I know the blog has been nearly deathly quiet this month, but I have a good reason: university. I’ve been reading a lot and studying and keeping up with papers, presentations, and various deadlines. Part of life as a Communications Major is studying the mass media and examining media and our media systems critically.

NewsWatch background information:

Newswatch Canada began as Project Censored Canada (PCC) in 1993 as a collaborative project of the School of Communication at SFU, the University of Windsor and the Canadian Association of Journalists. It was renamed NewsWatch Canada in 1998.”

One of the upper-level Communications courses is NewsWatch Canada: a semester of independent research on the diversity and thoroughness of news coverage nationally and globally for students interested in media-monitoring studies. They take a different theme for each year—such as representations of gender in the news, global warming, provincial elections, etc.—and this year was the top under-reported stories by traditional media sources.

Why this is important:

To quickly summarize, in the past 30 years, the mass media has slowly been consolidating to the point where (in America) 6 companies own 90% of the media.

This means that those six companies decide what stories get told, what angle they tell, and what doesn’t get reported on. There used to be strict ownership restrictions (I’m speaking from a North American perspective) where the owners of certain media secrots could not go into other sectors. The restrictions decreased and dropped away with the rise of the neoliberalist perspective of that free media (free as in liberated, not cost-free) would increase competition and therefore the diversity of offerings. In fact, it did the opposite of this.

The open structure led to a monopoly and concentration of ownership. The convergence of media is visible for example in Disney — they have television stations, films, books, toys, etc. For example, in Canada, Bell owns CTV and all their subchannels such as CTV2, Comedy Network, The Sports Network, The Discovery Channel, and E!; Bell Mobility for mobile, wireless, and internet; CHUM Limited including CHUM Radio, MuchMusic, MTV, MTV2, A Channel, Bravo!, Space; and national paper The Globe and Mail. [It’s hard to keep track, so: Source]

If you’re interested in learning more, here is the Wikipedia article for Concentration of Media Ownership, or there is a neat infographic by FrugalDad (mostly US data).

NewsWatch Canada’s 2011 Report:

The team of Communications students were looking at missing stories or under-reported news in mainstream media from September 2010 to August 2011. They compared major news reports and independent news sources and compiled a list of 100+ stories. The list was submitted to Communications professors at SFU who identified 25 that held a significant level of importance to Canadian citizens both nationally and internationally. The students thoroughly researched these stories and arranged the list according to importance.

The presentation of their research was today at SFU and they went over the top 10 stories, their significance, and the alternative news source that covered the story. In many cases, several non-mainstream news sources covered the stories, such as Canadian Dimension, This Magazine, The Tyee.com, The New Internationalist, and Briar Patch.

To see the full report of their research visit the NewsWatch site. The group has also been getting some news coverage locally: check out this article in The Georgia Straight.