On the preceding article Ole left a comment that ended:
“. . . If only more people would become engaged, but sadly I look around at an ocean of apathy.”
My first prideful response is that things are changing. Blogs like this speak to audiences that grow from week to week. Online magazines The Tyee, Vancouver Observer and Georgia Straight provide alternative opinions on news, albeit in an eclectic mix of infotainment. We also know that traditional media has lost readership and influence. Public reaction to HST demonstrates this clearly. Despite support of all mainstream influences, public opposition to transferring tax burden from business to individual consumers was overwhelming. Not because it was poorly explained by government, rather because it was well explained by new media.
However, the elites fear Internet based commentaries put their authority at risk. The Wall Street Journal presents the most recent example of an unsurprising response:
The one remaining Egyptian Internet service provider was just shut down. . . The Noor Group, an Egyptian ISP that remained live throughout the nation’s Internet blackout that the government ordered last Thursday, no longer provides Internet service . . .”
Canada is not autocratic and comparable to Arab states. Nor is it democratic in the sense of political control being exercised by common people rather than any privileged class. Without doubt, this country is a plutocracy, accelerated through centralization of power by heads of government, federal and provincial. The increase in concentration of power at the center is unhealthy. It cedes authority of elected representatives to the leader’s entourage and key central agencies responsible to him or her.
Egyptian autocrats shut down the Internet quickly when resistance to authority began. Well, people, we’re on that road in Canada too. Plutocrats grow more nervous as they lose control of political messaging. They want Internet privacy eliminated and gateway controls. Electronic communication is already prospected for information of interest to authorities operating in total secrecy.
Interest in controlling the Internet is also economic, aimed at protecting financial interests of powerful cable suppliers such as Shaw, Bell, Telus, Videotron, etc. For example, Netflix Canada recently offered unlimited downloads of movies and TV programs for $8 a month, about the cost of a single HD movie rented from a cable company’s video-on-demand. That quickly led to Internet companies moving toward metered billing with easy approval from government regulators.
NDP digital affairs critic Charlie Angus said the CRTC’s decision to allow usage-based Internet billing will unfairly hit Canadian consumers in the pocket by limiting competition from online viewing sources.
“We’ve seen this all before with cell phones. Allowing the Internet Service Providers to ding you every time you download is a rip-off. Canada is already falling behind other countries in terms of choice, accessibility and pricing for the Internet. The large ISP-broadcast entities now have a tool for squashing their main competitors – both in internet and video services. We need clear rules that put consumers first.”
However, the relationship between governments and Canada’s integrated media giants is close. Each side serves the other, in ways obvious. Competition is limited and media profits are extraordinary, helped further by direct subsidies such as those paid to Rogers. Despite immense profits of monopoly cable providers, they pay less and less tax as both Victoria and Ottawa hurry to lower corporate income taxes. There is no wonder that media companies are locked in full embrace with government. The plutocracy looks after itself.
If ordinary citizens wait for someone else to resolve these problems, we will wait for ever, while those with power work to enlarge their own wealth, power and influence. The question remains: if our society fails, what will be left for their children and grandchildren?