectoral categorization of the groups
that we contacted, whereas the proportion responding used the respondents’ own self-categorization.
TA8L¡ 1:
Type of Group # Asked % Responding
Political/advocacy groups 10 60.0
Tink tanks, rcscarch institutcs 7 57.1
Prolcssional/scrvicc 7 42.9
!ndcpcndcnt mcdia 37 37.8
Arts/culturc 23 34.8
Gcndcr 9 33.3
Rcligion 13 30.8
Civil & human rights 12 25.0
Labour/unions 25 24.0
Foundations 18 11.1
First Nations 10 10.0
¡nvironmcnt 15 6.7
¡thnic 13
Pcacc 11
Tcchnology 7
Charity/cducation 7
Òthcr/did not idcntily scctor n/a (n-11)
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 10 11
Table 3 shows the average score (from 1 to
5) from each sector, on the likelihood of fu-
ture participation. Tables 2 and 3 confirm the
importance of independent media and arts/
culture groups for media reform coalitions, but
they also suggest that trade unions and human
rights advocates are “high percentage” pros-
pects. The above results also raise questions
concerning framing and messaging. Would dif-
ferent wording or framing be more appealing to
the groups who reported that they would be un-
likely to participate in media reform campaigns?
Asked to rate the importance of various sources
of funding (Q7/8), Table 4 below shows the percent-
age of NGOs that rated each as “very important”
work through their own media and communi-
ties, rather than to engage with social change
organizations perceived as white-dominated.
Charities also did not participate. This may be
an untapped potential. Consider Britain’s Public
Voice media reform coalition, one that has taken
on the defence of public broadcasting in particu-
lar. Its constituencies include charity groups that
need media access for visibility and public ser-
vice messages (Hackett and Carroll 2006: 120).
A cross-tabulation of self-identified sec-
tor (Q3) with past and likely future engagement
with media campaigns (Q21, 26) broadly cor-
roborates the above ranking of sectoral partici-
pation, with a few exceptions. While the sample
is small, the following ranking of groups that
had affirmed their engagement in campaigns
or coalitions in the past five years is suggestive:
5. Percentages and frequencies reported in these tables are often not additive; they may total well over 100%,
as multiple responses were permitted.
An Online Survey of NGOs
TA8L¡ 2.
Group Focus (Scctor) º Y¡S # ol Rcsponscs
Labour/union 80.0 5
Arts/culturc 75.0 8
Mcdia 66.7 12
Political advocacy 66.7 6
Civil/human rights 66.7 3
Prolcssional/scrvicc associations 50.0 2
Rcscarch/think tanks 33.3 3
Gcndcr 3
Rcligion 3
Foundations 2
First Nations 1
Average/Total 54.2 48
TA8L¡ 3.
Group Focus Avcragc Rcsponsc # ol Rcsponscs
Civil & Human rights 4.76 3
Labour/union 4.50 4
Mcdia 4.45 11
Political/advocacy 3.83 6
Arts/culturc 3.75 8
Rcscarch/think tanks 3.67 3
Scrvicc associations 3.50 2
Gcndcr 3.00 3
Rcligion 3.00 3
Foundations 3.00 2
¡nvironmcnt 3.00 2
First Nations 3.00 1

Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 12
How does “the media piece” fit into the man-
date of Canadian NGOs? We can extrapolate from
what they tell us about their current challenges
and priorities. Forty-six of the organizations iden-
tified their top two priorities for the next three
years. Our categorization of their open-ended
responses suggests the following breakdown:
Before media reformers leap with excitement
at the prominence of public awareness and policy
advocacy in the communications and cultural field,
we should note that all 12 such responses arose
from NGOs already engaging in media produc-
tion, media education or advocacy, or representing
While comparative data would be useful
to interpret these results, the survey does sug-
gest the importance of government in sustain-
ing NGOs in Canada, with potential influence
on NGO agendas. The pursuit of government
funding may be part of the reason for the cur-
rent apparent conservatism of the environmental
movement, but it also gives these NGOs a vest-
ed interest in intervening in government policy.
On the other hand, 36% said government fund-
ing was “not important” at all, once again suggesting
a bifurcation between elite/state-oriented and op-
positional/independent or small marginal groups.
Many organizations have succeeded in build-
ing a base of support from individuals. Support
from foundations is important, but probably
less so than in the US. Overall, the importance
of external sources other than products/ser-
vices marketed by the NGO itself, implies a
high degree of financial vulnerability and a good
deal of effort absorbed by fund-raising, con-
tract-chasing, and/or membership servicing.
TA8L¡ 5.
12 !mprovc lunding, rcvcnucs, bccomc sustainablc, to bc ablc to
pay staß
12 Changc govcrnmcnt policy with rcspcct to communications,
mcdia or arts and culturc issucs
11 8cttcr rcprcscntation ol our mcmbcrs' intcrcsts, bring
bcncnts to our mcmbcrs and/or thc wholc scctor, c.g.
improvcd incomcs, bcttcr collcctivc agrccmcnts, morc
prolcssional autonomy
10 !mprovc and/or incrcasc thc production and/or circulation ol
our own mcdia (this includcs NGCs that arc thcmsclvcs
mcdia organizations)
7 Strcngthcn thc organization, rcvitalizc thc staß and
lcadcrship, avoid burnout
6 !mprovc thc group's visibility, mcdia covcragc, markcting
6 Undcrtakc advocacy, Promotc govcrnmcnt policy changc
(in nonmcdia issucs)
5 Undcrtakc public cducation on mcdia and communication
issucs, improvc thc climatc ol opinion and awarcncss, shilt
thc privatc scctor and/or gcncral culturc in linc with
our positions
3 !mprovc mcmbcr scrviccs, cducatc our mcmbcrs, gct
thcm involvcd
3 Undcrtakc public cducation on issucs othcr than mcdia and
communication, improvc thc climatc ol opinion and
awarcncss, ¯bccomc a thought lcadcr", shilt thc privatc scctor
and/or gcncral culturc in linc with our positions
3 Undcrtakc rcscarch, publish studics
TA8L¡ 4.
40.0 Govcrnmcnt grants/contracts
35.2 !ndividual mcmbcrship
34.7 !ndividual donations
30.6 Foundations/philanthropy
18.8 Grants or contracts lrom 8usincss
18.0 Products and scrviccs, providcd by our
Òrganization lor a lcc
11.5 Mcmbcrship ducs lrom
amliatcd organizations
6.4 Grants or contracts lrom Labour Unions
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 12 13
Financial vulnerability is one theme that emerges
from this identification of NGO priorities and
challenges. When sources of potential funding
were mentioned in connection with fund-raising,
government support, grants, foundations and en-
dowments were the most frequently mentioned,
more so than market-based or commodified rev-
enue streams. These are NGOs, after all, not busi-
nesses. The exception would be some of the media
organizations, such as magazines whose readership
reach is both a political goal and a revenue source.
A second theme, albeit one primed by the sur-
vey’s framing, is the awareness and relevance of
media. Several groups outside the media field noted
media factors as problems, such as advertising costs
or audience fragmentation. As noted elsewhere,
media profile usually enhances recognition and
support from funders, publics and policy makers.
Respondents were asked how often their
NGO engaged in each of 13 listed activi-
ties, in pursuit of their goals. Table 7 below
shows the average rating for each activity (from
1 = never, to 4 = often), and the proportion
of respondents listing each activity as ‘often’.
NGOs in these sectors expend considerable re-
sources on organizational self-maintenance, and
on reaching the public through media that are
relatively self-controlled and have relatively low
distribution costs (websites and reports). In some
cases, the responding NGO is itself an indepen-
dent, community or “alternative” media orga-
nization. Less energy is expended on direct en-
gagement with the political/legal system, or with
trying to gain access to the dominant media (e.g.
by sponsoring media-oriented events or develop-
ing relationships with journalists), apart from the
low-cost activity of issuing news releases. While a
few groups that we surveyed may have ideologi-
producers and workers in arts, culture and media
sectors. Arguably, however, access to the public fo-
rum is relevant, at least indirectly, to the priorities
of non-media NGOs, as they pursue funding, or-
ganization-building, public visibility and advocacy.
That impression is reinforced when we
consider the 48 responses to an open-ended
question about the major challenges or ob-
stacles faced by each NGO (Q11). These
can be categorized into the following themes:
Individual respondents also noted the difficul-
ty of representing diversity within their own sec-
tor, unfavourable demographic changes amongst
supporters, and general systemic obstacles.
TA8L¡ 6.
26 Lack ol lunding, cxaccrbatcd by cconomic rcccssion
16 Lack ol othcr rcsourccs: pcrsonncl, voluntccrs, staß,
tcchnology, mcmbcr apathy, turnovcr, intcrnal
organizational challcngcs
10 Changcs in thc mcdiascapc, communications policy,
rcgulation. Tcsc includcd commcnts on thc
lragmcntation ol mcdia audicnccs, thc cost ol T\ advcr
tising, and dcclinc ol traditional mcdia audicnccs, making
it morc dimcult to rcach largc publics, thc problcm ol
thc wcb cconomically hurting print publications. 8ut
thcy also includcd morc radical critiqucs ol thc mcdia's
political cconomy: wcak cnlorccmcnt ol CRTC rcgula
tions, cablc company control ovcr community T\
lunding, thc lcw sourccs ol production, and ¯political
tcndcncy to lcan toward markct lorccs in dctcrmining nlm
and T\ programming".
9 Lack ol inßucncc with govcrnmcnt, govcrnmcnt
indißcrcncc or lack ol support
7 Lack ol visibility, public awarcncss, or crcdit lor our work,
public apathy, misundcrstanding, ncgativc stcrcotyping,
public mispcrccption (without spccinc mcntion ol mcdia)
7 Poor mcdia rcprcscntation or covcragc c.g. ¯mcdia
pcrpctuatcd stcrcotypcs ol thc rolc ol unions in today's
socicty", ¯dimcult to build strong mcdia prcscncc", ¯Mcdia:
vcry lcw inlormcd spccialists in our ncld, constant rcpcti
tion ol crrors, and poor public knowlcdgc," ¯Mcdia sccm
dimcult to gct to know and hard to contact"
5 Òpposing or hostilc groups
An Online Survey of NGOs
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 14
least one comment in each of the following (post-
coded) categories (the total is thus non-additive).
Access to public communication is clearly rel-
evant and useful with respect to most of these
goals, particularly public campaigns, outreach,
and (in some circumstances) gaining a seat at
the table. Almost certainly, however, NGOs
typically pursue such access through their own
media, and/or conventional media relations
strategies, rather than the more indirect strat-
egy of reforming media structures and policies.
(Q12/13, 13/14)
The shortage of resources by individual
NGOs reinforces the advisability of collabora-
tion in mounting campaigns. Fortunately, the
organizational culture in Canada seems favour-
able to coalitions. Asked how often their NGO
engages in collaborative projects or campaigns
with other organizations (a 5-point scale from
Never to Constantly), only 13% of our re-
spondents say they “never” or “seldom” do
so; 55.5% say they do so often or constantly.
With what organizations do our respondents
most frequently partner? Are there any organiza-
tions engaging in frequent partnerships with other
NGOs and thereby acting as a potential hub for
cal antipathy toward engaging with the established
political or media system, it is likely that the re-
verse is the case. Many NGOs would undoubtedly
welcome a seat at the policy-making table or space
in the dominant media, but are limited by shortage
of resources (time, staff, money): NGOs are hard-
pressed to mount and sustain ongoing public and
political campaigns. Notably, only a small minori-
ty of the groups engage in confrontational tactics,
such as demonstrations. Even though such tactics
may be economically inexpensive, the political
costs and benefits may be deemed unfavourable.
Fifty-one respondents offered thoughts on their
group’s main accomplishments or achievements
in the previous five years. This was an open-ended
question that allowed multiple responses. Table 8
shows the number of respondents who entered at
TA8L¡ 8.
22 Policyoricntcd campaign or lcgal victorics
14 Rcscarch, public awarcncss, cducation, outrcach,
changing public discoursc, political culturc
13 !ntcrnal strcngthcning ol thc organization
10 8cncnts to community, mcmbcrs
9 Gaining rccognition lrom policymakcrs, a scat at
thc tablc
6 Partncrships, nctworking
5 Combination, c.g. growing thc organization
through providing a scrvicc, cxpanding circulation.
TA8L¡ 7.
