Thursday, January 10, 2013
Is Nanaimo's Media Concentration Healthy?
A Print daily, a digital daily, a blog, a shopper, a radio station
Does That Make For Healthy Competition?
The local daily which is a division of VI Newspaper Group Limited Partnership I believe is owned by Glacier Media Group who own of over 80 newspapers. You could argue they have a lock on the local media market with the exception of the three times a week shopper.
Glacier also has publications in Oceanside (Parksville, Qualicum), Port Alberni, Comox, Campbell River and Victoria. The most sizable publication being the Times Colonist in Victoria. This puts this group in a position of considerable power when it comes to influencing public opinion and also in setting advertising rates.Glacier Media Group is clearly a well run, profitable company showing nine months earnings of $264,000,000.00 producing an EBITDA of $38,000,000.00 according to the online financials.
The reason for the attention to the financial, is to point out that perhaps money, rather than community service is the reason media exists, and service to the community is secondary.
I don't believe there is any independent editorial policies that differ between the Nanaimo Daily News, The Harbour City Star, the blog, the digital version of the Daily News and now the FM radio station available online. It is the same news crew that churn out the local infotainment for all of the above.
There was a time when the Daily Free Press was a stand alone daily publication which only produced a paid version of their product. The Nanaimo Times was an independent weekly shopper which gave advertisers the advantage of covering every household in the market, something the paid Free Press could not claim. The radio station was independently owned also, and the three players in the media business fought it out for those all important advertising dollars without which none of them would survive. They all did survive and I believe were all quite profitable businesses, whether their product delivered true value for the dollar to advertisers is debatable depending on who you listen to.
Fast forward to the media situation in Nanaimo now and you have the Daily News ( Free Press) owning and publishing the Harbour City Star (The Nanaimo Times) I presume they still publish the Star as a competitor to the Bulletin as both shoppers claim blanket coverage of all homes in Nanaimo. The Daily has a circulation in the low thousands I believe, except the Thursday edition which is mass delivered free to all households.
The editorial policy between the Daily and the Star of course are indistinguishable as for the most part everything in the Star is just regurgitated from the daily. The online blog and digital version are also from the same 'news' room as will be all the news on the radio station.
How well, they serve the community as the fourth estate holding government accountable is also the subject for another debate that of course they would never have among themselves. It's handy when you control the medium that might take you to task.
One common thread with the local media is the appearance of being an extension of the PR department at city hall.. The media bias towards the conference centre debate and the low barrier housing debate are two glaring examples of just how biased the local media can be when the city has a message to get out. Their support of the recent purchase of the Wellcox rail yards without any idea of the total cost, is just another example of cheer leading for city hall.
Once upon a time the media existed to keep governments in line and keep the public well informed, being a key ingredient in a properly functioning society. Today fulfilling that mandate seems to take second place to simply making money in the ad delivery business and having to have something to fill up the white space around the ads.
Of course I could be wrong and the shareholders behind billion dollar empires might truly only be interested in the public good and reporters are constantly striving to hold government accountable and will spend untold minutes in exhaustive research.