Friday, November 06, 2009

Convergence Conference: All things Canadian

Catching up on some things from Thursday's sessions, who would have thought we'd have so much about Canada? Good stuff, and it points out how we need to broaden our research perspectives (yes, folks, consider that a pitch to contribute articles to The Convergence Newsletter).

In separate presentations Kim Kierans, King's College and Marc Edge, Sam Houston State took at look at the Canadian media landscape and concluded that the amount of consolidation there is becoming dangerous to democracy.

Edge went so far as to say that "If you want to see the future of media convergence, look north."

They painted a picture of three companies, CanWest, Quebecor and CTV, that have control of much of Canada's TV and newspapers, but that gained that control by going billions of dollars in debt. CanWest, of course, recently sought bankruptcy protection.

Kierens tended to have an eastern Caadian perspective, but as bad a picture as she painted, Edge, who still has his roots in Vancouver, said it gets worse the farther west you go.

The big battle now is over the companies' demand for a 50-cent-per-subscriber carriage fee from cable companies. The big three have closed some TV stations and have threatened to close others if they don't get the fee.

Meanwhile, Robert Bergland of Missouri Western State outlined what he and Kirby Strider have found in an analysis of how much multimedia Canadian outlets are using, and the bottom line is a lot less than in the U.S. or the U.K. For instance, about two-thirds of Canadian media outlets use some form of online video. In the U.S. it's three-quarters and the U.K., 85 percent. However, there is more audio (40 percent of Canadian sites, vs. 20 percent U.S. and 10 percent U.K.)

There also are relatively few outside blogs on Canada's bigger papers and similarly low use of audio slide shows.

Bottom line: Interactive multimedia is a lot less common in Canada. Possible reasons: Management less oriented toward it, less training and different relationships with print and broadcast – more cross-ownership. But the biggest reason, he said, may be lower rates of broadband penetration. Many areas in the northern and western provinces have relatively little broadband yet.

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