Scllcontrollcd Mcdia Avcragc Rating º Òltcn
Producc wcbsitcs/blogs 3.78 80.0
Publish rcports 3.56 67.3
Ðircct mail 2.83 34.5
Producc vidcos 2.51 15.1
Paid ads 1.90 7.3
Acccss to Ðominant Mcdia
Ncws rclcascs 3.18 43.6
Òthcr ways to gct mcdia attcntion 3.00 24.5
¡ngagcmcnt Vith Formal Policy Systcm
Lobby govcrnmcnt 2.62 34.5
Court challcngcs 1.66 9.3
Òthcr Òrganizational Maintcnancc
8uild mcmbcrship 3.31 51.9
Fundraisc 2.61 30.9
Conlrontational Tactics
Ðcmonstrations, rallics 2.26 14.5
Òthcr dircct action 1.90 1.4
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 14 15
with people, groups and concepts related to the
environment and media reform (Q14/15). To
what extent are Canadian NGOs already famil-
iar with the media reform movement in Canada?
The fact that over a quarter of respondents
declared themselves familiar with a fictitious
organization, the Canadian Institute for Pub-
lic Interest Media, cautions us not to take the
scores at face value; perhaps respondents are
likely to over-report their own knowledge and
accomplishments. Nevertheless, the last-place
ranking of this fictitious entity reinforces the
validity of our survey instrument and the useful-
ness of the findings for comparative purposes.
Generally, environmental entities outweigh me-
dia democracy. Compare Suzuki and McChesney,
or global climate change and communication rights.
That is hardly surprising, when one considers the
relative salience and perceived urgency of the two
issue-fields in public, policy and media agendas.
networks of progressive activism? Hackett and
Carroll (2006, chap. 11) suggested that media ac-
tivism itself might perform the role of articulating
a shared grievance for progressive social move-
ments and providing an arena for them to come
together, at least in the US. Media activism, they
suggested, might constitute a “movement-nexus”
rather than a movement in itself. In Canada, how-
ever, a similar role might be played by a progres-
sive political party, such as the social democratic
New Democratic Party (NDP), or by trade unions,
which are proportionately larger than in the US.
But such appears not to be the case. Our re-
spondents identified a total of 56 organizations as
partners in the previous three years. Surprisingly,
only three groups are mentioned more than once
– the National Anti-Poverty Organization (twice),
the Vancouver-based Independent Community
Television (twice), and (Campaign
for Democratic Media) or its annual Media De-
mocracy Day (5) – a finding which must be im-
mediately qualified by’s role in se-
lecting the respondent list. Speculatively (since we
did not ask this question specifically), there may
well be networks or organizations that progres-
sive NGOs frequently turn to for information or
advice in forming coalitions, such as the Canadian
Centre for Policy Alternatives (mentioned once
as an organizational partner), or the Council of
Canadians, the largest progressive umbrella group
in the country. Neither the Council, nor the NDP,
were mentioned by respondents as an active part-
ner. The survey does not reveal an organization that
acts as an active hub for collaborative campaigns.
Even if neither media activism, nor any other
sector, appears to constitute an organizational
hub for progressive advocacy in Canada, the ex-
tent of familiarity with media reform issues is en-
couraging. We used a Likkert scale (1 to 5 points)
for respondents to self-report their familiarity
Entity Avg. Score % Familiar/V. FMLR
David Suzuki 4.59 96.3
CanWest Global 4.42 92.4
Global climate change 4.07 89.0
Open source software 3.83 83.4
Friends of
Canadian Broadcasting 3.46 73.1 3.25 69.0
Net neutrality 3.23 60.3
Communication rights 3.15 58.5
Media Democracy Day 2.87 51.0 2.69 50.0
Robert W. McChesney 2.50 42.6
Free Press (US organization) 2.49 39.2
Canadian Inst for Public
Interest Media* 1.85 26.1

An Online Survey of NGOs
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 16
spondents identify could all be considered
progressive. But it is not obvious that in Cana-
da, arguably in contrast to the US, media re-
form functions as a nexus between them.
The importance of media was considerably
recognized, often combined with participants’
dissatisfaction regarding coverage of their own
NGO’s and issues: 84.6% agreed that the qual-
ity and diversity of Canadian journalism affects
their organization’s work (Q19). Thirty-six re-
spondents offered supplementary comments.
Many of these reiterated complaints about su-
perficial, biased or sensational coverage; lack of
quality or diversity; over-dependence on official
or corporate sources rather than the grassroots.
A few complained about reporters themselves:
they were not “well-schooled” in relevant is-
sues, were more concerned to be TV anchors
than investigative reporters, were members of a
dominant culture without sensitivity to gender
or minority issues. More frequently, respondents
recognized that “traditional media” are very “re-
source stretched”, and specialized reporters are
too few. A few mentioned media concentration
or conflicts of interest arising from ownership.
But it is encouraging that at least half of re-
spondents are familiar with the key (non-fic-
titious) Canadian media democracy entities –
more so than with their US counterparts (Free
Press and its co-founder, the well-published
author and professor, Robert McChesney).
Friends of Canadian Broadcasting and rabble.
ca appear to have gained substantial recognition.
Two implications arise. First, the brand
name of US media reform organizations may
not carry much weight as a means to attract
the support of Canadian NGOs that are not
already part of the media reform movement.
Second, there is room for growth. As oth-
er NGOs and publics become more aware
of media democracy concepts, campaigns
and organizations, perhaps such aware-
ness can be translated into increased support.
Most of the respondents consider their ad-
vocacy work to be part of one or more social
movements: 66% said Yes, and a further 24.5%
Sometimes. This finding has positive implica-
tions for mobilization (as a “movement” im-
plies a long-term, sustained effort at social
change), and for collaboration (as a movement
is broader than a single organization). For pur-
poses of framing campaigns and identifying al-
lies, it is important to know what movements the
NGOs identify. Of 57 respondents, 32 identified
one or more movements, as shown in Table 10.
Encouragingly, media democracy is (increas-
ingly?) recognized as a movement in its own
right – though different ways of labelling it per-
sist. Finding a common or “umbrella” frame re-
mains a challenge, as experienced media reform
activists are well aware (e.g., O Siochrú 2005).
The other movements with which our re-
TA8L¡ 10.
15 Mcdia rclorm, mcdia dcmocracy, mcdia cducation,
mcdia justicc, mcdia libcration, lrccdom ol cxprcssion
13 Social justicc, antipovcrty, progrcssivc
4 ¡nvironmcntal
4 Aboriginal/indigcnous pcoplc's rights
3 Gcndcr
3 Labour
2 Civil libcrtics, human rights
2 !mmigrants
2 Fair govcrnmcnt
1 Consumcr rights
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 16 17
dia have quite deliberately dropped, such as unions
and women’s rights”; “The poor quality, lack of
diversity and lame insight provide constant inspi-
ration for my work and provide a context to show
what media could be like.” [Politics, Re-Spun]
When asked their view of coverage of their
own organization and its issues, 22% said they
were very dissatisfied, 40% somewhat dissatisfied,
and only 26% being moderately or very satisfied
(Q17). Twenty-nine of the respondents made
more detailed comments about mainstream media:
mainly negative (15), while 4 were unqualifiedly
positive, 5 mixed, and 5 other. Table 11 summa-
rizes the main critical/negative themes (Q17b):
There is no single focus to the respondents’
discontent with dominant media. For framing a
campaign around democracy and journalism, the
themes of lack of resources, and the decline of lo-
cal journalism, are likely to resonate more readily
than hostile bias or framing. It is difficult to escape
the accusation that bias is subjective, in the eye of
the beholder; it could be divisive, in that potential
coalition partners could perceive bias differently;
and it could be construed by journalists as an attack
on their own professional integrity – particularly
in the absence of extensive documentation by an
ongoing media analysis institute. Canada has no
counterpart to the progressive US media watch-
An NGO advocating artists’ right to access copy-
righted material argued that “Mainstream media
are stakeholders in the legislation to which we are
opposed, therefore mainstream media coverage is
skewed to favour entertainment industry desires.”
A few respondents more explicitly ex-
plained the relevance of media, both posi-
tive and negative, to their own work:
* “Diversity of journalism gives us op-
portunity to pitch different story angles
for the same issue e.g. a business angle, a
First Nations angle, science, environment
etc.” Yet “the decline of newspapers is
disconcerting for our organization’s
present model of communication and
advocacy.” [An environmental NGO]
* “If Canadians don’t know their artists, it
makes it much harder to advocate on their
behalf, and to get public support.” [Cana-
dian Artists’ Representation (CARFAC)]
* “Many of our members are on the fring-
es and require knowledgeable and careful
journalism to bring these practices and
innovations to light. Smaller orgs gain
when the quality and timing of the report-
age is favourable.” [An arts organization]
* “We have to work harder (for no pay)
to disseminate information that counters
the mainstream media spin, contribut-
ing to frustration & risk of burnout.”
[Edmonton Small Press Association]
NGOs that produce journalism themselves had
a distinct take. For the Professional Writers Asso-
ciation of Canada, quality and diversity in journal-
ism “allow our members to earn a living, improve
their craft, and take pride in the work.” For some
of the independent media, the very deficiencies
of corporate media are an opportunity: “Straight covers many areas that mainstream me-
13 - Media ignore our organization or issues, or don`t pay
enough attention
4 - Media lack resources; decline of specialized or beat
reporters in our feld
3 - Media concentration or corporate ownership
3 - Hostile framing, bias or selectivity
2 - Media`s lack of knowledge, interest or understanding
2 - We ourselves could make more effort if we wanted
better coverage
1 - Media are too elite-oriented in their sourcing
1 - Alternative media are also inadequate
An Online Survey of NGOs
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 18
dependent media suggests that an initiative that
combined the two might be fruitful if a common
frame or grievance can be found. A campaign
that puts forth a positive vision for indepen-
dent and public media as a partial solution to the
cutbacks in traditional media, may be attractive
to a broad constituency of NGOs and citizens.
Internet Use and Access
There was even more unanimity with regard
to the Internet: 88% said the Internet is very
important to their work (Q24); 80% agree that
it is very important that all Canadians have ac-
cess to it (Q26). For both questions, 0% of the
respondents indicated that these issues are “not
at all important”, and every respondent agreed
that Internet access for Canadians and for their
own work is at least moderately important.
Comments pertaining to the importance of
the Internet to respondents’ work suggest that
the Internet is viewed as important for very tan-
gible and instrumental reasons. Common com-
ments to this question include the importance of
the Internet for: Research, public access, mobili-
zation, outreach, education, advocacy, collabora-
tion, building community, and networking. For
example, one respondent wrote, “This is how
we distribute reports, gather research and in-
teract with the public.” Many of the comments
were also highly emphatic. One comment read,
“Critical! As a national organization the Internet
is a key means of communication / collabora-
tion / organization.” Another respondent simply
stated, “It is our oxygen”. Such comments sug-
gest that an initiative that tapped into these feel-
ings could generate a lot of energy from NGOs.
In terms of the broader issue of access to
the Internet in Canada, comments were gener-
ally more social and abstract. Common themes
include the importance of Internet access for
equality, citizenship and democracy. For exam-
ple, one comment read, “ability to play a role in
dog, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).
The themes of corporate control and me-
dia concentration could be linked more readily
to cutbacks and resource shortages, rather than
anti-labour, conservative, or pro-corporate bias.
This does not mean that media reformers should
ignore the analysis of the political economy of
corporate media, in fact, it is a crucial intellectual
underpinning for public interest policy regard-
ing the crisis of journalism and the democratic
development of new media (McChesney 2007).
There is some sentiment that CBC cover-
age is better (44%) than other media; 8% felt
CBC was worse, and 26% the same. This sug-
gests there is some ground for advocacy in
favour of public service broadcasting, a con-
stituency that has been effectively mobi-
lized by Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.
Independent media also received a vote of
confidence. 51% said that independent me-
dia have been quite or very helpful to their
work; and 37.3% sometimes helpful (Q23).
As per table 12, of the 57 respon-
dents, 30 made one or more additional
comments about alternative/indie media.
High levels of support for both public and in-
27 - Generally positive comments
4 - Alternative media suffer from lack of resources
3 - Alternative media are limited in their reach, or credibility
with decision-makers
3 - Our group prefers to focus on mainstream media
2 - We place little effort on alternative media
1 - We focus on inter-personal/small group communication
1 - Alternative media lack knowledge or interest in our issues
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 18 19
are aware that high bandwidth uses of the In-
ternet that they rely on like video, are more un-
der threat than lower bandwidth activities com-
mon to NGOs, such as web posts and email.
