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Feds and Quebec clueless on rural realities

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Added: Wed, 01/31/2018 - 11:36pm
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Lynne Lavery
Éditorialiste Invitée
Guest Editorialist

The demise of many community newspapers has been in the news, most shut down by large corporations. We are very fortunate in the Pontiac to have two long-standing independent community papers: our “small but far-reaching” Pontiac Journal and the Equity.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy keeping everything going…increased costs and the competition from social media are only two of the challenges that we face. The biggest challenge is the clear fact that our federal and provincial representatives don’t seem to get why community newspapers are so important for the health of our communities and our democracy.
According to News Media Canada, which represents daily and weeklies newspapers, recent research indicates that almost three-quarters of Canadians consider newspapers to be the most appropriate media for their governments to inform them about programs and services, especially in smaller markets (under 1000,000 population). Besides this research, the Commissioner of Official Languages has released a report confirming that between 2006 and 2015, annual federal advertising spending decreased from nearly $2 million to $430,000 for community newspapers, and $730,000 to $200,000 for community radio, which equates to a total loss to communities of more than $20 million over 10 years.
Where is that money going? The feds and Quebec have decided that print media is a “non-viable model” and they now spend their advertising money with Google and Facebook.  Let me ask: how many of you have heard of government programs while you’re online checking your emails or Facebook? Should we have to “search” for information, or should the government have the obligation to inform us? 
Oh, but wait, you say….there’s talk of government help for print media: both feds and the province have plans for us. However, again, our governments prove they just don’t understand, because their plan is give newspapers (large and small, no matter what their market is) money to go digital.  
This approach may work in urban areas, where everyone is hyper-connected, but the Pontiac, like most rural communities has a different reality. It’s a reality where we don’t even have complete internet or cell phone coverage.  Where Bell Canada won’t consider putting up a tower in Pontiac Ouest for at least another 18 months -- and then the low population density here may continue to make it “un-viable” for the profit-based company. 
Newspapers don’t want or need handouts.  Given recent studies and reports, we ask the powers-that-be to read those reports and recommendations, and realize a one-size-fits-all approach does not work, here. We, your local newspapers, are reaching our community, thanks to the businesses who support us through their advertising; it would be good to have the support of our governments to keep our communities informed and our democracy alive.
See page 27 for more on this topic.