Media concentration refers to the process through which fewer companies or organizations own and/or control diverse interests that even influence the content that is released to the audience. The companies progressively merge or buy other media platforms, thus creating a vast conglomeration of media interests under one organization. As the paper reveals, media concentration poses significant threats that if not addressed have far-reaching consequences on the society.
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Media concentration concerns in the Canadian market emerged in the 1970s and 1980s following a wave of newspaper merging and closures. Such concerns led to inquiries such as the Special Senate Committee on Mass Media of 1970, the Royal Commission on Corporate Concentration of 1978, and the Royal Commission on Newspapers of 1981 (Fourie 11). However, the findings of the committee did not lead to drastic changes in the industry to address the issues relating to media concentration. Instead, since the 1980s, political, technological, and economic forces favored the loosening of the regulatory environment, which facilitated new media services (cable television, the Internet, and satellite distribution) that expanded the media ecology. The television is one of the industries that have witnessed the biggest concentration in Canada. This situation poses both opportunities and risks to the society.
Very few media companies dominate the television media, which is highly concentrated in Canada. The largest television conglomerate is the Bell Media, which operates 58 television services, among them CTV, MTV Canada, and TSN (Winseck 40). On the other hand, Astral operates 23 television services, more than 80 radio stations, and an excess of 100 websites. Quebecor Media Inc., which operates the TVA television media network, has interests in other segments such as newspapers and Internet services (Fourie 28). Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), a public mandate broadcaster, also presents an umbrella body operating seven television channels and other interests in media (Noam 22). The above companies have more than 82% share of the industry. Their financial strengths further make the industry highly competitive and challenging for smaller or new entrants to penetrate the market (Noam 23).
Media and democracy are closely intertwined since the former facilitates many freedoms that are afforded on free societies. Indeed, television media facilitates the passage of communication and information across a nation and worldwide, a situation that advances the democratic space by ensuring that the views of citizens can be shared with others, as well as to the political class (Fourie 28). However, when television media is in the hands of few people, it is a double-edged sword, which can be used to advance private and public interests. Further, television media owners can sanction or enable the sharing of specific content by providing funding for special projects, as well as providing the stage for ideological interest groups (Noam 16). As witnessed in the case of Canada, when the media controls what people can hear, see, or read, then it is easy to manipulate the public opinion with selfish interests.
The media and the political class have a shared interest, which influences the operations of a country’s population. With this stance, it is common for the dominant media groups to control the direction of the regulatory framework to favor their interests. Indeed, according to Noam, large television media houses have achieved alarming success in influencing or even writing regulations that support their interests (44). For instance, in the United States, stringent rules and regulations regarding television and media ownership are literary done under the pressure of the laissez-faire ideology championed for by major media outlets and enabled by parliament and other government bodies (Noam 27). The same laissez-faire perspective is evident in the Canadian market where despite numerous inquiries on television media concentration, no concrete actions have been passed. Such weak regulatory environment has facilitated media conglomeration in Canada to unprecedented levels (Fourie 52). The dangers of press agencies that have enormous powers on regulations are dire to the freedom of journalism and other areas of the society.
Lastly, media concentration has adverse consequences on labor in the industry. As several media platforms fall under a single entity or company, workforce realignments are common where non-essential staff members are often retrenched in the organizational restructuring that follows mergers (Noam 36). Further, as content production teams are streamlined, others are released to other roles or even relieved of their duties. On the other hand, the concentration of media companies weakens the bargaining power of workers since the power that the conglomerates have intimidates the trade unions that ought to fight for the rights of their members (Noam 37). In addition, due to the competitive nature of the industry, many conglomerates offer production roles on a contract basis, hence reducing the number of permanently employed people (Fourie 89).
As evidenced in this section, media concentration has negative consequences on the society. The consolidation of the power of media in the hands of few companies can be used to advance private and selfish interests of few individuals. On the other hand, since media provides the avenue for the promotion of democracy, television media concentration means that few people control such freedoms, a situation that hinders civil liberties. In the job market, media concentration leads to significant job losses since realignments and restructuring plans that follow from mergers lead to the laying off of individuals. Based on the above expositions, media concentration should be addressed to ensure that its negative impacts are mitigated.
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Suitability of Public Mandate Broadcasting: CBC
Public Mandate Broadcasting can be viewed as state or public-owned media entities that offer the official government communication avenue to the public. Some of the public-mandate broadcasting channels include British Broadcasting Corporation, Voice of America, and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Presently, as this section reveals using the case of CBC, public mandate broadcasting is facing significant threats and challenges because of the transformation of the nature of media caused by technology.