How do the NGOs rate Canada’s mainstream
media’s performance of their role in a democratic
society? Over half (55%) rated Canadian media’s
democratic performance as poor or very poor,
though 45.1% rated media as average or better
(Q20). Most of the 24 respondents who offered
additional comments were critical. Several themes
stand out and resonate with the potential agenda
for media reform. First, 13 respondents pointed
to aspects of corporate control, media concen-
tration, and/or state policy. Biased or inadequate
coverage was the second most frequent critique
(mentioned by 10). In some cases, but certainly
not all, such bias linked to corporate control,
but others linked to resource constraints (the
third most common theme of critics), or to cul-
tural power differentials. (There are echoes here
of the debate between political economy and
cultural studies traditions in media scholarship.)
These quotes illustrate the varying positions:
* “News coverage lacks quality analysis,
political context and diversity of voic-
es outside of a dominant, white, heter-
onormative and middle-class points of
view” [Canadian Association of Com-
munity Television Users and Stations]
* “Mainstream media in Canada are cor-
porations therefore their responsibilities
are to their profits not the truth. Coverage
of issues such as the environment, copy-
right, Israel/Palestine, gay marriage, hand-
guns, etc. is all editorialized to benefit the
interests of the corporation, not the pub-
lic at large.” [Appropriation Art Coalition]
* “It is not the fault of the journalists. They
production of Canadian culture should not be
determined by technological, financial and geo-
graphic barriers”. Another respondent wrote,
“It’s now a crucial medium for communica-
tion; effective citizenship depends on access.”
Participant responses to Q24 in relation to
Q26, reveals a positive correlation between the
importance of the Internet to the organizations
work, and the likelihood of their joining a media
reform campaign. While it is only a small sample,
those who rated the importance of the Internet to
their work as less than “very important”, more of-
ten reported a lower likelihood of joining a media
reform campaign. The same correlation is evident
between the few who did not rate Internet access
as “very important” (Q26). Of the 9 respondents
who did not think Internet access was very im-
portant, the average rating concerning their likeli-
ness of joining a future media reform campaign,
was a full point (3.10) lower than those who did
think access was very important (4.13). In sum,
those who see the Internet as important to their
work or as important in general, were more likely
to be interested in campaigning for media reform.
Net Neutrality
A full 98% agreed that Net throttling would
negatively affect their work (Q25). Most com-
ments cited the potential effect on outreach ac-
tivities and the potential financial impact on their
organizations. One comment that captured these
sentiments well reads, “Censorship and two-
tiered pricing is detrimental to any organization
with limited resources (time, money etc.).” An-
other comment read, “Access to our work would
be more difficult or we would have to pay more
money for faster service...either one is not ideal.”
Judging from the comments, media organi-
zations seemed relatively more concerned about
Net Neutrality relative to non-media organiza-
tions. Media organizations are probably more
concerned with Net Neutrality because they
An Online Survey of NGOs
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 20
and “minority” ownership; less concentra-
tion; restriction or regulation of monopo-
lies; broadcast licences for non-corporate
entities; ceilings on foreign ownership and
ownership in a single market; net neutrality;
legislated separation between content pro-
viders and distributors; more local control.
Better journalism and content (17);
greater diversity in storytelling and pro-
duction strategies; less sensation, celebrity
and car crashes; more investigation, origi-
nal programming and newsgathering; more
analysis or positive news; less “bias”, more
self-reflection and education; better cover-
age of marginalized peoples and countries.
Regulatory and financial support for
independent and community media
(11): e.g. a cap on copyright tariffs for
non-profit media; radio frequencies re-
served for community use; mandatory
free carriage of alternative media content
on other platforms; ISP levies; commu-
nity channel levy, controlled by indepen-
dent community production groups (i.e.
not cable companies); discounted postal
rates. Only two mentioned people be-
ing and doing their own media, without
reference to some form of state support.
Better funding and public resourc-
es for public service media (9), par-
ticularly public broadcasting/CBC, but
also “real journalism internet sites”.
Improve media personnel (2): me-
dia training for youth; better ethnic,
cultural and gender representation.
Other regulatory measures (2).
Miscellaneous other measures (4): labour-
funded progressive news outlet; more
respect for writers and their rights; and
(from a denominational publication)
“boycott information on the internet!”
are stretched beyond belief as they are
now having to provide content that can be
used in multiple media formats at the same
time…Over the past 15 years, convergence
between traditional media…and the tele-
com/broadcasting industry has resulted
in a substantial narrowing of viewpoints
and stories…” [Telecommunities Canada]
* “The concentration of corporate me-
dia ownership, particularly in Vancouver,
undermines the ability of a free press to
contribute to democratic discourse. And
even without such concentrated ownership,
too many of the largest media owners are
staunch neoliberals passing themselves off
as objective and neutral.” [Politics, Re-Spun]
These themes suggest somewhat divergent em-
phases for media reform: reduce market concen-
tration; replace corporate ownership with public
or community ownership; subsidize journalism;
and/or change the cultural background and as-
sumptions of journalists and their publics. These
approaches are not necessarily mutually exclusive,
however. Interestingly, and possibly in contrast
to their American counterparts, Canadian NGOs
do not appear to put much faith in market forces
and greater competition as an antidote to concen-
trated corporate control. Indeed, Media Action
explicitly rejects this approach: Media corpora-
tions’ “concern with market forces, competition,
creating an ostensible landscape of innovation,
often leaves the public interest by the wayside
while creating inferior and boring products.”
A parallel range of views is evident when re-
spondents addressed specifically how they would
like to see the media changed. Thirty-nine re-
spondents offered their thoughts, sometimes in
detail. They can be categorized into these themes:
Structural changes in media (18 respon-
dents): broadcast licensing; more diverse
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 20 21
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Encouragingly, there is wide-
spread support for using the instru-
mentality of the state to achieve
democratic reform of media.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
(2); we are a charity and thus have to be “careful
about political agitation” (1); and from the Metis
National Council, understandably in light of his-
torical experience, “The Metis Nation must have a
full and meaningful role in directing any campaign.”
Does dissatisfaction with the performance of
mainstream media help lead NGOs to engage in
campaigns to improve the media? Yes, but not uni-
formly. Respondents who had participated in media
campaigns during the past 5 years were somewhat
less satisfied with media coverage of their group
and its issues (averaging 2.1 on a 5 point scale), than
respondents who had not (2.53 average score).
Similarly, media campaign participants rated
Canadian media’s democratic performance lower
(2.04 average) than did non-participants (2.65).
With respect to the likelihood of future par-
ticipation in media reform campaigns, there is
a nearly linear relationship with dissatisfaction
with media’s democratic performance. Those
least likely to participate gave the media’s dem-
ocratic performance an average score of 4 (out
of 5); rather unlikely, 3.25; possibly, 2.125; rather
likely, 2.0; and very likely, 2.18. There is a small
group of respondents who rank Canadian me-
dia as quite good, but who nevertheless are
quite likely to participate in future campaigns.
There is also a relationship (though not so
strong) between future likely participation, and
dissatisfaction with media coverage of respon-
dent’s own NGO: 48.4% of those dissatis-
fied with media are “very likely” to participate,
Encouragingly, there is widespread support for
using the instrumentality of the state to achieve
democratic reform of media. Perhaps not sur-
prisingly from a sample of institutionalized ad-
vocacy groups, many of them seeking to influ-
ence government policy, there is little evidence
of hardcore libertarian or anarchist/autonomist
sentiment. At the same time, a careful reading
teases out issues that could be divisive for media
reform coalitions, such as copyright (free access
vs. revenues for creators) and the relative empha-
sis on public subsidies and political support for
mainstream journalism, for public service me-
dia, and for independent or community media.
What conditions are likely to induce NGOs
to participate in media reform campaigns?
The small scale of this project permits
only limited bivariate analysis, but we were
able to explore the hypothesis that dissatisfac-
tion with mainstream media is likely to corre-
late with greater involvement in media activism.
Our sample is fairly evenly divided between
participants and non-participants. Of those sur-
veyed, 50% have previously engaged in cam-
paigns or joined coalitions that aimed to influence
the media or change communication policy, in the
past 5 years; 40.4% have not (Q21). (See Tables 2
and 3 above, for a breakdown by NGO sector.)
Respondents are equally divided on the likeli-
hood of their participation in future such cam-
paigns: 50% said it is rather or very likely; 38%
said possibly or don’t know; 12% rather or very
unlikely (Q27). Thirteen respondents offered fur-
ther comments, mostly explaining reasons for reti-
cence: Such campaigns are not within our mandate
(5 respondents); it would depend on the content
of the campaign (3); our resources are too limited
An Online Survey of NGOs
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 22
These very preliminary findings indicate that
those groups that are least impressed with Canadi-
an mainstream media’s democratic performance –
unions, civil and human rights, political advocacy,
independent media, and arts and culture groups
– are also those most likely to engage in media
and communications activism (Tables 2 and 3).
This study does not fully address an impor-
tant avenue for future research: the potential for
participation in more targeted issue based cam-
paigns or alternative frames. Considering the
nearly unanimous support for Internet access
and Net Neutrality, would a higher percentage
of respondents report interest in participating
in a campaign focused on these specific issues?
What about a campaign to re-imagine journal-
ism? Or an initiative to “open up” our media
system rather than to “democratize” it (play-
ing on the popularity of Internet access issues)?
The survey results suggest that inviting NGOs
to participate in these specific issues/frames
would lead to more interest and engagement.
compared to 30.8% of those who are satisfied.
Finally, Table 13 shows the aver-
age evaluation of the media’s democrat-
ic performance by each NGO sector (Q3).
TA8L¡ 13.
Typc ol Group Avcragc Scorc #
Rcligious groups 3.67 3
scrvicc association 3.50 2
Foundation 3.00 2
¡nvironmcnt 3.00 1
Rcscarch/think tank 2.33 3
Gcndcr 2.33 3
Mcdia 2.27 11
Arts & Culturc 2.25 8
Political/advocacy 2.17 6
First Nations 2.00 1
Labour/Union 1.60 5
Civil and human rights 1.33 3

Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 22 23
dia and media activism are integral components.
Goals and Strategies
The goals of the organizations we interviewed
are as diverse as their personnel, but they can be
roughly grouped into several categories. First,
there are groups (mainly trade unions) that direct-
ly provide services to a well-defined, occupation-
ally-based membership. They typically conduct
or assist with collective bargaining; and they have
relatively large budgets based on membership
dues, budgets that can cross-subsidize public ad-
vocacy, political lobbying, professionalized media
relations and research, and large-scale internal
communication. Such organizations include the
Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the
Telecommunications Workers Union (TWU), the
Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Radio & Televi-
sion Artists (ACTRA), the Canadian Association
of University Teachers (CAUT, a confederation
of mainly unionized local faculty associations),
and the Canadian Students Federation (CFS).
A second layer comprises smaller, focused
groups that engage in capacity-building on behalf
of other organizations and causes: Renewal, the
Maytree and Douglas-Coldwell Foundations; the
W2 Community Media Arts Centre in Vancouver;
the Columbia Institute (CI), which fosters individual
and organizational leadership for sustainable com-
munities; and Check Your Head (CYH), a Vancou-
ver-based youth-driven organization that educates
young people on global and social justice issues.
A third layer comprises membership-based
organizations that focus on advocacy for social
sectors and progressive causes. These include
the Council of Canadians (COC), Canada’s larg-
est citizens’ group, with about 70 chapters across
the country, working for “progressive change for
Given its small scale, the survey was supple-
mented by a set of personal interviews as a means
of triangulation. Twenty respondents from 18
NGOs (independent media, foundations, trade
unions, and progressive advocacy organizations, as
identified in footnote 2 above) were interviewed on
16 themes broadly paralleling the survey questions.
The respondents’ comments broadly corrob-
orate the survey. The responses are categorized
into four over-arching themes: the relevance of
media to organizational goals and activities; the
organization’s self-placement on the political
landscape, in relation to allies, opponents, and
social movements; perceptions of the media; and
media reform campaigns as a political option [for
a list of interview questions, see Appendix II].
The respondents collectively combine a wealth
of experience in community service, journalism,
arts, social movement organizations, and public
policy advocacy (Question #1). Encouragingly,
several respondents currently employed in non-
media SMOs had previous experience working
with independent media (the Rideau Institute)
and/or with communications policy advocacy (an
associate executive-director with the Canadian
Association of University Teachers had been in-
volved with the Campaign for Press and Broad-
casting Freedom, campaigning against press
concentration in the 1990s). We certainly cannot
conclude that media activism constitutes a foun-
tainhead for other forms of activism; but it does
speak to a density of experience, expertise and po-
tential for networking in Canada’s public interest
advocacy community, of which independent me-
Interviews with NGO
Interviews with NGO Reps
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 24
of membership service, policy influence and re-
search (Questions 2 and 2b). Thus, considerable
effort is invested in both internal communication
(particularly in the large membership-based or-
ganizations), and in outreach via media relations.
