No Surprise: Corporate media not full of surprises when it comes to investigating the misdeeds of sponsors

The Winnipeg Sun and Peak of the Market are at it again.

The Winnipeg Sun and CJOB have both been waging a relentless campaign against the Canadian Wheat Board. And this has been echoed to a lesser extent across the Sun News Network.

The arguments against the CWB are predictable and in line with the Conservative Party of Canada orthodoxy and the neoliberal mentality more generally. The wheat monopoly enjoyed by the CWB intrudes on the rights of farmers to pursue their own interests on the free market by themselves. A union of farmers at a single desk? This is out of step with our contemporary moment.

In order to let farmers truly express themselves, they must be allowed to make their own decisions on the free market. So the Harper Government takes a bold step, intervenes in the business of farmers, and abolishes a government entity supported by many (though its unclear whether the CWB is supported by the majority of wheat and barley farmers).

If you agree with this summary, you’re probably nodding your head with me right now in frustration with the decision to abolish a union-led wheat monopoly. But if you disagree, you’re probably thinking something different, something along these lines provided by Lorne Gunter for SSN:

“Even if it could be shown beyond any doubt that the board made every single farmer richer, there would still be no justification for forcing a single grain grower to sell his products only to a federal agency.

In a free country, we have to be free to make our own choices, even if those choices are wrongheaded.

But the board’s monopoly was never about protecting farmers as a collective. It was always only about making sure bolder, free-market farmers didn’t make more than their less-adventuresome neighbours who didn’t want to be bothered marketing their own grain.

The board was more about envy than equality.”

In other words, the tradeoff, that those most able to sell their wares on the free market lose the imperative to do so, is not worth securing all farmers a reasonably good return on their wheat. Those in favour of abolishing the CWB might agree it’s about time that mediocrity’s shackles on the few spectacular successes and failures is broken. The monopoly violates a basic individual economic right of our time. Even if that monopoly is largely farmer-centric and democratic (if unfortunately secretively, a.k.a suspiciously).

But, supposing instead of a farmer centric monopoly, a similar monopoly over farmed goods was run, not by farmers with a slightly leftist agenda, but a couple of corporate goons and a Larry Macintosh, a publicly community-spirited but actual old boys-club member (this is the song I imagine Tom Broad Brodbeck, Charles Adler and Larry Macintosh listen to while they jerk each other off on a bed of potato skins) with a savvy PR scheme. Even if we disagree about the right of farmers to enforce a monopoly on wheat to the claimed benefit of all, certainly we can all agree that a monopoly that resorts to intimidation and thuggery, and continues to push small, entrepreneuring individual farmers out of the industry should be exposed for what it is and how it does business.

You’d think the Winnipeg Sun and CJOB would be all over this. What more do they love then busting a fraud publicly like this? But, given the corporate sponsorship of the newspaper, both stations are willing to ignore the ruthless squashing of entrepreneurial potato and other root vegetable farmers.

So, the question that, for some (actually a totally logical)  reason, nobody is asking is this: why then, do SNN and CJOB continue to accept major advertising dollars from Peak of the Market, rather than exposing them for their monopoly on potatoes, one which they protect and extend through a shrewd mix of intimidation and extensive public relations.

If the journalistic credentials of anyone at either of those media outlets is to be awakened from its corporate dormancy, this is the issue they must confront wrapped in the reason they never will. Because, at a time when circulation is down and listeners are given options they never had before, corporate sponsorship is more important than ever before. First and foremost, maintain the sponsors. Don’t take chances, don’t shake things up. Don’t shit where you eat.

At best, somehow Peak of the Market was able to insinuate itself with the Winnipeg Sun before someone there realized what exactly they were dealing with. Or, more likely, a corporate entity that seeks profits largely through advertisement recognized a fellow crony, and teamed up with Peak of the Market for the financial benefit of them both.

As quoted earlier, SNN journalist John Gunther made the principled argument that even if as a result of the CWB monopoly all farmers prospered as never before, it would still be wrong to allow it to exist. So, certainly we must all then agree: A monopoly enforced through coercion must be identified for what it is, exposed and opposed. Otherwise, to allow crony capitalism such as this to exist will only further corrode political and economic development in Manitoba.

The fact that this is hasn’t been pursued in any meaningful way by SNN and CJOB is revelatory: this is but one example of how corporate influence undermines the institution on which we depend for our information about the world we live in. It is more proof that freedom of the press offers no protection from the insinuating influence of a dollar.

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