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CFBB Opinion : Council’s proposed motion to hold media accountable June 14

Firstly, we fully support the freedom of the press and an open and transparent City Hall.

Overall we feel the Brampton Guardian has done a good job reporting on the important issues emanating from City Hall this term of Council.  As well, we feel that the media has played an important role in shaping the course of Brampton politics and history over the past few terms of Council.  Without the efforts of the Toronto Star, many important issues and scandals might not have been uncovered or exposed. We simply don’t have enough mainstream media outlets in Brampton to report on the daily issues that affect our growing and diverse city. Unlike other major Canadian cities, Brampton does not have its own TV or radio station. Our own Guardian has been incorporated into large conglomerate of community papers with offices located outside of our city with scarce resources to cover all of our issues.  Even articles covering important topics are streamlined and compressed  to fit in within a certain word count to make sure that there’s room for revenue generating advertisements.  Press conferences are a rare event and there is no question period like at Queens Park or Parliament Hill.  Even Rogers Cable 10, a staple for covering municipal politics will be shutting down next month after decades of local coverage. Most residents will now have to rely on social media and the internet to try and weed through the vast amounts information and disinformation available online.

We believe the media must be able to ask the tough questions of our elected officials and receive a timely response so that  politicians are held accountable. Having said that, the media also needs to accurately report and not selectively use quotes or statements that might be taken out of context. It must work both ways for our democratic system to function well so that we can trust both our media and government institutions.

As we have witnessed south of the border, a statement or comment can be interpreted quite differently by one side or the other and used to present a  favourable view or spin.  Lately terms like “fake news” and “alternative facts”  have regrettably entered our mainstream vocabulary. If you ask someone’s opinion on the street, there appears to be confusion and mistrust of the politicians and the media.  These days, most believe the truth might lie somewhere in the middle.

The motion that was tabled at Wednesday’s Committee of Council meeting we feel is unnecessary. Just because there might be an unfavourable slant or a quote taken out of context, doesn’t require a knee jerk and sudden response by Council. However, there needs to be a mechanism to ensure  that what happens at City Hall is as open and transparent as possible so that the media doesn’t present an alternate view of the events.

This is why it’s important that the city accelerates its plans to live stream and record both the Committee of Council and Council meetings on the City of Brampton website.  This will allow residents the opportunity  to view and decide for themselves if the media accurately report on events.  As well, minutes of all meetings should be per vadum and not simply someone’s interpretation of what was discussed around the Council table.  We are also supportive of the idea for Council to have an opportunity to clarify or comment on any media story as part of the meeting agenda. This could stir potentially healthy debate on important and sometimes controversial issues.

Finally, we believe that there has always been an adversarial relationship between politicians and the media.  This is nothing new. Without it, our democracy is threatened and trust eroded.

Chris Bejnar and Doug Bryden

Co-Chairs CFBB


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