Dabrusin asks East Yorkers about Canadian media

Toronto-Danforth MP wants input for parliamentary heritage committee

The state of Canadian media was the topic of the night at a town hall convened by Toronto-Danforth MP Julie Dabrusin on March 2.

Dabrusin convened the public meeting at Don Mills United Church, on O’Connor Drive at Pape avenue, on March 2.

Some East Yorkers who work in media were invited to attend the meeting and offer their insight, much like a focus group. Dabrusin, a member of the parliamentary heritage committee, wanted their feedback on the state of their individual crafts and industries — and their connection with Canada’s social diversity. She said she was hoping to canvass ideas about how to move Canadian media forward.

“Things are changing,” Dabrusin said, “but how do we foster and promote good change?”

One issue that was seemed to be important to those attending is recent cuts to government funding for the CBC. Several attendees said that the CBC is the epicentre of Canadian culture and identity, and it deserves to be protected and promoted — and not treated like a private broadcaster.

But those private broadcasters are also an issue for some at the meeting. They said there is too much concentration of ownership of Canadian media in the hands of mega-companies like Rogers. And they expressed disdain at job cuts in the private sector — like Rogers’ recent announcement of 200 layoffs in its television, radio and publishing divisions.

Many applauded the explosion of digital media, and what they said is the online media’s ability to improve the quality of life for Canadians. But others worried about the digital downside. They were concerned that digital media are making it harder for newspapers such as the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail to stay in the game. The consensus among the group was that there are certain traditional media, like the city’s daily newspapers, that are key to Toronto’s identity.

Dabrusin also raised the issue of accessibility to media, new media and the Internet. It was easily agreed that not every Canadian city enjoys the concentration of media that Toronto does. But beyond that, the group suggested that Canadian media reflect Canada’s urban population far more than its rural residents. They also pointed out that high-speed Internet is still not available in many less-populous regions — even though everyone agreed that it is a necessity now more than ever.

Another issue is the relationship between income and access to new media. Several speakers supported the view that lower income can be a barrier to media access. For instance, those with higher income are far more likely to own a smartphone and therefore have a greater access to the Internet, digital media and online news.

Local media were also on the agenda at the meeting.

“I would like to see hyper-local media to connect as a city,” said Dahne Jobson of East York. “What’s going on where I live, where I work, the ethnic community in my area? What’s important to individuals and important to the city?”

Others at the meeting said that local media are especially important in smaller, less urban communities outside Canada’s big cities; that they’re necessary for balanced representation of the Canadian people as a whole. And balanced representation of Canadians also includes the indigenous population of Canada.

“Aboriginals fall into the disadvantaged community,” said David Creelman of East York. “I hope to see specific Aboriginal representation.” Creelman also expressed the importance of more widespread Internet access.

“Internet is a necessity for everyone,” he said. “It’s a different world now.”

Dabrusin said that indigenous voices are an important source of input for the heritage committee. For instance, she said, a group from the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network is scheduled to testify before the committee about media in Canada.