The Internet, one of the major technological developments of the 20th and 21st centuries, enhances user interaction while numerous digital platforms allow users to create content and/or exchange information (Iosifidis 43). Presently, users can easily access radio and television content from across the world. Further, they can listen to whatever they want at any given time. General-interest radio and televisions stations and networks now face enormous competition for the audience since no single broadcaster can respond to the broad preferences that clients can access over the Internet (Scherer and Whitson 214). Further, advertising revenues that were previously restricted to radio, television, and newspapers are now spread across numerous platforms, a situation that undermines traditional media bodies and their profitability (Iosifidis 25). The Internet further operates in an unregulated environment with no restrictions on content. Hence, materials can be produced and shared, yet the public mandate media has to act in conformity to many public policies and laws.
The television industry is one of the major areas that face the above threats. Public mandate broadcasters in this field face insurmountable challenges. For instance, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) operates in a highly competitive environment where private media, as well as the Internet channels, seek dominance. As a national broadcaster for more than 75 years, CBC is an important federal institution that reaches millions of people across the country on a daily basis (Scherer and Whitson 214). The Broadcasting Act of 1991 provides the mandate of CBC to provide content that is predominantly local (Canadian), facilitate the flow and exchange of cultural expressions, and/or avail content in English and French to cater for the needs of the official language groups (Iosifidis 8). Further, CBC should contribute to the creation of a shared national identity and awareness while striving to meet the needs of the multicultural and multiracial population in Canada. With the increased threats on public mandate broadcasters, there is a growing concern on their relevance and suitability in the digital era.
Firstly, although the Internet and the proliferation of other media platforms have threatened mainstream media, public mandate broadcasters play different roles that make them suitable for the 21st-century society (Scherer and Whitson 213). In a market and profitability-driven environment where private media focuses on paid-for-entertainment, public mandate broadcasters play a critical role in guaranteeing free and reliable information to the public (Iosifidis 69). Such a situation facilitates free access and passage of information to general masses, thus supporting one of the major human rights, namely, the freedom of information. Without public mandate broadcasters, information would be expensive since people would have to pay to access it. For instance, programs such as Absolutely Canadian, A Table in Quebec, and the Right to Eat, which highlight different aspects of communities and groups of people such as their lifestyle, challenges, and culture, provide valuable insights and awareness on the dynamics of various groups (Scherer and Whitson 215). On private media, such content would be difficult to broadcast since it would not generate desirable profits. However, since CBC has a public mandate to focus on predominantly Canadian content, it provides an ideal platform for the population to get such information relating to different groups and trends in the country.
Secondly, CBC offers a broad range of programs that touch on entertainment, culture, information, and education. On private media, entertainment is the dominant content since it generates more profits relative to the general public content. As such, less airtime is dedicated to education, cultural, or informative contents, yet they are equally important in ensuring that a society is up to date with local and international trends (Scherer and Whitson 214). In a strictly private media environment, competition for profits would not allow such groups to have their content aired since it would not attract a sufficient audience (Iosifidis 53). Consequently, CBC as a public mandate media offers a platform that ensures that different groups in the country are covered. Such programs lead to the creation of information and education on the diversity of the nation.
Thirdly, CBC has evolved significantly to offer a broad range of free and paid content online. Such strategic move is an indication that the broadcaster recognizes the changing media environment. Thus, it is ready to evolve to continue reaching its clients. The adoption of the Internet by CBC means that more than ever, Canadian citizens have access to a wide variety of entertainment, cultural, informative, and educative content on the national broadcaster (Iosifidis 61). Due to the mandate of the broadcaster to support Canadian content, CBC is now better placed to ensure that its programs reach millions of people, locally and internationally, thus achieving its obligations (Scherer and Whitson 218). A wider broadcasting space allows different programs, both professional and armature from the country, to be supported and to access airtime freely or affordably.
Despite the important role and relevance of CBC in the Canadian media industry, significant changes are required to ensure the public mandate broadcaster plays its part effectively. Firstly, there is a need for increased funding for the broadcaster to make sure that it can create content that can attract and maintain viewers. Secondly, there is a need for an increased online presence to compete effectively with other broadcasters, both locally and worldwide. Since the Internet is already playing a crucial role in defining the current and future access to media programs and content, maximizing on the platform is a strategic move of ensuring that CBC remains relevant to its viewers in the short-term and long-term (Scherer and Whitson 222). Lastly, the regulatory framework should change to reflect the needs and the dynamics of the present-day media environment. The Broadcasting Act of 1991 came even before the Internet was established (Scherer and Whitson 221). As such, it does not provide the kind of environment in which CBC currently operates.
Conclusively, it is evident that media concentration poses significant challenges to the democratic space, regulatory frameworks, content, and labor in society. The concentration of media on the hands of few individuals is risky since there is a high likelihood of manipulation and the advancement of selfish interests of the few. Therefore, the high concentration on the Canadian environment is an issue that should be considered with the seriousness it deserves to ensure that the power that is bestowed on the few dominant and large media houses does not negatively affect the society.
