The Department of Canadian Heritage is silent on why it cut funding for the country’s only independent labour periodical while paying millions to media corporations under the same program.
Newly-released Access to Information documents confirm subsidies to the periodical Our Times were cut 65 percent to some $10,000 a year as larger five-figure grants were paid to Sun Media Corp., Torstar Corp., Black Press Group and Transcontinental Media Group Ltd.
“We never got a good answer as to why we were turned down,” said Liz Ukrainetz, Our Times business manager. “We’ve been told it ‘was not in the best interest of Canadians.’”
The department told Blacklock’s questions the magazine failed to meet “eligible” circulation requirements, but provided no details.
Heritage Canada pays out grants under a Canadian Periodical Fund intended to assist small publications to “overcome market disadvantages,” according to its mission statement.
Our Times was founded in Toronto in 1981 as a “unique forum in Canadian media for the voice of Canadian working people,” according to its funding applications. After receiving $29,790 in 2007, the periodical saw its funding eliminated altogether in 2008, then partially restored in subsequent grant periods to $10,505 last year.
“They turned us down though we met all criteria,” said Ukrainetz.
Access documents contained no explanation for the funding cut.
The same Periodical Fund paid Sun Media Corp. $809,301 over two years for a chain of 25 company weeklies in Québec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Black Press Group, the largest newspaper publisher in British Columbia, received $565,988 for twenty-three weeklies in British Columbia and Alberta. Transcontinental Media Group Ltd., listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, received $376,754 in grants for seventeen weeklies in Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labrador. And another publicly-traded media conglomerate, Torstar Corporation, received $245,866 for nine Ontario weeklies published by its Metroland Media Group subsidiary.
“Often big media ignore labour coverage,” said Ukrainetz. “Conservative media do not think unions are necessary. Hopefully the internet will change that.”
By Tom Korski