PPF releases The Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age

01/26/2017

Public Policy Forum report finds crisis in news is a growing threat to Canadian democracy

OTTAWA, Jan. 26, 2017 – A major study released today by the Public Policy Forum shines a light on the state of the news industry in Canada, revealing it is reaching a crisis point as the decline of traditional media, fragmentation of audiences and the rise of fake news pose a growing threat to the health of our democracy.

THE SHATTERED MIRROR: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age investigates the major shifts and disruptors in news and journalism – the broken business model, under-development of digital-only news providers and consolidation of digital distribution revenues by Google and Facebook.

After six months of study and discussions with close to 300 people, the report proposes a series of bold recommendations aimed at ensuring the news media and journalists continue in their role as the watchdogs over our elected representatives and public institutions and the connective tissue within our communities.

“This report is not about the journalists, with whom I feel great solidarity, but rather the role they play, and what we may be putting at risk if we are inattentive,” writes Edward Greenspon, President and CEO of the PPF and the report’s author. Mr. Greenspon spent more than 30 years as a journalist before joining the PPF.

Among the 12 recommendations are proposals for a new “local mandate” for The Canadian Press, the national wire service, ensuring there are more journalistic “boots on the ground” to supplement coverage of courts, legislatures and city halls; an Indigenous journalism initiative to put more resources into communities and governments that are often overlooked; and the creation of a research institute that would examine news and democracy issues more closely, including the distribution of fake news in Canada.

The report also calls for changes to Section 19 and 19.1 of the Income Tax Act to support civic-function journalism in Canada, whether by incentivizing Canada-centred news organizations to do more reporting or, for those that don’t, creating a revenue stream to support a Future of Journalism & Democracy Fund.

Three recommendations deal with measures to modernize the CBC’s special role in Canadian news – so important now in an era where so much news is tainted. The report calls on the CBC to stop selling digital ads in order to free it from the pressures of having to “attract eyeballs.” This would reinforce the corporation’s civic-function mandate of informing Canadians.

Included in the study is exclusive public opinion research by Allan Gregg of Earnscliffe Strategy Group. He conducted focus groups and surveyed more than 1,500 adult Canadians about their perceptions of the relationship between news and democracy, their trust of journalists and their level of awareness of the disruption of the media business.

The title ‘The Shattered Mirror’ pays homage to the 1970 groundbreaking Senate report on the mass media called The Uncertain Mirror.

“Unfortunately, the state of the news media’s job in reflecting society back to itself is no longer uncertain,” Greenspon said.

The PPF study was partially funded by Canadian Heritage and ISED; the McConnell, Atkinson and Max Bell foundations, and four corporations, CN, TD Bank, Ivanhoe Properties and Clairvest Investments.

However, the findings and recommendations are the PPF’s alone.

Mr. Greenspon concludes Canada has already reached a “crunch point” in terms of the state of the news industry and its ability to fulfill its democratic responsibilities.

“This report is meant to offer insight into the state of news two decades into its existential crisis, as well as ideas for how to respond,” writes Mr. Greenspon. “We hope it will stimulate a necessary debate and necessary action, while understanding no story is ever at its end.”

The report can be downloaded by visiting shatteredmirror.ca, where the report is accompanied by videos, FAQs, a statement by PPF President Edward Greenspon and more.

Download charts and videos: The PPF has made its videos and most of the charts used in the report available for reuse at shatteredmirror.ca/media. They can be downloaded as editable vector files to be adapted to news outlets’ individual styles, or as PNGs to be embedded as images on websites or other documents.###

About the Public Policy Forum

The Public Policy Forum works with all levels of government and the public service, the private sector, labour, post-secondary institutions, NGOs and Indigenous groups to improve policy outcomes for Canadians. As a non-partisan, member-based organization, we work from "inclusion to conclusion," by convening discussions on fundamental policy issues and by identifying new options and paths forward. For 30 years, the Public Policy Forum has broken down barriers among sectors, contributing to meaningful change that builds a better Canada.

For more information, please visit: www.ppforum.ca and follow @ppforumca.

For more information:

Carl Neustaedter
Director of Communications
Public Policy Forum
T: 613-238-7858 Ext: 286
M: 613-866-7210
E: carl.neustaedter@ppforum.ca
 

 

Jane Taber
Vice President Public Affairs
NATIONAL Public Relations
T: 416-848-1450
E: jtaber@national.ca