The “asymmetrical dependency” of social
movement organizations (SMOs) on media ac-
cess is well noted in social movement research.
At stake for SMOs are the purposes of mobiliz-
ing constituencies, validating their existence as
politically important collective actors, and enlarg-
ing the scope of conflict with the intent of fa-
vourably shifting the balance of forces (Gamson
and Wolfsfeld 1993). These considerations could
induce SMOs either to avoid media reform co-
alitions (if, for example, they perceive success in
obtaining access within the existing media system)
or to join them (if frustration with lack of access
constitutes a “shared grievance” for otherwise di-
verse groups). It is worth considering the potential
for Internet access and openness (Net Neutrality)
to be attractive to both groups that put energy into
“getting the word out”, as well as SMO’s who use
the Internet to mobilize constituencies. It is no-
table that all of our respondents expressed inter-
est and concern for Internet access and openness.
Achievements and Obstacles
Perceptions of organizational achievements,
disappointments, obstacles and threats (Ques-
tions 4, 5 and 6) provide further clues to the po-
tential for media reform coalitions. A common
theme was pride in the sheer survival of their or-
ganizations, notwithstanding a difficult financial
and political climate; some, such as CAUT and
TWU, had seen significant expansion. Recogni-
tion by mainstream media, when it was achieved,
was taken as a hallmark of success. For instance,
the Rideau Institute stated that “we are now posi-
tioned as a credible voice for progressive foreign
policy views…We are solicited by media, get ac-
cess to A list programs; both formal and informal
access.” The centerpiece of achievement for most
groups was their campaign work, and especially
specific policy successes that they may have en-
grassroots democracy and against corporate or
elite political determination [of] the kind of coun-
try and culture we live in”; the Consumers Council
of Canada (CCC); Friends of Canadian Broadcast-
ing (FCB), which promotes quality and quantity
of Canadian programming throughout the audio-
visual system, with a particular interest in the vi-
tality and independence of public broadcasting;
the Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA), pro-
viding research and consultations on public poli-
cies affecting the arts and Canadian cultural in-
stitutions and industries; and the Rideau Institute
(RI), which focuses on foreign and defence policy.
Each of the above three clusters includes orga-
nizations in the fields of media, arts and culture, as
well as several with broader or contiguous focuses.
In addition, we interviewed two independent me-
dia outlets: the weekly Toronto magazine NOW,
and the online Vancouver newspaper The Tyee.
In size, these groups range from those with sev-
eral staff members and budgets as low as $180,000,
to those with 40 staff and budgets of $5 million
or more (COC). Some are not membership-based
or have memberships of a few hundred; the larg-
est have memberships (COC) or contributors
(FCB) of fifty to sixty thousand (Question 3).
Apart from the capacity-building groups, and
excluding the two organizations that are them-
selves media outlets, some of the groups (TWU,
FCB, CCC, ACTRA, RI) engage in the “insider”
strategy of direct interaction with policymakers
or regulators. Public pressure on government
through the media may complement political lob-
bying, but in some cases, it may alienate policymak-
ers. The available interview data does not permit
a clear judgement on the balance between insider
and outsider strategies, and the relative depen-
dence of the NGOs on internal media, access to
“mainstream” media, or “insider” lobbying. But it
is notable that most of our respondents mention
public communication, “getting the message out,”
political lobbying, and/or shaping public opinion
as amongst their top current priorities, and as
integral to the achievement of their other goals,
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 24 25
did mention media coverage as obstacles. Inter-
estingly, one organization cited concerns with the
campus press’s perceived tendency to make news
rather than report it, and with what it regards as a
“hyper critical” and unaccountable blogosphere.
Most respondents, however, focused on the dom-
inant media. The Douglas/Coldwell Foundation
noted that Canadian media are biased in favour
of the centre-right, and “have not been favour-
able to social democracy”. The PSAC laments
that it receives less media coverage than it would
like, though notes that “we get a fair shake”. The
COC, which has actively supported media reform,
sees the main obstacles as vested political parties
and corporate media that serve a minority cor-
porate interest over the majority public interest.
Opponents and Allies
Who do the NGOs identify as their main op-
ponents and allies (Questions #7 and #8)? The
answers to these questions offer evidence regard-
ing the potential for successful media reform cam-
paigns. When specific policy goals are pursued,
such campaigns usually require both collabora-
tions between groups that cannot achieve victories
on their own, as well as the strategic identification
of opponents that constitute a shared grievance as
a basis for movement mobilization. For instance,
the use of media mogul Conrad Black as a symbol
of the evils of media concentration, helped the
Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom
assemble a broad “common front” in the 1990s
– though in policy terms, the campaign failed to
reverse the expansion of Black’s media empire.
The most common opponent identified was
the Conservative federal government of Prime
Minister Stephen Harper. Some respondents ex-
panded that category to most recent Canadian
prime ministers (FCB), the “political establish-
ment” (CAUT), or “anyone who feels that free
markets should determine public policy” (COC).
Several trade unions indicated oppositional re-
joyed. Some of these victories were essentially de-
fensive in nature, as the hegemony of neoliberal-
ism has not allowed much space for progressives
to set the political agenda in the past two decades.
For instance, The RI played “a key role” in pre-
venting foreign takeover of the space division of
the MDA corporation; the FCB helped defeat op-
position to a CRTC licence being awarded to CBC
NewsWorld several decades ago. Some respon-
dents found silver linings (such as informing the
public, or showcasing the organization) in cam-
paigns that had not achieved their policy objectives.
Conversely, in identifying their major disap-
pointments (Question 5), government policy also
loomed large. The COC felt that government
needed to adopt trade policies that serve people
and communities rather than corporations. The
RI expressed disappointment with inability to
turn public opinion into government policy on
the Afghanistan war in which Canada has been
heavily involved. FCB would like to be on the
winning side of CRTC decisions more often.
ACTRA was frustrated with the lack of updated
copyright legislation. Several were disappointed
over lack of funding or interest from both gov-
ernment and other non-profits. Some of the la-
bour-oriented groups felt there had been setbacks
in contract negotiations and collective bargaining.
In identifying the obstacles to achieving their
goals, at least 10 of the respondents mentioned
funding, sustainability or revenues, a concern par-
ticularly acute during the current economic reces-
sion. FCB, while it is relatively well-funded amongst
citizens’ groups in Canada, contrasted its budget
with the billion-dollar companies that are often its
opponents. Other obstacles mentioned included
competition with other NGOs, division amongst
public interest community, and opposition or lack
of support from government. Several mentioned
the impact of the post-9/11 political climate and
the government’s strategic use of the Afghanistan
war, in demobilizing the progressive movement.
While no non-media NGOs mentioned com-
munications policy, several non-media respondents
Interviews with NGO Reps
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 26
fied the FCB as a close partner; the FCB recip-
rocated, and also identified the Communications,
Energy and Paperworkers union, as well as the
Council of Canadians, the CCPA, OpenMedia.
ca on certain issues, and organizations represent-
ing sectors involved in media and cultural pro-
duction. Some organizations (W2, the Columbia
Institute, Rideau Institute) mentioned supportive
relationships with individual journalists or corpo-
rate media outlets. Of the two independent media
outlets interviewed, NOW asserted the impor-
tance of (organizational and editorial) indepen-
dence, but indicated a positive relationship with
the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression,
and its membership in the Association of Alter-
native News Weeklies. The Tyee acknowledged
the labour movement, Media Democracy Day,
the CCPA, and other media that use Tyee writers.
Overall, several patterns
emerge with respect to alli-
1. The closest entity to
a common opponent is
the Harper government;
2. Corporate media
are not universally per-
ceived as opponents;
3. There are support-
ive relationships with-
in the media and cul-
tural sectors, and public
interest groups more broadly;
4. The organizations most likely to be men-
tioned more than once are the Council of
Canadians and the CCPA, but there is no sin-
gle nexus or hub for progressive activism. It
has been suggested that media activism itself
could constitute such a nexus for counter-
hegemonic movements (Hackett and Carroll
2006, Chap. 11). Amongst our respondents,
it is only a relatively small and local group,
the youth-oriented Check Your Head that
sees itself in this light, and speaks to the need
lationships vis-à-vis the employers with whom
they collectively bargain. Capacity-building
groups, not directly engaged in policy struggles,
were less likely to identify specific opponents.
Corporate media were identified as an oppo-
nent mainly by groups already based in the media
field. FCB mentioned Izzy Asper (the late head
of CanWest Global), the Rogers and Shaw cable
companies, and several CBC presidents. The Tyee
noted a “little dust-up” with CanWest Global, one
of Canada’s largest media corporations, which has
been known to intimidate critics with lawsuits.
“Tyee was a threat to CanWest”, its editor stated.
NOW fingered “the deep pockets of the Toronto
Star,” publisher of a rival weekly paper. ACTRA
identified private broadcasters (presumably due to
their reluctance to finance and support Canadian
productions), and in relation to collective bar-
gaining, producers (who
could also be allies in po-
litical lobbying). Amongst
non-media groups, CAUT
identified right-wing me-
dia critics, but only as
secondary opponents.
As for allies, responses
varied considerably. Re-
spondents seemed most
likely to identify groups
with compatible objectives
but that were not direct
rivals for the same fund-
ing or membership “ter-
ritory”. For example, CAUT identified its coun-
terpart organization in Quebec, trade unions in
the post-secondary education sector, and civil
liberties groups. The COC identified other pro-
gressive groups with distinct mandates, such as
the Sierra Club, the Canadian Centre for Policy
Alternatives, Greenpeace and the David Suzuki
Foundation. The RI counted political allies in dif-
ferent parties – social liberals and “homeless red
Tories” as well as “of course New Democrats”.
Within the arts and media sector, ACTRA identi-
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 26 27
of a progressive social movement. Anti-pov-
erty, consumer protection, environmental, and
public service causes also all received mention.
By contrast with our online survey – and this
may be the most important difference between
the two data sets – none of the interview respon-
dents used the label “media democracy” or “me-
dia reform”. The independent media and com-
munications policy groups would be the most
likely sector to adopt such a frame. But they do
not explicitly do so. The independent newspaper
NOW provides an upbeat but relatively apolitical
conceptualization: “We are part of all of the peo-
ple working to change the consciousness and how
we live in this country, for a more just and sus-
tainable, and more pro-happiness consciousness:
less commercial, more happy.” The Tyee sees its
goal as “rounding out the civic conversation”.
The FCB respondent was reluctant to define a
movement orientation for his nonpartisan orga-
nization, but was willing to define core values as
the promotion of democracy and patriotism (as
distinct from narrow nationalism) in broadcast-
ing, as well as the link between media and democ-
racy. W2 sees itself at the hub of a movement to
build community communication infrastructure.
Almost all the respondents described cover-
age in the ‘mainstream’ media as important or
even essential (Question #10). The exceptions
were the DCF, which felt that “dominant Cana-
dian media [had] not been favourable” to social
democracy, and NOW, which was ignored by its
larger commercial rivals. Otherwise, respondents
shared the CCC’s view that “If you want to in-
fluence public opinion then you have to have ac-
cess to the media.” NGOs use mainstream media
to shape public opinion and agendas, to influ-
ence decision-makers, and to communicate with
their own members. Many of them have dedi-
cated communications and media relations staff.
What are the implications for mobilizing a
for this kind of creatively eclectic approach:
“Some people frame what’s happening
globally as a movement of movements
because there is so much happening
around social change…We have the ca-
pacity to tap into all of those (other move-
ments)…We’ve had sort of a bumblebee
approach, going into different orchards
and taking different bits of nectar from
different kinds of freedom flowers and
then taking them with us in our work,
so they land somewhere else…Groups
who have approached us to do work with
them and bring what we do…probably
wouldn’t if we were the Canadian Youth
Peace movement, or whatever. It’s be-
cause of this nexus that I think we’ve
been quite successful at instilling that.”
A Social Movement?
Most groups do situate their work in relation to
one or another broader social movement (Ques-
tion #9). Though there is variation on how that
movement is identified, the responses do indicate
an expansiveness of vision beyond the immediate
priorities or specific issues of particular groups.
