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Media Convergence: CanWest Global acquires control of Hollinger Inc.

In the world of mega mergers and convergence, there's growing concern about a monopoly of ideas. Reporters argue increased ownership will shake the very foundation democracy is founded upon. Owners say it's the only way Canadian newspapers can survive in the new global economy. Press ownership has been officially debated, studied and scrutinized in Canada since the 1969 Royal Commission on Newspapers. Is freedom of the press guaranteed only to those who own one? It's a debate that continues to percolate.

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Canwest Global Communications Corp. has gained control of a huge chunk of Hollinger Inc. in a monster deal worth over $3.2 billion. Canada's newest and second-largest private national TV network, Canwest Global, is now the biggest owner of newspapers. The Winnipeg-based broadcasting company will take control of more than 200 publications, including 14 major dailies, numerous Internet sites and a 50 per cent share in Hollinger's flagship newspaper, the National Post.

Media concentration, once frowned upon, seems to have become a national goal. Publishers argue that if Canada doesn't get on board it will get left behind in the new global economy. "We don't intend to be one of the corpses lying beside the information highway," says Israel Asper, chairman of Canwest Global. In Vancouver, where the merger results in Canwest owning two main TV stations and the city's two major newspapers, readers and viewers voice concern about the shrinking diversity of opinion.
• Israel (Izzy) Asper was a long-time Liberal who served as party leader and an MLA in the early 1970s. He founded CanWest Broadcasting, which merged with Global TV to become CanWest Global Communications in 1989.
• A lawyer by training, Izzy Asper wrote a nationally syndicated column on taxation for the Globe and Mail from 1966 to 1977. He died of a heart attack in 2003.

• Conrad Black's sudden retreat from the Canadian newspaper scene caught many by surprise. In just over a decade, Black had bought more than 400 newspapers, which led Hollinger to acquire a debt of $2.4 billion.
• Black told the New York Times that the CanWest/Hollinger deal was an effort "to make things shipshape, to get rid of the debt, to get a bit of a cash box to work from, to enjoy life a little more."

• In December 2001 the Aspers found themselves on the defensive when they began issuing centrally-produced editorials from Winnipeg to run in their major papers. It led to the highly publicized firing of Ottawa Citizen editor Russell Mills and the resignation of Halifax Daily News columnist Stephen Kimber. Both journalists say they were let go for writing editorials criticizing Jean Chrétien.

• CanWest president Leonard Asper defended CanWest's stance to CBC's Peter Mansbridge, saying that as the owner he has the right to express his own views and run his own newsrooms.
• The AOL-Time Warner deal in January 2000 represented the biggest corporate merger in history. It fuelled a convergence frenzy around the world.

• Some critics have speculated that the decision by the Aspers to fire Ottawa Citizen publisher Russell Mills provided the momentum for another public inquiry into the concentration of media ownership. The Senate committee, headed by former Montreal Gazette editor Joan Fraser, began hearings into media concentration in April 2003. 
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: July 31, 2000
Guest(s): Peter Atkinson, Christopher Dornan, Gaston Jorré, Donna Logan, Don Maclauchlan, Kevin O'Connor, Peter Swain
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Ron Charles, Saša Petricic
Duration: 6:20

Last updated: October 23, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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