Media: A Win-Win Relationship

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By Sandy Zwyer

If you have concerns about what you’re reading, listening to, or watching on Canadian media, you can stop buying it; change the channel; or, in the case of the internet, adjust the settings on your computer. There is also something on your television set called the “V-chip” that will allow you to block shows.

However, there are ways to help the print and broadcast media (which have been around much longer than the internet) to better know what their audience wants without having to end your relationship.

First, media are commercially driven, which means that they need you. The more people in their audience, the more money they can charge advertisers for “delivering” their message. In turn, these advertising dollars allow the media to stay in business – even if you get your newspaper for free. Just take a look at how much space the ads take up, as opposed to how many articles there are.

If you don’t like what they do, it’s easy enough to go somewhere else. But what if your community has a limited choice of media? Or you’re loyal to most of what they do? Then your wisest move would be contact them directly to discuss and, hopefully, resolve your issue. [NOTE: It is in the media’s best interest to pay attention to feedback from their audience (you).]

For example, perhaps you’re reading the local news, or watching a local program, and you disagree with something someone has said. Well, if it’s news, there may not be a way to change the information, but maybe you can offer another perspective – or a correction. Plus, if the media is really portraying your community negatively, you are protected by industry regulations – with the possible exception of an item that is clearly marked as an opinion.

There is currently no separate organization that specifically regulates ethnic/language media, so these media fall under the jurisdiction of mainstream organizations. In the case of newspapers, Canada has six Press Councils covering eight provinces (one for the whole Atlantic region); three Media Ombudsmen; plus several organizations committed to the protection of journalists and freedom of expression.

But before approaching these, you need to send a “Letter to the Editor” and give the medium itself a chance to resolve your issue. Be sure to include your full name, address and contact information so that they can confirm the validity of your comment or complaint. If you don’t do that, they can’t do anything.

In the case of radio or television, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) has made its codes (standards of behaviour and performance) accessible to language communities, in addition to English and French. This information is available on their website at www.cbsc.ca/english/lang/index.php. Again, the process of making a complaint requires you to contact the broadcaster first.

If you object to a radio or television commercial, you are protected by a number of organizations. Just two of these are Telecaster Committee of Canada and Advertising Standards Canada. Both adhere to the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, but unfortunately their information is currently only available in English and French. Again, you must contact the medium first as they are obliged to share your information with the appropriate association, and because they also value feedback!

Remember , if you contact the media and are not satisfied with their response, there are other options still available to you. Maybe it’s not time to change the channel or the switch to another newspaper just yet.

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