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Media Convergence: Newspaper tycoons lash out

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.

By 1980 newspaper concentration has increased dramatically despite the Davey report. In New Brunswick, the Irving family owns all of the province's five English newspapers. Southam Inc. owns 12 papers across the country and Thomson Newspapers Co. Ltd. owns 40 newspapers representing 30 per cent all Canadian dailies. This alarming concentration spurs another Royal Commission on Newspapers to look at the same issues that the Davey Commission studied a decade ago.

The Royal Commission, under Senator Tom Kent, puts the publishers on the defensive as seen in this CBC Television report. The Irvings, Ken Thomson and Southam owners all testify before the commission. Things heat up as Arthur Irving lashes out after being accused by the commission of intimidating his reporters. 
. Aug. 27,1980 is referred to as "Black Wednesday" in the Canadian newspaper world. On that day, two of Canada's oldest newspapers were shut down — the Winnipeg Tribute owned by Southam and the Ottawa Journal published by Thomson. Their closure gave the chains a local monopoly in the market, sparking a national outrage. The incident led to the Royal Commission on Newspapers head by Senator Tom Kent.

. Tom Kent was the editor of the Winnipeg Free Press and the dean of administrative studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax before he was appointed to head the Royal Commission in 1980.
. By 1980 Southam and Thomson chains controlled almost 60 per cent of Canada's daily English-language newspaper circulation. Two Quebec chains, Gesca and Quebecor, owned 75 per cent of French-language circulation.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: April 17, 1981
Guest(s): Keith Davey, Arthur Irving, Ken Thomson, Julian Walker
Reporter: Russ Patrick
Duration: 3:35

Last updated: March 6, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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