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VIEW: CBC, Canadaland, Ricochet... media diversity needed now, more than ever

From attacks in Ottawa to sex allegations against CBC's top cultural broadcaster, it's been a shocking few weeks in Canada. But if anything good can be said to have come from these events, it's the elevated level of awareness and (mostly) constructive dialogue about serious issues like mental health, militarism, surveillance, and rape culture.

We're taking a deep look at ourselves and our society, what defines us and what our values are.

At the same time, there's a parallel conversation taking place: What is the role of the Canadian media in this moment, and what is the state of the media in Canada in general?

It's one of the most important conversations we can have.

If Postmedia's most recent acquisition goes through, a single company will control nearly all of the corporate-owned major daily newspapers and online publications in Canada, aside from a handful of big holdouts like the Globe and Mail or the Toronto Star. The television situation isn't much better, mostly carved up between Bell, Rogers, and Shaw.

This at the same time when corporations have moved on from billboards and television advertisements to full-on media campaigning. Advertisements convincing us that pipelines are in the public interest precede our YouTube videos, and "advertorials" have become a primary mode for financing corporate media.

Actions by the government -- the institution that is supposed to preserve our democracy -- are also concerning. The federal government has deterred access to information, muzzled government scientists and employees, and increased surveillance.

So it's exciting that Jesse Brown, the man behind the small independent media critique and politics podcast Canadaland, is front-and-centre right now, as the journalist who in the last week broke the Jian Ghomeshi story, along with Toronto Star investigative journalist Kevin Donovan. Brown, looking to reinvigorate politics and media critique in Canada, only recently secured permanence for his podcast with a successful Patreon crowdfunding campaign.

Crowdfunding also helped kick off the new "bilingual, independent, and pancanadian" media project Ricochet, which has its sights set on offsetting corporate voice in the media and reviving true investigative journalism. Richochet was itself born out of a frustration with the Canadian media, after the English language coverage of the 2012 student protests left many demonstrators feeling misrepresented or demonized.

As well, it's becoming increasingly apparent that a healthy public broadcaster is badly needed. CBC was widely praised for its coverage of the Ottawa attacks, and the discussion generated by Ghomeshi's removal has shown how much a show like ‘Q' can matter to Canadians (although it also shows the power of a male cult personality's platform). A healthy CBC could be a powerful media force created by and for Canadians, not consumers.

The response to last week's events has made it very clear that Canadians have a voice and want to be heard. In Vancouver, a vibrant and growing alternative and independent media community is making this possible. This community comes together every year at the annual Media Democracy Day, in its fourteenth year in 2014.

Media Democracy Day is a free public event that will take place on Nov. 7 at SFU's Harbour Centre and Nov. 8 at the Vancouver Public Library's central branch, and will feature film screenings, workshops, panel discussions, and speakers like Michael Geist, Kai Nagata, and Reilly Yeo along with media critic Robert McChesney and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Glenn Greenwald via exclusive video interviews.

David Peddie is a graduate student in Communications at SFU and member of the organizing committee for Media Democracy Days 2014.

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