World News Day (September 28) is a global campaign to amplify the power and impact of fact-based journalism. But one day is not enough.
We have seen digital media giants moving into the Canadian media landscape, siphoning off much needed advertising revenue, upending the traditional funding models that supported newspaper publishing and broadcast TV.
At the same time, foreign streaming companies have taken advantage of outdated broadcast legislation that allowed them access to the Canadian market without paying their fair share back into the Canadian media production, as traditional broadcasters are required to do.
While the Canadian media landscape has been upended, journalists and media workers have faced increasing levels of harassment and abuse, much of which is rooted in toxic sexism, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia. The rise of extreme right-wing populism has weaponized the notion of “free speech,” and the harassment of journalists and media workers is often coordinated and orchestrated by right wing leaders and demagogues.
Right-wing conservative opposition have cried out for freedom and independence, all while undermining journalists as “fake news,” denying them access to events, and even going so far as to incite harassment and abuse.
Journalism and local news are a public good. They are the foundations of a working democracy, and any attempts to undermine them must be seen as attempts to erode and destroy our democratic and free society.
The Canadian government has struggled to reform and update Canadian broadcast policy, and more media outlets are closing every week, or shuttering local outlets that provide essential community news. After years of conversation and consultations, the federal government has finally passed the Online Streaming Act and the Online News Act, two pieces of much needed legislation that will – in different ways – help create a fairer and more stable funding model for Canada’s media outlets.
Unifor media members and leadership fought hard for these important pieces of legislation, despite concerted counter campaigns from the digital media and streaming giants and their supporters. The union will continue to fight for fairer, sustainable and long-term funding models that support media outlets across the country, from small, independent voices to national-level, mainstream outlets.
But we know we cannot rely solely on government. Unifor has been working hard for years to protect and promote fact-based journalism in Canada. In 2016, we launched our Media Action Plan, a public campaign driven by Unifor media locals, to fight to save local news and confronting harassment in journalism.
At the same time, our Media Council launched Help is Here, an online hub providing resources and supports for journalists and media workers who have been affected by harassment and abuse. Help is Here is aimed at Unifor members, as well as non-union and freelance media workers, because we know that harassment and abuse are an industry-wide problem.
Just this past August, Unifor’s Canadian Council – the annual gathering of our elected and leadership and delegates – passed a resolution committing to combat harassment against journalists and media workers, including developing and delivering a multi-media campaign that gives voice to journalists and condemns harassment, hate and abuse.
We are at a crossroads. It is no longer enough to talk about the importance of news, now is the time to fight for it. Fight for a sustainable funding model, fight the online digital giants for blocking access to Canadian news, fight against the harassment and abuse of journalists, and fight for our right to know what is happening at all levels of government.
Buy a newspaper, subscribe to a Canadian news outlet, or watch one of Canada’s many trusted newscasts and fight to keep journalism and our democracy healthy.