The union-oriented organizations consider them-
selves part of a broader labour movement, with
some additions: CAUT also situates itself as part
of a civil liberties and human rights movement,
deriving particularly from its core value of aca-
demic freedom. TWU also sees itself as part of
a broader social democratic movement (which is
the raison-d’être of the Douglas-Coldwell Foun-
dation). ACTRA extols a mission to promote rec-
ognition of the importance of culture in Canada.
Several respondents situated themselves as
part of a loosely defined “progressive” move-
ment. The COC related this movement to the
World Social Forums, and indicated that a pro-
gressive movement can be “all things to all
people, depending on where you are coming
from.” The Rideau Institute defines its vision as
broader than just a peace movement, but as part
Interviews with NGO Reps
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 28
we get our voice heard,” implying that the respon-
sibility for positive coverage lies at least partly with
the NGOs themselves. The CCC lamented that the
media are “crisis driven,” so that CCC is accessed
not routinely, but only in response to breaking sto-
ries. The Maytree Foundation worries that layoffs
and funding cuts in the news outlets may jeopar-
dize its currently strong relationship with media.
Some respondents noted the growing impor-
tance of new media and social networking tools
to their work; CYH commented on their still un-
tapped potential for social movements in Canada.
Respondents were fairly evenly divided in their
perceptions of the CBC (Question #12). Only
CYH, Maytree and the Tyee reported a positive
relationship without qualification; Maytree ad-
ditionally noted CBC’s assistance in launching
the Diverse City Voices Program. FCB, CFS and
PSAC also felt that CBC is somewhat different
from other media, though their responses are qual-
ified. FCB feels that while CBC gives them a “fair
shake,” CBC executives resist giving the Friends
coverage for fear that it would be perceived as
“self-dealing”. About a third of the respondents
opined that CBC was no better or worse than
other media outlets. Several praised the French-
language CBC service in comparison to English-
language networks. Two organizations, the CCC
and COC, felt they actually had a difficult relation-
ship with CBC, although COC noted that CBC
radio, as a “more intellectual enterprise,” has been
much more responsive than its television services.
Independent, community and alternative
media drew more nearly unanimous endorsement
from the NGOs, at least in principle (Questions
#13, 13b). Many respondents identified specific
independent media outlets that had been helpful
in their work, particularly the online journal rab-, the Tyee, campus radio stations, the urban
weekly Georgia Straight in Vancouver, and vari-
ous blogs and citizen journalism sites. Less com-
mon but still utilized, were the weekly Courier in
Vancouver, Walrus magazine, the Association of
Alternate Newsweeklies, and Canadian University
media reform movement? It is debatable whether
the media’s democratic deficit constitutes a shared
grievance for the NGOs we interviewed. As with
the survey, most of them indicated that they had
relatively positive relationships with media,
even if they did not always receive their preferred
level of coverage (Question #11). ACTRA ap-
peared to be most confident with its coverage
in mainstream media; it is able to use celebrities
amongst its membership to garner media atten-
tion. Rather than treat “the media” as a homo-
geneous category, many respondents offered
insightful distinctions between different outlets
and types of media, along such axes as region,
editorial ideology, and the presence of special-
ized journalists. Several respondents noted the
need to build relationships with specific reporters
rather than just media outlets per se. That quite
pragmatic position may vitiate the potential for a
systemic critique of the media as an institution.
There were, however, some challenges cited
in dealing with the media.
* The RI noted important regional differenc-
es in the press. While its current relationships
with media in Ottawa are positive, previous
working experience in Vancouver showed
the media to be “bitter and partisan” as well
as “more conservative, parochial, provincial
[and] very difficult to work with.”
* CAUT felt that provincial jurisdiction over
its issue area, post-secondary education,
minimized the level of coverage in national
media, apart from the Globe & Mail’s full-
time reporter on university issues.
* The COC described its relationship as
sometimes good, sometimes not. The Conrad
Black era in Canada’s press, the late 1990s,
were “very dark days” due to his intervention-
ist editorial approach, right-wing views, and
corporate ties that shaped public discourse.
The respondents also varied in their diagnosis
of problems in the media. The TWU sees a chal-
lenge in “managing the message and making sure
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 28 29
Not surprisingly then, our respondents were
unanimously and resoundingly emphatic that
“net throttling” and a two-tiered internet would
negatively affect their work (Question 14b). Main-
taining net neutrality is considered essential. As
the RI sum-
ma r i z e d ,
“We rely
on open ac-
cess media,”
and added,
“We need to
make sure
that access
is an impor-
tant part of
the Internet,
even the
r u r a l / u r -
ban divide,
which I still
think is a
pr obl em. ”
CAUT felt
that throt-
tling would limit its distribution capacity and its
presence on the Internet, and cited existing issues
with Google searches. Net throttling is an “expres-
sion of corporate control” of the medium, said the
COC, one that is contrary to the interest of users.
The COC sees a role for government regulation
of the Internet to constrain corporate interests
and safeguard it as “a medium for free speech”.
Throttling is already affecting the Internet; the
TWU cited an incident during a labour dispute
in which Telus shut down a key communications
website run by the union. Beyond such direct cen-
sorship, ACTRA worries about the implications
of cross-ownership between broadcasters and In-
ternet service provision, so that Bell is “able to
fast track broadcasting that’s coming over CTV.
ca, for example.” The Tyee stated bluntly, “It’s a
life or death issue for us, no question.” Others put
it in broader perspective. “If you have to pay for
knowledge,” stated the CI, “some people are go-
Press. Several respondents (CFS, CAUT, ACTRA,
FCB) offered a qualifier: alternative and commu-
nity media did not necessarily help to reach their
target audience or broader publics as efficiently as
mainstream media. On the other hand, they and
most other
NGOs do re-
turn calls and
conduct in-
terviews with
media. Some
also pointed
out that in-
de pe nde nt
media could
help NGOs
connect with
consti tuen-
cies, par-
ticularly the
young, who
do not see
t hemsel ves
reflected in mainstream media; that independent
media can act as a “catalyst” and popularizer on
behalf of the entire public interest community, and
can sometimes bring stories to the attention of the
dominant media. Indeed, the COC’s awareness of
mainstream media’s limitations have “increasingly
led us to seek alternative ways of expressing our
concerns,” and to make a two-year commitment
“to work with and support as a progres-
sive grassroots expression of popular democracy.”
What about the Internet (Question #14)?
While some of the trade unions indicated they
were only beginning to utilize the Internet to its
potential, most respondents felt it was a critical
or even essential part of the work they do. Ease
of information distribution, communication with
members and stakeholders, and the importance
of an Internet presence for the organization, were
cited as key rationales. The RI also cited fund-
raising, lobbying and research as important uses.
Interviews with NGO Reps
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 30
pressed. The Rideau Institute acknowledged
that “the more [media] players there are, the
greater impact we’re able to have…Changing
the nature of media itself is important.” But
“it’s not the only factor influencing the diversi-
ty of voices in the media;” more importantly in
the RI’s view, NGOs themselves could be more
effective in their media relations techniques.
But have NGOs translated their concerns into
active engagement in media or
communication reform cam-
paigns? Would they likely do so in
the future (Questions #16, 16b)?
Most of the respondents who
addressed these questions (the
response rate was lower, perhaps
for logistical reasons) could recall
some level of past involvement
which, not surprisingly, was more
likely to occur on issues of great-
est direct relevance to their man-
dates, expertise or membership.
For some, public engagement
with media and communications
policy issues was relatively tan-
gential. For instance, the RI had
secondary involvement on copy-
right issues through consumer
groups with which it had worked.
More directly, the RI publicly
raised the issue of potential con-
flict of interest, on the part of
particular journalists who had ac-
cepted generous cash prizes from
defence lobby organizations.
A higher level of engagement
was manifested by the Council
of Canadians, which has actively
supported the,
and The COC was a bulwark of the
CPBF’s campaign against media concentration in
the 1990s, when it also worked with NewsWatch
Canada to monitor newspaper content before and
after Conrad Black’s takeovers. The TWU devel-
ing to be disadvantaged. It’s the antithesis of de-
mocracy.” Friends agree: “It’s an important sort of
wholesale issue affecting the future of democracy.”
Importantly though, while the Internet and lo-
cally responsive alternative media were identified as
means whereby dominant mainstream media could
be circumvented, most respondents expressed the
wish for improved access and diversity in the latter.
Given the specific con-
cerns expressed above, do
the NGOs feel that a more
diverse, representative, acces-
sible and democratic system
of public communication
would help achieve their goals
(Question #15)? In principle,
the respondents agree. CAUT
sees itself, inter alia, as part
of a larger communication
rights movement: “Having
public channels of commu-
nication is absolutely essen-
tial for the advancement of
knowledge, but also the pro-
tection of basic rights.” The
COC concurs: “It would fur-
ther more progressive demo-
cratic values and concerns.”
“It would make our job a lot
easier if there was freer access
to what is now controlled by
the very few” stated the CCC.
The Columbia Institute identi-
fied specific policy goals: “limiting foreign owner-
ship to protect [and] ensure local content, secur-
ing long-term funding for community and public
broadcasting, and ensuring a broad range of easily
[accessible] media in communities large and small.”
At the same time, realistic caveats were ex-
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 30 31
in Vancouver and other cities. ACTRA noted col-
laboration with Friends of Canadian Broadcast-
ing and the CEP union. The Consumers Council
of Canada has worked in conjunction with “con-
sumer friends,” Quebec groups, and the Public
Interest Advocacy Centre, which (in the words
of its website undertakes legal and re-
search services on behalf of consumers in the
areas of telecommunications, energy, privacy, the
information highway, electronic commerce, finan-
cial services, broadcasting, and competition law.
What about future participation in communica-
tions policy campaigns? Of those few NGOs that
addressed this question, the response was gener-
ally positive. ACTRA said “foreign ownership of
broadcast media is always on our radar.” The CI
referred to the importance of alternative and lo-
cal media in promoting dialogue on the climate
change issue, which is at a pivotal moment given
“the economic meltdown and the opportunity for
remaking things right now.” The CAUT referenced
the need for strong public and publicly account-
able channels of communication, and indicated
plans to work with students and others for a coali-
tion on copyright that could go beyond defending
the educational exemption for fair dealing, to chal-
lenge restrictive copyright regimes more generally.
oped a campaign of public awareness on the export
of telecommunications jobs to the Philippines.
The Tyee indicated a distinctive role for in-
dependent media outlets in relation to media re-
form, and that is to give publicity to issues and
debates around communication and democracy
- a role not likely to be performed by the cor-
porate press. “I don’t see us as a movement or-
ganization,” said its editor, “more as an honest
broker of these conversations and these facts.”
There is little evidence of communications
activism in international arenas beyond the level
of national policy. One exception was CAUT’s
“very active” participation in the International
Network for Cultural Diversity, an effort to push
back against the encroachment of trade agree-
ments that were increasingly defining broadcast-
ing, the internet, and communications and cul-
tural industries generally, as a tradable commodity.
On the other hand, there is encouraging evi-
dence of shared issues and indeed direct collabo-
ration within our small sample of respondents.
Shared issues included copyright reform, an issue
mentioned by several respondents (CAUT, RI,
CFS, ACTRA). Several supported the SaveOur- campaign on net neutrality,, and/
or the annual local Media Democracy Day held
Interviews with NGO Reps
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 32
be closely involved in ongoing political debates
in Ottawa, such as the hearings by the House
of Commons’ Heritage Committee. Participants
were concerned that media reform issues might
be paid lip-service in reports, but not taken up by
politicians. They identified a trend of moving away
from using public airwaves for public services to-
ward corporate and private interests and swap-
ping the capacity and clarity of digital technology
for content and quality. There was also consensus
on the need for a campaign to address the cri-
sis in journalism, particularly local journalism.
Participants agreed on the need to be well in-
formed and well organized. needs
to become a strong network of people and orga-
nizations working for media democracy and capa-
ble of intervening in media policy battles. Open- should push for more support for public
and community media; tighter controls over public
funding for media; and policy interventions such
as those impacting on Net Neutrality. OpenMe- already has toolkits aimed at encouraging
citizens to organize their own events to debate the
future of the Internet, and is working on drawing
up a Declaration of 21st Century Media in support
of public service media and citizen participation.
The full minutes of the workshop are
included in Appendix II of this report.
As a third branch of this research project,
WACC and co-organized a work-
shop at WACC’s global offices in Toronto on
May 26, 2009. Participants reviewed the find-
ings of the survey summarized above, in the
context of ongoing happenings in Canada that
confront the emerging politically progressive
coalition aiming to democratize public com-
munication. The workshop was held against a
background of a growing media reform move-
ment in the U.S.A. and expectations raised by
the newly inaugurated Obama Administration.
