Canada's Media Exports of the Future--Vice and Real News--Compete for Our Attention
By Danny Schechter
New York, New York: Oh Canada.
Thank you for your media minds and many alternative outlets. Thank you for Marshall McCluhan for teaching us how to think about media in new ways. And, for the dedication of your critics and activists and models of independent production to the left of your BBC cloned Canadian Broadcasting Corporation which is, or used to be, to the left of most TV outlets here in the lower 48, especially PBS.
Check out Independentmedia.ca for a list of projects of note. Their directory calls it: the "largest resurgence in independent media activity in decades," but, also notes, alas, and admits, "In Canada, as elsewhere, diverse efforts involving thousands of people have arisen. However, these efforts remain largely obscure to the vast majority of Canadians."
And that's the problem, isn't it, what with many so many Indy media efforts that lack the money and marketing knowhow to find or build outlets with a mass impact?
In this season of our discontent, ay, two Made-In-Canada imports are hell bent on making a big splash here in the United States of Media.
They are very different, and the one that is more commercial and audacious, and just dripping with the avaricious attitudes of the 'hipeousie,' is being showered with attention and gobs of money with the goal of creating a multi-billion dollar empire.
That brand has one easy to remember name: Vice, with all the naughty salaciousness that that implies.
Based in Brooklyn "in the house," where a new generation of artists and wannabes have settled, it may be acquired by TimeWarner which needs to revive and renew its CNN News brand and is hoping to go 'all the vice all the time' on what was its unwatched and failing Headline News Channel.
Anything for positioning, never mind its social impact. Anything for ratings and revenues! Even Vice!
At the same time, it is unclear if the ad world and the Vice world can merge. Reports the Wall Street Journal: ""Digital ad buyers are enamored with Vice Media--and they see a great fit between the media upstart and Time Warner, s hould the two firms figure out how to work together. As for whether Vice's ad momentum warrants a valuation of any of the multi-billion dollar numbers that have been floated of late, that's open to serious debate."
The other Canadian concoction has a conscience and raises consciousness. It is more of an antidote to US TV. It brands itself The Real News Network (TRNN) and is taking a very different approach after years of fundraising: opening a new building with state of the art studios and community based programs in downtown Baltimore, visible to the millions passing on to Washington.
TRNN was founded by Paul Jay, a filmmaker and former producer of a respected issues debate program at CBC. He is a journalist of talent and ambition determined to build a globally oriented progressive media network with strong roots in communities of pain.
For years, we have seen TV shows like the Wire tell us about the drug culture in Baltimore's inner city. Now, he wants to offer the values and analysis found in the city's exploding culture of art, activism and hip-hop as a model for a bottom up network that can expand nationwide. He is in the business to promote change, more than himself, to do good more than do well.
I have visited the new digs at Real News and they are impressive, as is the multi-cultural and multi-talented staff he has attracted.