Canadian Newspaper Ownership in the Era of Convergence: Rediscovering Social Responsibility


194 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88864-439-6
DDC 071'.1




Reviewed by Jay Newman

Jay Newman is a professor of philosophy at the University of Guelph. His
books include Inauthentic Culture and Its Philosophical Critics and
Biblical Religion and Family Values.


This unusually structured monograph is by four University of Windsor
social scientists who for many years have discussed among themselves
issues relating to concentration of ownership among Canadian newspapers.
Each chapter is written by a different combination of these academics,
which may account for certain infelicities in expression. The core
issues addressed here have received considerable attention in Canada,
and the authors themselves refer perfunctorily to the Davey Committee
and the Kent Commission. In speaking of the “social responsibility”
of the media, the authors intentionally draw attention to a theory that
was widely promoted by media scholars in the 1950s and 1960s and has
been the subject of extensive criticism over the years. The authors have
little of value to offer in the way of elaboration and defence of the
theory, and they seem unfamiliar with some important recent work in
media ethics and the philosophy of journalism.

Although the title of the monograph would suggest that the authors are
interested in convergence generally, the study is narrowly and
arbitrarily focused on the shortcomings and dangers of Conrad Black and
the Asper family. The volume is essentially polemical rather than
analytical and sometimes takes on the character of a hatchet job. Yet
certain projects that Black and the Aspers have supported—perhaps most
notably The National Post—have offered Canadian media consumers
significant new alternatives and have contributed appreciably to
increased competition in the Canadian media industries. The authors make
some sound criticisms of publishing policies under Black and the Aspers,
but their critique is basically one-dimensional. When the four authors
announce at the end that “we conclude sadly that the Aspers and
CanWest Global have shown themselves woefully inadequate in their
ability to treat their new-found newspaper ownership as a public trust
as well as a business,” I sense that the authors have done their
concluding more smugly than sadly and that if they really were prepared
to take the problem of convergence seriously, they would give far closer
attention to, for example, the extraordinary association of The Globe
and Mail, CTV, BCE Inc., and Kenneth Thomson.


Soderlund, Walter C., “Canadian Newspaper Ownership in the Era of Convergence: Rediscovering Social Responsibility,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 20, 2024,