Born to broadcast

Everyone who has studied Canadian history has at least heard about the Family Compact, a ‘wealthy, conservative, [and] elite’ group that controlled the government of Upper Canada (Ontario) from just past the War of 1812 and up to approximately 1841 (though some historians contend their influence lasted into the 1880s).

I thought about the notion this weekend when I read about Astral Media’s proposed takeover of Standard Broadcasting (Greenbergs vs. Slaights).

And in fact, isn’t the Family Compact what this country’s broadcast media is all about?

It doesn’t take a William Lyon Mackenzie to see how our TV and cable conglomerates bear more than a striking resemblance to the well-placed Compact of yore:

  • CTVglobemedia – Thomson family which recently acquired holdings of the powerful though feuding Waters
  • Canwest Global – Asper family (relocated to UC) has gobbled up MacMillan and Co.
  • Rogers – of the eponymous cable dynasty
  • Corus – Western Canada’ Shaw clan – cable cousins to Rogers
  • Quebecor – M. Peladeau – much of the same but with a fancier suit
  • Astral – need I say more?

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia: ‘The compact, centred at York [Toronto], was linked by family, patronage and shared political and social beliefs to the professional and mercantile upper middle class.’

Not all of these scions are HQ’d in York, though many of them are (and virtually all are listed on the TSX). But collectively they have a huge impact (influence?) on the flow of news and information in this country. On how the public behaves and thinks.

As they say, the more things change…



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