Information is a common good and an essential service

For several months now, announcements about layoffs or bankruptcy filings have been on the rise in the media world. The latest, which reports the elimination of 547 positions at TVA, should concern us all as members of a society that needs to be informed in order to exercise its democratic rights.

Of course, we stand in solidarity with the workers who are being greatly affected by this measure. On a human scale, this is one of the worst disorders these people will have to suffer.

But what are we doing as a society to prevent the disintegration that is increasing in the media world? How do we collectively think of solutions? The elimination of a third of TVA’s workforce is a wake-up call to us all, because danger lies ahead. Tomorrow we could wake up in a world where the plurality of voices will have been extinguished and where we will depend on social networks to tell us about the progress of the planet. Do we want this?

Lack of income

From 2008 to 2021, 450 media outlets have closed their books in Canada because they could not maintain their activities due to lack of income. Even those who, apparently, are a model of success in the digital transition are barely surviving. THE Washington Post announces an extensive plan to reduce the workforce.

Closer to us, in recent months, Métro Media, which provided local news in Montreal, filed for bankruptcy. Ditto for Metroland in Toronto. More coverage of local political, community and cultural activities for these two great cities. CN2i, owner of the six most important regional weeklies in Quebec, is in a precarious position since Facebook broke its commitment and withdrew its contribution. The once highly profitable advertising revenue business model practiced by most media outlets is now reaching its breaking point. And private investors are pulling out of the sector, which is no longer profitable.

However, information from recognized media is one of the pillars of democracy. It offers the public verified facts, rigorous professional ethics and guarantees its sources. It is the antithesis of fake news. Information is necessary to keep a population involved in its civic life, a population that is aware, participative and educated on the issues that have the possibility of making informed decisions. Information is a common good that society cannot be deprived of. And this common good is in danger. It is time to act and decide what we want and how we will save our media and our right to be informed.

States General

National information meetings should be held as soon as possible. Actors in civil society and the media must think together about structural and lasting solutions. Because obviously, the current conditions are no longer sufficient for the task. France has already announced this project. We no longer have time to procrastinate and apply small bandages to this massive bleeding.

We call on governments to act diligently and preserve our media ecosystem. It is essential for everyone, but even more so for the vitality of the regions that will be in great danger if the media are no longer deployed in the communities. Every dollar invested in local newspapers, radio and television contributes to the circular and regional economy. This creates jobs, promotes cultural and community activities that support theaters, restaurants, sporting events, regional development initiatives, businesses, the performance of their municipalities and their elected officials as well as mobilizations and union demands of the region It is a social binder. With local information that enlightens them about the issues they care about, citizens can make their voices heard and their choices heard about the issues that shake their community. In the region and at the local level, “information” is a common good, but also an essential service.

Annick Charette, President of the National Federation of Communications and Culture (FNCC-CSN)