Communications minister seeks ‘a diversity of voices’ on state role in media
By P.A. Sévigny
During a well-attended Monday morning press conference held in Montreal’s Grande Bibliothèque, Christine St. Pierre, Quebec’s Minister of Culture, Communications and the Status of Women, informed the city’s media that she intends to hold a series of public consultations before going ahead with the government’s plan to impose a new regulatory system upon the province’s media. Based upon a number of recommendations found in the recently released (January,’11) and much debated Payette Report, St. Pierre said she believed the public must be allowed to have its say before the government went ahead with any one of the report’s several recommendations.
“These consultations are just part of a process,” said the minister, “by which we can arrive at a common consensus about the kinds of vision, thinking and actions we must take in order to guarantee the public’s access to information within the context of today’s accelerated technology.”
During a short and succinct address, St. Pierre cited several problems which continue to plague Quebec’s journalists and their credibility within Quebec’s shifting media environment. Based upon a number of observations and assorted conclusions as described in the Payette Report, Quebec’s journalism is presently defined by an “inconsistent accessibility to a diverse range of news content across the province, varying by both region and individual,” and by an “imbalance between journalists and news agency leaders and between professional journalists and other amateur or professional news gatherers.”
The Payette Report felt that this is a situation in which government should intervene, but St. Pierre feels that the public should have its say on the role of the state. The consultation process is expected to take place over six weeks in 10 cities throughout the province. Apart from discussing the possibility of a professional status for journalists, St. Pierre also wants to strengthen the Quebec Press Council which already acts as a dispute resolution panel with a mandate to promote compliance with ethical standards regarding media rights and responsibilities. She also wants to discuss the possibility of having Télé-Québec examine the feasibility of creating an online news media networking project in partnership with various community, cooperative and other independent media outlets. Her final major point she would like to focus on in the consultations is the possibility of having the government provide more support for community media in Quebec’s assorted regions. When asked what she specifically considered to be the most serious problem affecting the media in Quebec, the minister stressed how Quebec needs “a diversity of voices.”
“That’s why community newspapers are so important,” she said. “They’re the ones who carry the news people care about.”
Anyone who is interested in being a part of the consultation has until September 23 to prepare a memorandum for the minister and her commissioners.