Historically, communications companies have formed newspaper chains and networks of radio and TV stations to realize many of these same advantages, and convergence can be seen as the expansion and intensification of this same logic. Time Warner in the United States is seen as a model for media convergence. Time Inc and Warner Brothers first merged in 1989, creating the world's largest media and entertainment company with its complementary properties in magazine publishing, music recording, film production and distribution. AOL subsequently bought Time Warner in January 2001 in an attempt to expand the Time Warner synergies to the global computer network called the Internet.
A number of Canadian media companies have moved in the same direction since 2000. The telephone company BCE Inc, for example, expanded into television, with the purchase of the national CTV network; newspaper publishing, with the acquisition of The Globe and Mail; and new media, with a family of World Wide Web sites.
POSTMEDIA NETWORK INC is Canada's newest media company and the country's largest publisher by circulation of paid English-language daily newspapers. With its takeover of CANWEST GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS CORP in July 2010, Postmedia has holdings in newspapers, magazines, websites, advertising and software. Shaw Communications Inc is a diversified communications company, with cable television, Internet, satellite and programming content. Shaw took over Global Television Network in October 2010. Quebecor Inc. has newpapers, magazines and book publishing companies, the cable TV and Internet service provider Videotron, six of ten stations in the TVA French-language television network, the Radiomedia radio network and the CANOE Internet portal. Besides being Canada's largest cable television provider, Rogers Communications Inc. is involved in television broadcasting, wireless telephone service, magazine publishing and video sales and rentals.
The concept of media convergence - specifically, media consolidation - has sparked significant debate. When multiple media platforms are owned by a single operator, there are potential undesirable consequences, including loyalty to advertisers rather than the public interest; reduction in market-based competition; and the loss of "multiple voices" and varying opinions, resulting in limited viewpoints presented to the public on a given issue. The media plays an essential role in democratic societies by acting as an information source for an informed citizenry. Media also acts as the "fourth estate," in that the traditional role of the media is to serve as a vital check on government and corporations. Since media owners have great influence over what news and information is released, what voices or sides of the debate are heard (or silenced), and what music and other cultural elements are given air-time, concerns have been raised about the potential impacts convergence will have on democratic processes. If only a few giants control the media, it's argued, there will be fewer voices and viewpoints, less diversity in programming and reporting, less coverage of local issues, and less independent and critical journalism that has historically prevented abuses of power.
Additionally, media content is increasingly treated as a product. The substantial costs of corporate mergers have led converged companies to seek profits through cost-cutting rather than increased investment in communication services. The market power exerted by corporate giants such as BCE, Quebecor and Rogers makes it increasingly difficult for new corporate players to compete and reduces the number of choices media consumers face in deciding among information and entertainment sources. In the news media particularly, newsroom staffs have been substantially reduced and journalists are being asked to produce more stories each day, stories which can be used by more than one news medium. This trend has the potential to reduce the quantity, the quality and the diversity of news coverage.
Author MIKE GASHER Revised: JESSICA POTTER
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Journalism Foundation
The website for the Canadian Journalism Foundation.
Media in Canada
The latest news about Canada's dynamic media industry.
The Bell Media website highlights the various television, radio, and digital assetts that are part of this major multimedia company.
The latest news about the Canadian communications sector.
Canadian Media Research Consortium
See online reports that show how Canadians access and utilize various communications media. From the Canadian Media Research Consortium.
Marshall McLuhan: the global village
Watch a vintage video clip in which the visionary Canadian academic Marshall McLuhan made the prescient claim that teenagers were instrumental in advancing the global shift from print to electronic communications. From a 1960 episode of the television program "Explorations" at the "CBC Digital Archives" website.
The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press website offers the latest news headlines and information about the company's media products.
The website for "mediacaster" offers the latest news about Canada's media sector.
Group to acquire Canwest papers for $1.1 billion
A 2010 CTV News story about the sale of CanWest's newspapers to a group of investors led by National Post publisher Paul Godfrey.
Canadian Journalism Project
The Canadian Journalism Project (CJP) and its websites, J-Source.ca (English) and ProjetJ.ca (French), are projects of The Canadian Journalism Foundation in collaboration with leading journalism schools and organizations across Canada.
Search the extensive archives for news stories about prominent personalities and companies in the Canadian broadcasting industry.