Média Sud and the government subsidy problem

The Gazette’s suburban reporter David Johnston has a piece on Média Sud, a “hyperlocal” (i.e. local) news website setup by community newspaper PointSud and community radio station 103.3FM that covers the south shore.

The article mainly focuses on an apparent controversy: the fact that Média Sud works off government grants while its competition (community newspapers run by megacorporations Transcontinental and Quebecor or by Les Hebdos Montérégiens) pay their own expenses.

In addition to being unfair to the competition (you’ll note it’s that competition that’s pointing this out), they also argue that it puts them in a conflict of interest: How can you criticize a government that’s paying your bills?

Of course, as the article points out, the corporate-owned weeklies also get assistance from the government in the form of postal rebates, not to mention all those ads for council meetings and whatnot.

Instead, the real threat is that Média Sud is run by motivated people who aren’t beholden to the megacorporations. Their goal is to present news, not suck up to the boss in the hope of getting a promotion to senior vice-president. And because what they have online isn’t crap, browsers are going to start flocking to them.

Sorry guys, that’s the thing about the Internet: You can’t just keep shovelling crap into people’s faces and expect them to take it forever.

But let’s get back to that government subsidy thing, because that still kind of bothers me.

I’ve always dreamed about creating my own little media empire, expanding Fagstein WorldMedia Ltd. into a true independent source for regional news. I’ve considered the costs of running a one-man newsgathering operation, and whether advertising alone would cover that with enough left over to pay me a proper salary.

But I’d never considered the idea of asking the government to just pay me outright.

I’m not a conservative wacko or anything, but when I hear that government grants pay the entire minimum-wage salaries of private employees (whose employers top them up to the tune of about $2 or $3 an hour), I’m shocked. Is this what we spend our tax money on? Does the media really need this much help to survive? Or is this just handouts for the sake of handouts?

Here’s hoping Média Sud grows up into a real local news source and grows out of its need for government funding.

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