Big Media and Oil Interests: Polluting Democracy

BarsamianOn Friday, March 28, the Media Democracy Project hosted the renowned author and director of Alternative Radio, David Barsamian, for a talk on media, capitalism and climate change. Given that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report on climate change last week, this talk was very timely. Barsamian covered a wide range of topics throughout the evening, and kept a lively pace. He discussed the mainstream media’s silence on climate change, how journalists are under a subtle and effective system of self-censorship (partly out of individual journalists’ fear of reprisal from key decision-makers and sources), the myth of the free market, and the need for collective action to tackle these global issues. Since Barsamian lives and works in the United States, several of his examples had a very American focus. If we examine the situation closer to home though, we still see the same picture being painted.

In Canada, it’s becoming apparent that the conversation around the environment is being tightly controlled. High profile news anchors are being paid to speak at oil-friendly conventions, prominent journalists are being laid off, Canadian scientists are being censored, and oil interests are working to buy good media coverage. Such a system means that the voices of corporations, fossil-fuel interests, and climate change contributors are heard over those of our communities. But if we look beyond the issue of oil, and examine the bigger picture, we can see that the media promotes a much larger system of environmental degradation. The media encourages a fast-paced consumer lifestyle, and promotes a culture of consumption with little regard for the environmental and social consequences.

Good journalism is key to a healthy democracy. There are lots of great organizations doing investigative reporting on environmental issues, such as The Tyee, The Vancouver Observer,, and programs like Democracy North on Vancouver Coop Radio CFRO 100.5FM (the same network that airs Barsamian’s Alternative Radio). If you’re tired of the conversation that Big Media and Big Oil continues to dominate, then consider supporting independent media. Even a small contribution each month can make a difference. Also check out the Media Democracy Project, as they host a number of free public events throughout the year on key media reform issues.