Participants were given an outline of the main
issues facing media reform in Canada, including
support for local broadcasting and journalism, in-
creased resources for the Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation (CBC), and support for mandate-
driven and non-profit local media. Participants
added more: How to ensure that Canadians have
genuine choice? How to create more space for Ca-
nadians to find Canadian content? In this regard,
participants agreed that new media broadcasting
needs regulatory back-up to support Canadian
diversity. Issues of privacy, libel, environmental
issues related to dependence on ICTs, Net Neu-
trality, how to support amateur media production,
and who controls the media were highlighted. activists agreed on the need to
The Toronto Workshop on
Media Reform
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 32 33
of Free Press as a flagship organization for the
US media reform movement (see e.g. McChesney
2004; Nichols and McChesney 2005, Chap. 6). By
contrast, Canada offers no obvious comparable
catalysts for progressive media politics. Indeed,
the most visible media villain, Conrad Black, the
press mogul who inspired an oppositional cam-
paign in the 1990s, has since been humbled and
disgraced through the mechanisms of the system
itself. If there is a shared grievance for Canada’s
progressives, it is more likely to be the federal
Conservative government of Stephen Harper.
Corporate influence over media institutions
and policies is more likely to be perceived as a
problem by those NGOs already in the media and
cultural fields. Our data show, however, that they
have no single diagnosis or prescription for me-
dia’s shortcomings (Table 21). Support for CBC is
widespread, but qualified in some quarters by the
perception that CBC differs little from other dom-
inant media. Support for independent, alternative
media, though also widespread, was mitigated by
the reluctance of many NGOs to focus on me-
dia perceived to have limited audience reach or
credibility with policy-makers. Some of the other
communications issues that concern NGOs fairly
directly (copyright, the crisis of journalism) bring
into play conflicting interests and prescriptions.
Some potential beneficiaries of a more demo-
cratic media system have proven difficult to at-
tract to media reform campaigns. These include
peace and environmental groups, charities (which
are constrained by tax rules limiting their involve-
ment in advocacy), and journalists in mainstream
media. These absences are evident in the response
to our survey. Other “gaps” in the building blocks
for a media reform movement are less obvious.
One is the territorial tension, manifested in a lack
This study has offered a snapshot of the
political landscape for media reform in Anglo-
Canada. To repeat, its small scale makes it ex-
ploratory rather than definitive. But the similar-
ity of results from two quite separate samples
(the online survey and the interviews), informed
by the authors’ own experiences in the move-
ment, lend us confidence in its accuracy. The
research enables us to summarize the obstacles
and challenges, as well as resources and spring-
boards, for an ongoing media reform movement.
Obstacles and Challenges
Overall, Canada is clearly not a volcano of
media discontent waiting to erupt. As a set of
stakeholders most likely to support democratic
media reform, the NGOs we surveyed reported
positive relationships with at least some segments
of the existing dominant media. Their invest-
ment in gaining access to dominant media, and
to an even greater extent in building and using
their own media (Table 7), likely limits their will-
ingness to devote scarce resources to challenging
and changing the structure of the media system.
The corporate media do not appear to consti-
tute a perceived threat or a shared grievance to the
same extent as in the US. There, a decade of state
repression of citizen-run low-power FM radio, the
virtual disappearance of local radio in the wake of
the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the FCC’s ef-
forts to further raise the ceiling on media concen-
tration, the arrogance of former FCC chairman
Michael Powell, the rabidly reactionary politics of
Fox television, the domination of talk radio by
right-wing gas-bags, and the perceived collusion
of the US media as a whole in the Bush admin-
istration’s decision to invade Iraq – all helped to
galvanize a remarkable upsurge of media activism
in the past decade, and the dramatic emergence
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 34
in issues related to the media and communication
as they begin to recognize the centrality of this to
everything else that’s going on in their lives,” ar-
gues Canadian media scholar Marc Raboy (quoted
in Hackett and Carroll 2006: 147). Most NGOs
are well aware of the importance to their primary
work of access to, and representation in, media.
There is a certain level of awareness of media de-
mocracy concepts (Table 9), and a considerable
though uneven level of dissatisfaction with me-
dia’s democratic performance, dissatisfaction that
can sometimes be converted into remedial action.
(Note though, that satisfaction with media perfor-
mance does not preclude communications activ-
ism; there can be other motives, such as engaging
in defensive struggles to maintain a valued service
like the CBC.) There is solid evidence of past en-
gagement with media coalitions or campaigns by
many groups, and of intended future engagement.
Ideologically, most of our 75 respondents
have a vision broader than their own organiza-
tion’s immediate goals. Social justice and human
rights are common themes, but many (mainly in
the online survey) identified themselves with an
emerging and distinct media democracy move-
ment. Scepticism towards market forces, com-
petition, and the profit motive – the neoliberal
of direct collaboration on spe-
cific campaigns, between two
of the leading national unions
representing media workers;
the Canadian Media Guild,
and the CEP union. Another
is the paucity of policy-rele-
vant research conducted by
communications scholars or
other academics, and with no-
table exceptions, their general
disengagement from formal
regulatory and policy process-
es, such as CRTC hearings
(Abramson et al 2008; Savage
2008). A vibrant media reform
movement would need an ac-
tive “brains trust,” and for-
tunately, has
taken some initial steps to develop one, including
the Toronto workshop summarized in this report.
Structurally, the field of progressive civil so-
ciety activism in Canada is fragmented, arguably
bifurcated between larger state- and economy-ori-
ented organizations, and smaller marginal groups.
At both levels, NGOs perceive sustainability,
and financial and other resource shortages, as
their biggest challenges (Table 6). They are hard-
pressed to mount campaigns beyond their prima-
ry mandates. Their financial precariousness may
make them vulnerable to agendas set by funders,
of which government is particularly prominent
(Table 4). Moreover, it is difficult to identify a
hub or nexus for civil society activism in Canada.
Springboards and Resources
While at first sight dispiriting, the above
summary of challenges is intended to provide
a basis for developing realistic strategies. And
our study contains many positive recommenda-
tions for a Canadian media reform movement.
At the broadest level, the “mediatisation” of
contemporary politics and culture suggests that
“more people are going to want to get involved
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 34 35
cific, identifiable and publicly accessible ven-
ues and time-frames, such as CRTC hearings.
* Net Neutrality is perceived as win-
nable, particularly given US President
Obama’s endorsement of this principle.
At the same, given the scope and consequences
of the media’s democratic deficit and of the cur-
rent policy agenda, Canada’s nascent media reform
movement cannot confine itself to a single-issue
focus. In that respect, the diversity of perspectives
and priorities evident in our respondents’ views of
media issues is a resource. It should be possible to
find partners for campaigns on a range of issues.
The data confirm that independent media, arts
and culture groups, and trade unions, particularly
those representing media and cultural workers, are
core advocates for democratic communications.
Some of these groups are small, but there is a
plethora of them, and the research suggests a wel-
come culture of collaboration that can help offset
organizational fragmentation. Additionally, the re-
search reveals potential partners for media reform
outside the media/arts sectors, especially human
‘solutions’ to communication shortfalls – is wide-
spread. Conversely, there is considerable sup-
port for a positive role for the state in shaping
a democratic communication environment – par-
ticularly, regulatory and financial support for in-
dependent, community and public service media,
notwithstanding qualifications in some quarters.
More strikingly, there is overwhelming recog-
nition of the importance of the Internet to the
NGOs’ work, and unanimous endorsement of
the principle of Net Neutrality as a regulatory un-
derpinning for equitable and affordable access to
the Internet. That finding suggests that OpenMe-’s particular emphasis on the SaveOurNet.
ca campaign, and its recent change of name to, has a pragmatic as well as prin-
cipled grounding. Why does Net Neutrality reso-
nate relatively highly? As a means of building co-
alitions and attracting funding, Net Neutrality has
several advantages, compared to other vital issues
with which and other media re-
formers have engaged (such as media ownership) :
* There are a large number of stakehold-
ers who would be negatively affected
by the loss of Net Neutrality, includ-
ing many (such as small businesses, and
young people as heavy users of digital
media) that are not amongst the ‘usual
suspects’ of public interest coalitions.
* Net throttling and multi-tiered service
constitute an immediate threat to the daily
work of most NGOs, as it jeopardizes con-
trol over their own means of publication
to their own members and broader publics.
* As a regulatory issue, it is discussed in spe-
6. By comparison, “diversity of media ownership” is a less pressing goal for most NGOs, particularly if they
feel satisfied with current news media access and/or control over their own media. Compared to Net Neutral-
ity, media diversity may be more difficult to define concretely, its benefits are less obvious, there is no single
venue or process by which it can be ‘won’; it may not seem realistically achievable in the short term; and its
open advocacy, to the extent that it challenges media corporations, may have negative repercussions for an
NGO’s standing in the newsroom.
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 36
approach of a positive frame less
dangerous to their charity status.
NGOs may also find such a frame
less hazardous to their media con-
tacts and journalists would surely
find such a campaign more inviting.
Key factors limiting the forma-
tion of a media reform movement
may be the lack of a unified progres-
sive social movement in Canada, as
well as the disinclination to date of
existing progressive organizations to
recognize and act upon the relevance
of communications structures and
policies to their own primary mandates. These
considerations suggest strategic consequences.
First, one key task for a media reform movement
is to “conscientize” existing progressive SMOs to
the relevance of media issues, and Internet access
and Net Neutrality seem to constitute an espe-
cially promising entry point. A key task for media
reformers is to build larger and tighter coalitions
and networks. Civil society groups will likely better
understand the stake they have in media and tele-
communications policy if more of these organi-
zations are consistently actively engaged in media
policy reform, and indeed in building the media
reform movement. Media reform organizations
should consider some kind of expansive institu-
tional structure, such as an association or network
that can facilitate communication and engagement
with a broad and diverse array of organizations.
Secondly, our findings starkly raise the ques-
tion of framing. It may well be that the concepts
of “media reform” or “media democracy” fail
to resonate with many of the constituencies that
would need to mobilize if a more democratic
public sphere is to be achieved in Canada. Me-
dia reformers need to consider whether a unify-
ing master frame is possible and necessary, and/
or whether different “subframes” or “thematic
frames” should be adopted for different cam-
paigns and constituencies (O Siochrú 2005). Our
data suggest encouragingly that most respondents
rights groups, and broadly-focused progressive
advocacy organizations. Campaign-framing, and
coalition-building, of course go hand in hand.
For instance, although it is not easy to simplify (O
Siochrú 2005) and is not yet very familiar to many
activists, the frame of “communication rights”
may be suitable for attracting human rights activ-
ists to media reform campaigns. It is encouraging
that WACC is creating a global clearinghouse for
communication rights information in Toronto.
Future research and activism will undoubtedly
disclose new partners, beyond the NGO sector:
for example, currently municipal governments in
the Vancouver area are allying with community
groups to wrest control of community television
away from monopolistic cable companies that
are reducing coverage of city council meetings.
The shared values of media openness, access
and innovation (defined not only in technologi-
cal but also social and political terms) may offer
a route to popularize support for at least some
dimensions of media reform. Indeed, the com-
ments unequivocally supportive of equitable ac-
cess to the Internet, from both our survey and
interviews, suggest that an alternative strategy
to coalesce NGOs around this issue and related
frames could be productive. It may also be the
case that a journalism campaign with a positive
frame might be more inviting to peace, environ-
mental groups, charities and journalists in main-
stream media. Charities might find the soft lined
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 36 37
media” frame, however, does have advantages.
It connotes a recognition of the growing im-
portance of digital media, as distinct from con-
ventional mass media. It could appeal to constitu-
encies beyond “progressive” SMOs. In particular,
it could appeal to a younger generation of activists
and new media users, and could bring those work-
ing on media reform closer to related and bur-
geoning communities that are focused on Open
Source Software, Open Data, Open Web, Open
Content, Open Education, Open Government
and many more. At the very least, “open media”
should take its place alongside other longstand-
ing media change frames, such as communication
rights, media democratization, free press, and me-
dia justice (Hackett and Carroll 2006, Chap. 4).
Current strategies and frames for me-
dia reform will likely persist and should not
be dismissed, but as this study suggests, it
is worth exploring new strategies as well.
do regard themselves as part of a broader move-
ment, which can be categorized rather broadly
as progressive. However, they do not coalesce
around a specific political ideology, issue or or-
ganization, and it may be that communication
values, rather than a specific political ideology,
will more effectively coalesce organizations for
democratic change in media.
