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CanWest founder Israel Asper acquires 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.

media clip
When Israel Asper started a small television company called CanWest in the 1970s, he was known as a pioneer of independent television. A few years later he merged CanWest with what was then Ontario's newly launched network -- Global TV. It would become Canada's largest commercial media conglomerate. In this CBC Television clip, Asper talks about a more recent merger.

On July 31, 2000, CanWest Global orchestrated a takeover of Hollinger Inc., in which Asper acquired over 130 newspapers and half ownership of the Canadian daily National Post. 
• Israel "Izzy" Harold Asper was born Aug. 11, 1932, in Minnedosa, Man. He attended the University of Manitoba, obtaining a bachelor of arts in 1953 and law degrees in 1957 and 1964.
• Asper married Gail "Babs" Bernstein in 1956, and was father to David, Gail and Leonard.
• Asper died suddenly on Oct. 7, 2003, after being admitted to a Winnipeg hospital.

• After being called to the Manitoba bar in 1964, Asper became an expert in tax law. From 1966 to 1977 he wrote a nationally syndicated newspaper column on taxation, and in 1970 he wrote a book called The Benson iceberg; a critical analysis of the white paper on tax reform in Canada.
• Asper was leader of the Manitoba Liberal party from 1970 to 1975 and sat in the Manitoba Legislature as leader of the Opposition from 1972 to 1975.

• In 1983 Asper established the Asper Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to supporting culture, education, community development and human rights. The foundation, based in Winnipeg, funds local, national and international projects.
• Asper's donations helped found the Asper Jewish Community Campus, which opened in 1997. The campus houses a community centre, elementary and high schools, recreational facilities and the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada.

• Asper's parents, Leon and Cecilia Asper, were immigrants from the Ukraine who came to Manitoba in the 1920s. They were accomplished musicians but made their living operating several movie theatres, including the Lyric in their home town of Minnedosa. In 1999 Asper paid tribute to his parents by funding an open-air stage in Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park. He called it the Lyric Theatre. 
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Aug. 2, 2000
Reporter: Diana Swain
Duration: 3:04

Last updated: March 12, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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