Free Press Needs Workplace Democracy, by Marco Procaccini
Not Corporate Control
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
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
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
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
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.