Responses to this
study suggest that values such as openness, acces-
sibility, participation, choice, diversity and inno-
vation may resonate well with NGOs in Canada.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Responses to this study suggest
that values such as openness, ac-
cessibility, participation, choice,
diversity and innovation may reso-
nate well with NGOs in Canada.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Thus, the frame of “open media” suggests it-
self as productive, at least as a thematic frame,
and possibly even as a master frame. However,
such a frame is itself not without risks. It would
take work to avoid, first, diverting it to the neo-
liberal themes of further “opening” Canadian
media to unregulated market forces. And second,
narrowing the media change agenda to the liber-
tarian project of removing blockages to access
at the expense of considering other dimensions
of a genuinely democratic public communication
system, including equality, justice, dignity, solidar-
ity, responsibility and accountability. The “open
7. Re-imagining journalism in the 21st century, given the marked social and technological changes in to-
day’s “information societies”, is one avenue to explore. A model with considerable potential is that of “peace
journalism”, which tries to illuminate structural and cultural violence as it affects the lives of ordinary people.
Framing conflicts in terms of several parties pursuing many goals, it makes visible peace initiatives and poten-
tial solutions and it equips people to distinguish between self-interested positions and real objectives. Similar
principles could be applied to media reform, highlighting democratic deficits, ensuring a diversity of voices and
opinions, providing greater access to information and knowledge, and encouraging community involvement in
media ownership and control.
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 38
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Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 42
Revitalizing a media reform movement in Canada:
Welcome! You have been asked to participate in this study, entitled ‘Revitalizing a media reform
movement in Canada: Survey and workshop.’ The objective of this study is to survey organizations
and activists on their views regarding the role of media in achieving social change in Canada. We
would like to learn more about your organization and the type of work in which you are involved. We
also want to know if you believe that a better media system in Canada would improve the prospects
for social change, how you feel we can improve these media systems, and if you would be interested
in supporting media reform campaigns.
This project is a collaborative effort between the Campaign for Democratic Media (CDM -, professor Robert Hackett at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver,
and the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC – an international organization
concerned with communication rights for all This study has been made
possible through funding from the Social Science Research Council’s Necessary Knowledge for a
Democratic Public Sphere program. In addition to this survey, we shall be conducting interviews
and a workshop. The results will be published and made available on the collaborating organizations’
websites and/or elsewhere online by the end of the year.
We need to add a word on confidentiality. Please consider any written comments you make in this
survey to be on the record. If we quote you in the final report, we will identify you only by organiza-
tional affiliation, not by name. However, if you grant us permission (at the end of this survey), your
name and organization will be listed in an appendix to the published report, which may also be post-
ed on the website of the Social Science Research Council ( or elsewhere unless
otherwise requested by you in the space provided below. While the overall survey results may be used
in subsequent studies, your individual comments (beyond what is published in the final report of this
report) will not be used unless you authorize us to do so.
While we would appreciate your answering every question below, you are not obliged to do so.
The researchers have not sought permission from your employer or any other agency regarding your
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see Through this online application, the re-
sults of this survey will be stored on a server located in Portland, OR and according to the US Patriot
Act may be searched by the law enforcement agencies.
Entering the survey indicates that you understand the purpose of this research and accept the
above conditions regarding confidentiality. To enter click the “Next” button at the bottom of this
Copies of the results of this study upon its completion may be obtained by contacting the princi-
pal investigator:
Online Survey Questionnaire
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 42 43
Professor Robert Hackett
c/o School of Communication
Simon Fraser University
8888 University Drive,
Burnaby, B.C. Canada
V5A 1S6
Phone: 778.782.3863
Any complaints about the study may be brought to:
Dr. Hal Weinberg, Director
Office of Research Ethics
Simon Fraser University
8888 University Drive,
Burnaby, B.C. Canada
V5A 1S6
Phone: 778.782.6593
Entering the survey indicates that you understand the purpose of this research and accept the above
conditions regarding confidentiality.
The current state of Canada’s media system is quite dismal and filled with uncertainty. Public confi-
dence in media is quickly dwindling as we fall victim to the backwind of government policies that fa-
vour big media companies. Journalism in Canada is crumbling as a result of media concentration, the
general economic slowdown, and lack of access to credit. Journalists are being laid off with nowhere
to go. And while the current transition from analog to digital media and increased utilization of wire-
less spectrum create new possibilities, big telecom companies are trying to become the gatekeepers
of the Internet, and a potentially large segment of our population is at risk of being left out of the
national conversation.
Organization Information: 1.
Name of the organization or group you represent •
Your title •
Please describe, in a few sentences or less, the main goals and objectives of your organization 2.
Online Survey Questionnaire
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 44
Please check off one category that best describes your organization’s main area of focus. 3.
Environment •
Peace •
Ethnic •
Gender issues •
Religion •
labour/union •
Media •
Technology •
Arts/culture •
Civil & Human rights -
First Nations -
Professional associations/service organizations -
Political/advocacy -
Foundation -
Charity/education -
Research/think tank -
Other (please specify) -
Please estimate how many signed-up members your organization has: 4.
under 50 •
50-99 •
100-499 •
500-999 •
1,000-4,999 •
5,000-9,999 •
10,000-49,999 •
50,000-99,999 •
over 100,000 •
don’t know •
not applicable (e.g. this organization is not membership based) •
Regardless of whether they are signed-up members, how many people are on your organization’s 5.
main contact email list?
don’t know •
under 50 •
50-99 •
100-499 •
500-999 •
1,000-4,999 •
5,000-9,999 •
10,000-49,999 •
50,000-99,999 •
over 100,000 •
not applicable (e.g. this organization does not use an email list) •
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 44 45
Please estimate your organization’s annual revenues: 6.
don’t know •
under $1,000 •
$1,000-4,999 •
$5,000-9,999 •
$10,000-24,999 •
$25,000-99,999 •
$100,000-249,999 •
$250,000-999,999 •
$1-5 million •
$5-25 million •
over $25 million •
Please rate the importance of the following sources of funding for your organization from 1 to 5 7.
(1=Not important; 3 = Somewhat important; 5 = very important; N/A or don’t know)
individual membership dues a.
membership dues from affiliated organizations b.
individual donations c.
government grants or contracts d.
grants or contracts from labour unions e.
grants or contracts from for-profit businesses f.
foundations and philanthropies g.
products or services (including publications, consulting) provided by our organization for a h.
Other (please specify) i.
What are your organization’s top two priorities for the next 3 years? [Please list] 8.
In pursuing its goals, how often does your organization carry out the following: (1. Never 2. 9.
Seldom; 3. Sometimes; 4. Often Don’t know N/A
publish reports and other educational materials, etc. a.
produce videos b.
produce website updates/blogs c.
issue news releases to the media d.
utilize other means of attracting media attention e.
use paid advertising f.
lobby government officials, industry, politicians, parties g.
court challenges/legal cases h.
engage in rallies, demonstrations, protests i.
use other forms of direct action or creative confrontation (sit-ins, boycotts, civil disobedi- j.
fund-raise k.
send direct mail to supporters l.
build and mobilize a membership base or network of supporters m.
Other (please specify) n.
Online Survey Questionnaire
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 46
What would you characterize as the major accomplishments/achievements of your organization 10.
in the past 5 years?
What are some of the major challenges or obstacles that your organization faces in achieving its 11.
How often does your organization engage in collaborative projects or campaigns with other 12.
Never •
Seldom •
Occasionally •
Often •
Constantly •
Please list up to five of those organizations with which you have collaborated or partnered in the 13.
past 3 years.
How familiar are you with each of the following concepts, organizations, or people? Rate from 1 14.
(never heard of it) to 5 (very familiar). [3 = Familiar]
Global climate change •
Canadian Institute for Public Interest Media •
Net neutrality •
Open source software •
Friends of Canadian Broadcasting • •
David Suzuki •
Media Democracy Day •
CanWest Global •
Free Press (US organization) •
Robert W. McChesney •
Communication rights, or the right to communicate • •
Do you consider your advocacy work to be part of a social movement? 15.
Yes •
Sometimes •
No •
Don’t know •
If so, which one(s)?
Consider the coverage of your organization and its issues in mainstream Canadian media (major 16.
press, radio and broadcasting outlets). Please rate your level of satisfaction, from 1 (very dissatis-
fied) to 5 (very satisfied). [3 = Satisfied]
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 46 47
How does coverage of your organization and its issues in the CBC, compare with coverage in 17.
other mainstream media? Please rate CBC’s coverage from 1 (much worse than other mainstream
media) to 5 (much better than other mainstream media). [1 = much worse; 3 = the same; 5 =
much better; don’t know; N/A]
Does the quality and diversity of journalism in Canada affect your work? 18.
Yes •
No •
If so, in what ways?
In your view, how well are Canada’s mainstream media performing their role in a democratic 19.
society? Rate them from 1 (very poor) to 5 (excellent). [3=average]
Additional comments
How, if at all, would you like to see the media changed? 20.
In the past 5 years, has your organization engaged in campaigns or joined coalitions that aimed to 21.
influence the media or change communication policy/regulation?
Yes •
No •
Don’t know •
Not application •
If yes please explain.
Have independent, community, and alternative media ever been helpful to the work of your 22.
organization? Rate them from 1 (never helpful) to 5 (very helpful). [3 = sometimes helpful; Don’t
know; N/A]
Please explain.
How important is use of the Internet to the work of your organization? Rate from 1 (not at all 23.
important), to 5 (very important). [3 = Somewhat important; Don’t know; N/A]
Would your work be negatively affected is large Internet Service Providers could develop a two- 24.
tiered service, where those with the most money could use a priority fast lane, and everyone else
had to use a slow lane? This would also mean ISPs could limit which services or applications that
are available to your and your organization.
Yes •
No •
Please explain
Online Survey Questionnaire
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 48
In your view, how important is it that all Canadians have affordable access to the Internet? Rate 25.
from 1 (not at all important) to 5 (very important). [3= Medium importance]
Would you or your organization be likely to participate in future campaigns to change the media 26.
and communications policy? Rate from 1 (very unlikely) to 5 (very likely). [3 = Possibly; Don’t
know; N/A]
Basic Information 27.
Name •
Address •
Address2 •
City/town •
State •
ZIP/postal code •
Email address •
Phone number •
May we publish your name and/or organization in a list intended as a resource for other re- 28.
searchers and activists? (Note: We would not include email addresses in such a publication.)
Yes, you may list both my name and organization •
You may list my name only •
You may list my organization only •
I choose not to have either my name or organization published. •
Thank you for contributing to our study. Learn more about media issues in Canada at:
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 48 49
The semi-structured interview schedule comprised the following questions:
Please provide a brief synopsis of your biography as a participant in advocacy work and the non- 1.
profit/NGO sector.
What are your organization’s core goals or mandate, and the strategies used to achieve them? 2.
What is the main issue or priority on which you are working now, and in the near future? What is 2b.
currently at the top of your organization’s agenda?
What resources (staff, networks, communication outreach, funding, membership, etc.) does your 3.
organization have to pursue its goals – and where do you generate them from (membership,
donations, foundations, grants, etc?)
What would you say have been your organization’s main achievements? 4.
What have been your organization’s main disappointments (things you would have liked to 5.
achieve, but have not been able to)?
What are the main obstacles in the way of your organization achieving its goals and which is the 6.
greatest current threat?
Who would you identify as your organization’s main opponents? 7.
Who would you identify as your organization’s most important and consistent partners/allies in 8.
the past 5 years?
Does the organization see itself as part of a broader social movement? If so, which one(s)? 9.
How important to the organization’s success is its representation within/access to ‘mainstream’ 10.
Canadian media?
How would you characterize the organization’s relationship with the media and has the media 11.
generally been helpful, a hindrance, or irrelevant?
How about CBC? Has its performance or your relationship with it, been different from other 12.
Interview Questions
Interview Questions
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 50
How about independent, community, alternative media? Have they been important or helpful in 13.
your organization’s work?
If the independent media sector was more popular or powerful, would that help your organiza- 13b.
tion pursue its goals?
How important is access to/use of the internet? 14.
How would it affect your organization’s work if telecom companies could limit which services 14b.
and applications have online access (net throttling), or if the Internet was turned into a two-
tiered medium where those with the most money could buy access to a priority fast lane, and
everyone else had to use a slow lane? Would these developments impact your work?
Would a more diverse, representative, accessible and democratic system of public communica- 15.
tion help your organization achieve its goals?
Have you personally or your organization ever supported campaigns or organizations on media 16.
or communications issues?