Flexible Working Conditions
Modern businesses now operate under high pressure to remain competitive and relevant in their industries. Therefore, it is critical for companies to ensure that employees can be as productive as possible and available on-demand wherever they are (Kelliher and Anderson 84). Further, due to the widespread nature and interests of some industries, as well as the changing technological environment, the demand for a flexible working schedule is not only on-demand by employees but also is essential to organizations’ ability to retain their competitive edge (Murrell 14). The demand for flexible working conditions is influenced by major trends such as the rapid globalization, advanced technologies, new societal values, and the changing demographics.
Firstly, the rapid globalization has affected customers where businesses increasingly serve clients who expect access to goods and services 24/7. Companies must provide a flexible working environment where employees can meet customers’ needs at all times (Murrell 17). Secondly, globalization has led to concerns about climate change and conservation. As organizations seek to reduce car transportation of their employees to minimize their carbon print, flexible working provides an excellent alternative where workers can operate from home and save on gas and carbon emissions (Kelliher and Anderson 88). Secondly, advanced technologies facilitated by the Internet and computers among others such as video conferencing enables employees to work from wherever they are easily and as efficiently as if they were in the office (Murrell 26). On the other hand, the changing societal values have led to demands for work-life balance. Hence, as employees expect to be given more time to be with their families, organizations have no choice but to offer flexible working conditions (Murrell 23). Lastly, the changing demographics mean that more organizations are working with young and technologically savvy individuals who believe and demand flexible working conditions (Castells 238). Consequently, the above trends have pushed industries, especially in the developed world, to think and include flexible working conditions in their businesses.
Internet-enabled flexible working conditions present unique benefits, problems, and opportunities in the media industry. Firstly, workers are the biggest beneficiaries of a flexible job setting. For instance, they can work from wherever they are and on the go (Kelliher and Anderson 92). Media presents a working environment where individuals are on the lookout for unique content to compete with others in the industry. Consequently, employees can get out of the workplace and move to other areas where they can obtain content that can help them in their place of work. In addition, flexibility ensures that employees enjoy a better work-life balance, thus boosting their productivity in the workplace (Murrell 20). On the other hand, media producers can tap into the knowledge and skills of numerous individuals drawn from across the world to assist in the production of content that is competitive and entertaining to the audience (Kelliher and Anderson 92). Further, they can benefit from the ability to work from anywhere and support the operations of their organizations, regardless of their location.
Businesses benefit significantly from flexible working conditions in many ways. For instance, due to the increased demand for 24/7 content that can be streamed not only locally but also internationally, having adequate employees can be a highly expensive venture with staff for the day and night shifts (Murrell 41). However, flexible working conditions allow the organization to schedule its existing workers to work anytime and anywhere, thus ensuring minimal costs of meeting clients’ demands (Kelliher and Anderson 99). On the other hand, competition for talent is very stiff. In many instances, organizations have difficulties in attracting and maintaining the best employees. Further, with many businesses willing to pay higher for such talents, organizations have to find ways of ensuring that they can still obtain the services of the best individuals, even when they are not employed at the business (Kelliher and Anderson 103). Flexible working conditions present a significant avenue through which organizations can tap into the market space and obtain the services of the most talented individuals.
The flexible working conditions present various challenges to the workplace. Firstly, the likelihood of employees doing other things apart from work is very high, especially where no parameters are in place to guide and determine performance (Murrell 51; Webster 59). For instance, working from home may have many distractions that may affect employees’ productivity. On the other hand, organizations have a hard time managing fair performance appraisal between permanent and part-time employees (Kelliher and Anderson 85). Further, in a highly competitive environment of the media industry, providing training and development opportunities for employees is very crucial. However, it is tough for organizations to provide such opportunities to employees on flexible working schedules (Murrell 62). Lastly, creating a shared organizational culture is almost impossible when some employees are working out of the office.
Despite the above challenges, flexible working conditions have significant opportunities. For instance, organizations should invest in technologies that will facilitate effective management and control of flexible working. Such technologies will enable them to manage the performance of their employees for maximum outcomes (Murrell 64). Further, they must create flexible working conditions policies that will ensure proper management and guidelines on the implementation of such a working environment (Kelliher and Anderson 104). Working on-call also presents a significant opportunity for organizations to reduce the cost of managing a large workforce. Lastly, due to the increasingly prohibitive costs of office space, media houses have a good chance to cut their expenses by offering flexible working conditions that will reduce the number of individuals in the office (Murrell 68). Consequently, the working environment will continue to evolve and accommodate the demand for flexibility among employees.
In conclusion, flexible working conditions are a major emerging trend that organizations can only ignore at their peril. Flexibility at the workplace ensures that employees can work from wherever they are to avail 24/7 support to the 21st century-client. Further, it also ensures that employers can save on office space through fewer employees in the office. However, there are challenges of such flexibility since it is difficult to control performance of employees. As such, organizations should strive to implement flexible working conditions since they present the future of the workplace environment.
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