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Free Press Needs Workplace Democracy15 pixel spacer jpg15 pixel spacer jpg15 pixel spacer jpgPrivate Profit Centres

Free Press Needs Workplace Democracy,
Not Corporate Control

by Marco Procaccini
The recent decree by Global CanWest empire bosses imposing a single national editorial, which cannot be challenged by staff, on its newspaper outlets clearly shows that a true free press cannot exist as long as media outlets remain under the control of undemocratic corporate capitalist agencies.

CanWest big boss Izzy Asper seems to feel that freedom of the press means exclusively that owners and bosses push their points of view to the exclusion of all else without any regard to the work and findings of journalists, production and technical staff and researchers. This should be truly disturbing to anyone who believes in a free press and a democratic society.

The National Post, Asper's flagship paper, said, "Press freedom is freedom from state censorship; it is not the freedom of journalists to write whatever they choose, regardless of the opinions of their employer."

Obviously, there is absolutely no disagreement with the idea of media being legally protected from abridgement or interference by the state.

However, Asper conveniently ignores the fact that the state almost consistently interferes in the free press by protecting the exclusive, and in many respects dictatorial, commercial property ownership and administration privileges that he and other industrialists enjoy-quite often at the expense of both journalists and the public.

The truth is freedom of the press has nothing to do with corporate bosses imposing their will on journalists and overriding the free flow of information with their own views and agendas.

Media is not simply an institution or collection of stock to be bought and sold by elite capital agencies or governments. Rather, it is a process by which journalists and other media workers research and compile facts, information and perspectives and then disseminate these to a wide audience.

It is this process, and nothing else, that gives media both value and meaning to people. It is the enabler for not only freedom of the press, but freedom of information, speech and expression, as well as, to a lesser degree, freedom of association. This is what media really is, and it is the work of journalists, researchers, production and technical staff, that makes it happen, not corporate ownership.

In fact, ownership by capitalists like Asper is somewhat like totalitarian infringement on press freedoms, since it is their narrow agendas and interests, and not the accurate reporting of information or the public interest, which determines what the media will do and how it will behave.

Asper angrily told a press conference that journalists who exercise their investigative and editorial prerogative in making the press work are simply "Saying whatever they like and the owners be damned."

The truth is for the most part, journalists do not say "whatever they like," but rather what they learn and discover in their investigations. Instead it is those like Mr. Asper and their appointed publishers who routinely intervene in the free flow of information created by journalists and replace it with their own editorial slant.

This is why worker ownership and democratic control of media enterprises is so critical to having a free press. If the owners of the press are not themselves journalists working directly to create the free flow of information, then quite frankly, they should be damned, since they are nothing more than an anti-democratic abridgement to freedom of the press.

Private Profit Centres

by Jerry West, The Record

Despite what some may want to believe, given all of the negative propaganda that has been flying around the past few years, the healthcare system in BC for the average person is quite good. In fact, when compared to the US system in which I once participated, it is far better unless you are very wealthy. All of that may be about to change.

The current BC government has a hidden mandate, at least hidden to those who refuse to make a close examination, to pump up the engines of private profiteering at the expense of the public welfare. This is understandable given that those who bankroll this government need to find new sources of revenue as the traditional avenues of production becomes less and less lucrative. The obvious new bonanza for these people is to move away from the production of goods and into the public sector, turning what are now essential public services into private profit centres. This transfer of wealth from the public purse to the private one, of course, is called privatization, and it is what the current government is all about.

In the healthcare field the government promised to protect clinical services, but has recently passed the Health and Social Services Delivery Improvement Act which will do far from that. What the Act does do is detail a long list of services that will now be considered non- clinical, therefore not protected and thus available for spinning off to the private sector. Among these services one finds x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, mammography, ultrasound, dieticians and respiratory therapists, just to name a few. The implications for the affordability of healthcare in the province with this new law are considerable.

One problem is that it is but a short step from being a non-clinical service which is merely privatized but whose cost may be controlled, at least in theory, to a de- listed service where the price is whatever the provider determines they want to set. Once this happens, contrary to what some economic fantasies may predict, in must have fields like healthcare the costs to the patient have nowhere to go but up.

The machines used in many of these services are not cheap, and in a competitive environment there will be more machines than required to meet the demands. Since the providers of the machines, unlike the government, are not in business to meet the healthcare needs of the people, but to make a profit, the costs will rise proportionately to the number of machines in a given area. The more machines that there are, the fewer patients each machine will have, and the more money each use of that machine will have to recover to meet profit goals. And consumer choice? Who, faced with mortgaging their house for critical medical procedures or betting that they will survive without them will choose the latter? It will be the ultimate seller's market.

The privatizers will tell you that real costs will go down, and things will be more efficient. What they really mean is that they plan to avoid unionized workplaces and fair and equitable wage and labour standards. They are counting on reducing well paid technicians to low paid ones happy to have a job. Unfortunately it may not work that way in a world where there is currently a shortage of qualified people to perform the highly skilled services that are required. Already in BC there is more demand for health science professionals than can be met, and foreign employers are offering wage and benefit packages that are quite attractive. With a regressive private system in place and an unattractive labour policy, look for greater numbers of professionals to head for more friendly climes.

If the government is serious about health in BC it will give up its privatizing fantasy and return to a full public model of healthcare.

The Columbia Journal
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