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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Media Concentration in Atlantic Canada: Media by Monopoly

“The horse has left the barn. You can’t change all that,” quipped Senator David Tkachuk at the June 21, 2006 Ottawa news conference to release of the Final Report on the Canadian News Media

“There’s no going back,” added Senator Jim Munson

The two year study by members of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications paints a grim picture of media concentration and cross-ownership in Canada. The report found “areas where concentration of ownership has reached levels that few other countries would not consider acceptable.” It also found “regions that are not well served.” [1]

Welcome to Atlantic Canada, where independent media are endangered species.

They’re endangered because as the report noted, “… rules to prevent high levels of concentration of ownership of media properties, either in particular regions or within the country as a whole, do not exist.” [2] The Senators did not hesitate to place blame on authorities and in particular the Competition Bureau and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission who “have not used the processes available to them to limit concentration.” [3] The result is media by monopoly. In Atlantic Canada, print monopolies dominate in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and they’re gaining a firm grip in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.

Brunswick News Inc., a division of the Irving family empire, has consolidated its newspaper holdings in New Brunswick. It owns all three English-language daily newspapers. According to the 2005 figures of Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), those papers have a combined weekly circulation of 609,213. Brunswick News also owns all but two English-language weeklies and a growing number of French-language weeklies. Its broadcasting division, Acadia Broadcasting, operates three radio stations in the province and one in Nova Scotia (See Table below for a list of Irving holdings).

KIM KIERANS is the Director of the School of Journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax, where she also acts as professor of broadcast writing, reporting and documentary. Her research areas include community newspapers and media concentration.

Kierans spent 22 years reporting, editing, and producing for CBC Radio (Maritimes) and continues to work as a freelance writer and editor for CBC One and a columnist on community news.

She holds a BA (Hons) in Classics from King’s/Dalhousie and a MA in Atlantic Canada Studies from Saint Mary’s University.

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