Can you imagine circumstances where you would do so in the near future? What would they be? 16b.
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 50 51
Workshop: Tuesday 26 May 2009
Venue: WACC Global Headquarters
308 Main Street
Toronto, ON. M4C 4X7
Leslie Regan Shade (Concordia University); Keith Knight (Anglican Church of Canada); Bev Mur-
phy (Anglican Church of Canada); David Skinner (York University); Karen Wirsig (Canadian Media
Guild); Robert A. Hackett (Simon Fraser University); Steve Anderson (National Coordinator Open-; Philip Savage (McMaster University); Jacqui McDonald (; Trish Hennessy
(Policy Alternatives); Anita Krajnc (Progressive Aesthetics); Dan O’Brien (ACTRA); Matt Adams
(; Paul de Silva (Canada One TV); Michael Lithgow (Simon Fraser University), Arnold
Amber (Communication Workers of America) Brent Patterson (The Council of Canadians); Randy
Naylor (General Secretary, WACC); Philip Lee (Deputy Director of Programs, WACC).
Introductions 1.
The workshop was opened by Randy Naylor, General Secretary of WACC, who highlighted WACC’s
long-standing involvement in communication rights and media reform ranging from the New World
Information and Communication Order (NWICO) to the Campaign for Communication Rights in
the Information Society (CRIS) to involvement in the World Summit on the Information Society
(WSIS). He thanked the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) for their generous financial support
of the survey through a Small Collaborative Grant.
Participants introduced themselves and the work of their different organizations.
Current communications/media policy issues in Canada 2.
Professor David Skinner presented an outline of the main issues facing media reform, including
emerging topics such as supporting local television and journalism, increased resources for CBC,
supporting mandate driven and non-profit local media; ongoing issues such as Internet (new media)
broadcasting, Net Neutrality, community broadcasting, and the switch to digital television. There is
also a watching brief on issues such as possible erosion of Canadian ownership regulations and the
possible merger of the telecommunications and broadcasting acts.
Participants raised other issues: How to ensure that there is Canadian choice – that Canadians have
options? How to create more space for Canadians to find Canadian content? In this regard, new me-
dia broadcasting ‘needs regulatory formation to support Canadian diversity’. ‘Important to look back
at what happened in 1990s: consolidation led to losses of investigative reporting and the subsequent
Workshop Minutes Workshop
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 52
impact on informing Canadians and voter apathy regarding political questions.’ There is a ‘real issue
to be addressed around the de-professionalization of journalism – apparent abundance of choice but
no real diversity at local level.’
Other comments included: User-generated media are very professional and we should beware making
an artificial divide. What are the resources available and impact on long-term sustainability? Much go-
ing on re new wireless communication. Copyright bill is an issue, plus privacy issues, libel issues, and
environmental issues relating to dependence on ICTs. How to support amateur media production?
Who controls the media? Big media are still very powerful in shaping messages.
It was generally agreed that and others need to be closely involved in ongoing •
hearings in Ottawa, such as the Heritage Hearings. Depressing that they do not appear to be
interested in media reform issues which might be paid lip-service in reports but not taken up
by politicians. Viewers are left out of the equation.
Moving away from use of public airwaves for public services to corporate and private inter- •
ests with no explanation of what is going on.
Swapping volume and clarity of digital technology for content and quality. •
Threat to local stations: if you have no way to reach a local audience, why have a local sta- •
Is there any opportunity under fee for carriage to support local cultural initiatives? Vast •
potential in local programming and finding ways to fund it given the interests of local com-
munities and audiences.
Problem of stranglehold of cable companies on decision-making at CRTC and in other •
areas of media policy-making. Need to return to issue of public right to communication and
to public understanding of what is actually going on in media ownership and control.
Problem of changing thinking patterns and getting messages across especially using poten- •
tial of new media; finding space for public service issues such as genuine community/local
media production that has its own resources and strategies.
Current campaigns and activities of 3.
Steve Anderson, National Coordinator, spoke of the need to be well informed and
well organized. is a network working for media democracy and intervening in media
policy battles. Broad tactics are needed: from public forums and social media to policy intervention.
Media ownership and concentration; support for public media; keeping online communications open
and accessible. Pushing for more support for public and community media; tighter controls over
public funding for media; policy interventions such as Net Neutrality. is currently
working on:
‘Open Internet Town Halls’ encouraging public hearings •
Designing an Internet Town Hall Tool-kit aimed at encouraging citizens to organize their •
own events to talk about the future of the Internet,
A reinventing journalism/local media campaign •
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 52 53
Declaration of 21st Century Media •
A media democracy day – one-day public forum on media issues. •
Proposal to link work to upcoming renewal of broadcasting licenses. Also to look at
model of Channel 4 (United Kingdom) and SBS (Australia) for problems and lessons learned.
Participants agreed that alternative programming service is to provide an alternative public broadcast-
ing service not, as it has been interpreted, to offer minority ethnic language services.
Need to take an international perspective and look at trade agreements and limitations on state subsi-
dies (EU model is currently facing these challenges).
Need for participants to do more groundwork, introduce themselves to politicians,
to find common ground. Politicians also need to know and to connect with what is happening in the
Overview of the survey and interviews of social movement organizations in Canada 4.
(about 75), funded by Social Science Research Council; their views/orientation to demo-
cratic media [see Appendix 1]
Professor Robert A. Hackett (Simon Fraser University) summarised the results to date of one of the
three components of the research – the online survey of advocacy groups in Canada (implied rather
than definitive results regarding how to frame issues and to build alliances). He noted that gender and
religion are two constituencies that could be better used and remarked on the low responses from
peace, ethnic, technology and charitable organizations where more work needs to be done.
Hackett pointed to the importance of government funding to NGOs, which may lead to a certain
amount of conservatism. The significance of external funding emphasises the vulnerability of NGO
work and need for financial independence. He highlighted general familiarity with the Canadian me-
dia reform movement as opposed to US equivalents.
Difficulty of identifying nexus for progressive organizations regarding media reform issues.
Absence of quality journalism and decline in local journalism - media’s lack of resources – could be a
framing point for campaigning.
Is there a link between dissatisfaction with mainstream media and engagement in media activism? By
and large, yes, but not uniformly.
Need for a concise platform rather than a broad listing of concerns. Internet is clearly very important
(open access) to citizenship, democracy, equality, and Net throttling would place limits on distribution
of content, mobilization, and have an impact of financing.
The dissemination plan for the research includes a written report for SSRC; publication on web sites
(, WACC, CCR). It was proposed that Op-eds in select publications be pursued. Ask
groups to write 1,000 words on specific issues related to Canadian media reform (Trish Hennessy of Workshop
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 54
Policy Alternatives volunteered to help).
5. What work are participants doing in this area?
CMG Free TV Campaign. Problem of urban/rural divide. Need to maintain local presence after over-
the-air transmitters are shut down. Need for maximum publicity about what is going on and its likely
CWA survey and awareness campaign re chain selling of media enterprises (e.g. newspapers) resulting in
loss of local identity, loss of local jobs, and editorial dependence on outsiders.
Problem of finding a sustainable base for advocacy of media reform issues.
Problem of mandatory carriage and transponder space: no space set aside in Canada for not-for-
profits, only for provincial over-the-air broadcasters and provincial educational broadcasters. There
may be more space than is apparent and the technology is changing. Therefore, advocating for man-
datory access is worth campaigning for.
ACTRA working on issues affecting drama, prime time, copyright, Canadian content, and arguing for
guarantees. ISPs should have to contribute to producing Canadian content. Against Net throttling,
but there should also be dedicated spaces.
Canada One TV campaigning for a coalition dedicated to a not-for-profit national broadcasting
reflecting cultural diversity – need for provision in Broadcasting Act for a model that includes local
production that tells local stories.
Three further opportunities: Peace journalism movement as a way of reframing journalism theory
and practice; global climate justice – communication for social change leading to just and sustainable
societies; the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP).
6. Where to from here?
6.1 Activities campaign •
Saving journalism (esp. local journalism) and tying it to local broadcasting •
Comparative research on models adopted by other countries •
Annual event – Media Democracy Day based on issues •
Save local programming (news, drama, etc.) •
Local voices/Canadian connections •
Re-establish connections: making the issues important •
Making global connections: media, social justice, poverty (interconnectivity) •
Networking among other language minority groups in Canada (comment that if you want •
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 54 55
to reach out, you need talking points/message/’story’ + vocabulary/glossary of terms and
Develop grassroots activism among community centres, schools, university campuses, etc. •
Media literacy movement (esp. in schools) •
Associations of librarians •
Fund-raising to support activities •
Tap into dissatisfactions among young people •
Reimagining (rather than reinventing) the media: What do you want the media to be? •
How to bring the issues of media reform back into the academy to do research or studies in •
order to shore up the movement?
Toolkits on media reform issues (a series of actions related to topics) •
Touchstone questions that resonate (e.g. freedom of the press in the USA) - in Canada space •
to tell our own stories?
Support local media; think organic media; ‘Think global, buy local’ (media). •
Zoom/zap/view/watch/listen/read/text local. ‘Better be local’. •
6.2 Strategising
6.2.1 Campaign: Need criteria for evaluating a campaign that is sustainable; resonates with publics; has
clear goals and benchmarks for success; venues for intervention; long-term capacity building. Need
for focus groups to determine framework for action.
Focus/constituencies/goals/venues: Using rhetoric of (re)connecting to ‘local’. Online campaign
aimed at heads of big media organizations and at media practitioners to gain broader attention (a
public statement masquerading as a letter to…) ‘You guys control what we see/read/listen to… and
here’s what people are thinking about that…’ Useful to insert notion of people being in control of
their own media. ‘If you are not in control, who is?’
Concrete support for local media (including community broadcasting)/Net neutrality/developing a
new model for public service media.
Short survey among those on e-mail list for campaign theme. Need to make sure e-mail list is repre-
sentative of diversity in Canada. Then draft a campaign plan for approval to be launched on Media
Democracy Day 2009.
Demographics suggest that there is a large segment of the population disconnecting from main-
stream media and going to, or seeking, alternative media to see themselves reflected. Need a con-
scious strategy to reach out to them. Tap into existing organizations in diverse communities to get
them on side.
Young people may not understand that there is a problem to be addressed. This aspect needs to be
built into any campaign – focusing on media content in general, what it might mean to have their
ideas and perspectives represented in media. Workshop
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 56
6.2.2 Event: Hold an event to bring together a broader range of people from throughout the country
(e.g. a conference). One possibility ‘Global journalism/local community media’, two days building on
issues at York University in March 2010.
Annual Congress of Social Sciences & Humanities conferences (Canadian Communication Associa-
tion) at Carleton in 2009 looking at activist collaborations. Take to Concordia next year in May?
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 56 57
The North-South Institute
Appropriation Art
National Campus and Community Radio Association
Canadian Council of Muslim Women
Briarpatch Magazine
Women’s Executive Network
Cinema Politica
Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic
C.M.E.S. Community Media Education
Concordia University
Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations
Telecommunities Canada
Canadian Artists’ Representation (CARFAC)
Women in Film & Television
Public Interest Advocacy Centre
British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union
First Nations Education Council
Citizens for Public Justice
Canadian Federation of University Women
Cultural Human Resources Council (CHRC)
Professional Association of Canadian Theatres
Media Education Project
Corporate Knights
Vancouver Alliance for Arts and Culture
Maytree Foundation
BC Teachers’ Federation
Vancouver Foundation
Edmonton Small Press Association (ESPA)
Professional Writers Association of Canada Can
Association of Cultural Executives
Politics, Re-Spun
Presbyterian Record
Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity Society (ACCESS)
Aujourd’hui Credo
Organization Participants
Organization Participants
**Thirteen organizations asked not to be identified. The following is
a list of those who agreed to have their name published.
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 58
Christian Science Committee on Publication
Media Action Média
The Media Justice Project (University of Windsor)
Canadian Media Guild
World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) (formerly known as Campaign for Democratic Media)
Consumers Council of Canada
The Council of Canadians
Friends of Canadian Broadcasting
Canadian Association of University Teachers
Rideau Institute
Douglas-Coldwell Foundation
Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Radio & Television Artists (ACTRA)
Canadian Conference of the Arts
Canadian Federation of Students
Columbia Institute
Check Your Head
The Tyee
W2 Community Media Arts Centre
Telecommunications Workers Union
Maytree Foundation
NOW Magazine
Public Service Alliance of Canada
Revitalizing a Media Reform Movement in Canada 58
by Robert A. Hackett & Steve Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5
Canada License. To view a copy of this license visit: