With the arrival of Sun News broadcasting in this country, our media seems to increasingly be aping that of our American neighbours to the south. The sensationalistic, overwrought, overhyped, hyper-partisan crap that most of us tend to get indirectly (this stuff can only be digested in small doses, evidently!) from watching the Daily Show satirize it every night, has ,unfortunately, penetrated this country’s media culture in any number of ways. The News Corp formula, if you will, is simple: replace facts and actual news with propaganda and right wing editorials, as much as possible. Sadly, this approach has spread to other news networks, due to the overwhelming ratings edge enjoyed by the Republican Party tools at Fox news (i.e. the O’Reilly factor).
This sad state of affairs would be enough to get me to throw my TV out the window, if it weren’t for a few high profile new media renegades that have recently become household names in both Canada and the US, partly for their recent attempts to expose the mass media’s more insidious effects on our political discourse. The first of the new media Spartacus’ is former CTV Québec political correspondent Kai Nagata, who at the beginning of July decided that he was fed up with the politics of being a mainstream journalist who was forced to, in his own words, censor himself. “Every question I asked, every tweet I posted, and even what I said to other journalists and friends had to go through a filter, where my own opinions and values were carefully strained out.” The worst part is that, according to Nagata, the independence of our media is being eroded, not by heavy handed government or corporate interference, but rather it is threatened by what he calls the tacit “internal code.”
Worse still, his contract contained a draconian clause that required him to basically surrender all of his intellectual property to the corporation( Bell Media) he worked for, as well as giving the latter the right to unceremoniously can his ass if he did anything that compromised his job as an “objective TV reporter.” As if such a thing ever existed!
His indignation wasn’t limited to the corporate owned media, either. Nagata had plenty to say about what’s wrong with our national broadcaster as well. Nagata claims that the CBC has facilitated a “race to the bottom” in our news media by devoting less resources and time to serious political journalism and more to what he calls “consumer protection” content. The result is a vicious cycle, whereby the former gold standard in Canadian journalism no longer leads the way for the private media news outlets. This is partly because, in his view, the CBC overcompensates for the widespread misperception that it is a “haven for left-wing bias.”
The other case is a bit more high profile, seeing as it involves one of the largest News outlets in the world ( MSNBC) and one of the biggest web politico’s in the blogosphere right now (Cenk Uygur). Cenk is the host of the Youg Turks, a hugely popular regular podcast that touches on issues ranging from the federal government’s debt ceiling to celebrity mishaps. He also had a short lived gig doing punditry for MSNBC where he frequently ranted about the corruption of American politics, and President Obama’s failings. This apparently rubbed the producers of the show the wrong way as he was issued a warning to “tone it down.” On another occasion, he was taken aside and told that there are two audiences in mainstream television news, the viewer and the management of the network. The former might appreciate Cenk’s honestly, by the latter was likened to a “club” that needed to be assured that he was one of them. The last straw came when he was told that he wouldn’t get the coveted 6pm time slot, despite very strong ratings, but could stay with the network in a less influential capacity and for more money.
What these whistleblower’s cases tell us about the “lame stream media”, basically is a confirmation of what we suspected all along. Namely, that they are beholden to the political class for access and to their shareholders for profits. Neither of these particularly lends itself to the old fashioned notion of speaking truth to power.