By Sandy Zwyer
This column originally appeared in Canadian Newcomer, Issue 36.
Now that you’ve made the move to Canada and picked up your copy of Canadian Newcomer – “The How-To Magazine for New Immigrants” – you may be looking for additional sources of information about your new homeland. If you’ve not yet explored Canada’s ethnic media, they are here for you, and the selection of media (ethnic or otherwise) that we have at our fingertips is as diverse as this land is vast.
At 80+ years of age, journalist Ben Viccari, embarked on a cross-country journey to examine the growth and history of Canada’s ethnic media. The result was The Third Element, a documentary and overview of ethnic media in Canada that will stand as a handy introduction to its development and why ethnic media is both thriving and very much needed today. (Copies of The Third Element and its award-winning companion documentary, The M Word – Canada’s Multiculturalism: A Work in Progress, may both be purchased for home, personal use at www.insyncvideo.ca).
If you are ever tempted to “opt out” of something because of lack of energy, you might want to remember the accomplishments of this one man of Italian/English heritage who actively championed Canadian ethnic media virtually non-stop until his passing in May of 2010 at age 91.
Similarly, the next time you find yourself complaining about the “lack of choice” on Canadian television, you might want to think again. According to the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB), “Canadians enjoy more access to both domestic and foreign television services on a per capita basis than anywhere else in the world…twice as many choices as the UK, three times as many as France, five times as many as Japan and more than 10 times as many as the US, the world’s biggest media powerhouse.” (Note: these figures exclude local/community channels, so a case can be made that we have even more choice).
When we factor in radio as well as television and focus only on “ethnic” services, according to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) – the regulatory body for Canadian broadcasting – Canada’s ethnic broadcasting choices are expanding and services now include: 6 ethnic television stations and 21 radio stations; 5 general-interest, third-language specialty services and over 190 ethnic pay and specialty services (approved for digital distribution).
You may also be interested to know that by law, even mainstream television stations must reflect Canada’s ethnocultural diversity, “accurately, fairly and without stereotypes” – on both sides of the camera. If you notice that a broadcaster is NOT doing this, please feel free to contact them directly to voice your concerns. It is your right to do so. If you don’t receive a satisfactory answer or are treated unfairly, your next step is to contact the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (www.cbsc.ca). The CBSC is an independent, non-governmental organization and it is their role to deal with complaints and queries from the public about Canada’s private broadcasters’ programming. To further underline their accessibility to all Canadians, the CBSC has translated its broadcast “codes of conduct” into over 40 languages.
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