Journalists-Turned-Politicians Playing Key Role in Commons' Media Study

By Levitz, Stephanie | The Canadian Press, March 20, 2016 | Go to article overview

Journalists-Turned-Politicians Playing Key Role in Commons' Media Study


Levitz, Stephanie, The Canadian Press


Commons' media study takes MPs over the map

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OTTAWA - Journalists-turned-politicians have earned a bad reputation in Ottawa in recent years thanks to the spending shenanigans of two in particular: Senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin.

Both former broadcasters, they were appointed as Conservatives to the upper chamber; Duffy is now awaiting a verdict on whether he's guilty of fraud, breach of trust and bribery for how he handled his Senate expense account while an investigation into Pamela Wallin for her use of Senate funds remains in limbo.

Perhaps that's why another broadcaster-turned-politician cracked a joke last month at a House of Commons heritage committee meeting.

"Former broadcasters on Parliament Hill . . . is an awful thing," joked Liberal MP Seamus O'Regan. "Next they'll be allowing the lawyers and teachers into politics as well."

O'Regan made the remark in acknowledging the presence on the committee of another former broadcaster, Conservative MP Kevin Waugh.

At the same time as O'Regan was working for CanadaAM and then CTV national news, Waugh was covering sports for CTV out of his home province of Saskatchewan.

Now they are MPs, putting their professional backgrounds to use at the Commons' heritage committee studying the state of local media in Canada.

The study began in February amidst a wave of change in Canadian newsrooms. It will hold at least 10 meetings but has been inundated with requests from people to appear, raising the potential of going longer.

What they've heard so far is not encouraging: a decision by the former government to stop advertising in community papers, for example, has seen some publications lose more than half their budgets. Three French-language community radio stations no longer have any paid staff. Since 2011, 20 out of 122 daily newspapers have closed, including two in 2016, according to a presentation to the committee from the Heritage department.

But the committee is also tackling bigger questions about the future of a free press in Canada and the impact digital-only publications have on the age-old question of who is a journalist, or who polices the quality and veracity of content both online and on the air. …

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