OpenMedia, a cross between an activist group, a think tank, and a startup, have released the results of their study of the potential for a broad-based media revolution in Canada. It’s available as a PDF download or a Scribd document (also below) and they have a related online survey that you can fill out to give them more information on the state of digital advocacy and activism in Canada.
Here is the Executive Summary:
The research comprised three basic elements. An online questionnaire was prepared and distributed to current and potential allied NGOs. The first step in this respect was to prepare a list of Canadian NGOs in different issue sectors that might be expected to have a stake in media content or regulation.
The second part of the research entailed telephone and in-person interviews with key individuals in Canadian advocacy groups, selected by OpenMedia.ca on the basis of their potential for future involvement.
Thirdly, a workshop of 19 activists, advocates, academics, trade unionists, and independent media producers, including many members of the OpenMedia.ca national steering committee was held May 26, 2009, at WACC’s global headquarters in Toronto. The meeting discussed communications/media policy issues in Canada, current activities and campaigns of OpenMedia.ca, the initial results of the online survey, the work in this area done by workshop participants, and potential future strategies and campaigns.
Strikingly, there was overwhelming recognition of the importance of the Internet to the work of NGOs and unanimous endorsement of the principle of Net Neutrality as a regulatory underpinning for equitable and affordable access to the Internet. That finding suggests that OpenMedia.ca’s particular emphasis on the SaveOurNet.ca campaign and its recent change of name has a pragmatic as well as principled grounding.
At the same time, our respondents expressed concerns about other media issues as well, including the quality and performance of Canadian journalism at a time of large-scale cutbacks in newsrooms, and the overall democratic performance of major Canadian media. Respondents expressed support for a range of solutions, including structural changes in media (e.g. more diverse ownership), better journalism and content, regulatory and financial support for independent and community media, and better funding and public resources for public service media. The diversity of perspectives and priorities evident in respondents’ views of media issues should make it possible to find partners for campaigns on a range of issues.
Shared values of media openness, access, and innovation (defined not only in technological but also social and political terms) may offer a route to popularize support for at least some dimensions of media reform. Indeed, the comments unequivocally supportive of equitable access to the Internet, from both survey and interviews, suggest that an alternative strategy to coalesce NGOs around this issue and related frames could be productive.
While the research showed an encouraging willingness to engage in collaboration with each other, it also suggested that certain factors limit the formation of a media reform movement. These include the lack of a unified progressive social movement in Canada, as well as the disinclination to date of existing progressive organizations to recognize and act upon the relevance of communications structures and policies to their own primary mandates. One key task for a media reform movement is to make existing progressive social movements aware of the relevance of media issues. Internet access and Net Neutrality seem to constitute an especially promising entry point.
OpenMedia.ca is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to advance and support an open and innovative communications system in Canada. Our primary goal is to increase public awareness and informed participation in Canadian media, cultural, information, and telecommunication policy formation.