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How free is Canada’s press in 1970?

The Story


By the late 1960s three newspaper chains - Thomson Newspapers Co. Ltd., Southam Inc. and Financial Post Publications - control almost 50 per cent of Canada's English daily newspapers. That's an increase from 25 per cent in 1958. This growing concentration of ownership leads to a Royal Commission on Newspapers. The appointment of a special committee in March 1969, headed by Senator Keith Davey, sparks lively public discussions on the state of Canadian press as heard in this radio clip. Prominent Canadian journalists such as Ron Haggart (Toronto Telegram), John MacFarlane (Toronto Star) and Doris Anderson (Chatelaine) voice concern about a small group having a "monopoly on ideas." Newspaper owners defend concentration saying they take a hands-off approach editorially. But that doesn't mean their influence isn't felt in the newsroom, says CBC host Robert Fulford. Fulford cites the example of the Globe and Mail editors running painstakingly detailed stories about squash, thinking the owner was a fan -- only to find out the racquet displayed in his office was a relic from an abandoned hobby.

Medium: Radio
Program: This is Robert Fulford
Broadcast Date: March 23, 1970
Guests: Doris Anderson, Ron Haggart, John MacFarlane
Host: Robert Fulford
Duration: 12:12

Did You know?


The Halifax Gazette, Canada's first newspaper, was published on Monday, March 23, 1752. It was a two-page tabloid with news from Britain, Europe, New England and British colonies to the south. The paper continues today (2003) as the Royal Gazette, Nova Scotia's official publication for legal notices and proclamations.

• The phrase: "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one" was coined by the American writer A. J. Liebling.

• The Davey Commission took place over 22 months. The commission consulted 500 individuals and organizations and heard from 125 witnesses including such prominent Canadians as Pierre Berton, Marshall McLuhan, and former prime ministers Lester Pearson and John Diefenbaker.

• At the time of the Davey Commission, Thomson owned many of the smaller newspapers across Canada. Roy Thomson acquired his first Canadian newspaper, The Timmins Press, in 1934. Southam Inc. owned the Ottawa Citizen, the Calgary Herald and the Montreal Gazette. FP Publications ran the Financial Post and Maclean's magazine.

• In 1970 FP Publications controlled 21.8 per cent of the English-language circulation, followed by Southam with 21.5 per cent and Thomson with 10.4 per cent. In the French-language market two companies - Gesca and Quebecor - owned almost 50 per cent.


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