Back at the end of the 1980s, I had the opportunity to tour the Soviet Union. Upon disembarking from our Aeroflot plane in Moscow, we were ushered into customs much like we would be in any other country. Where things differed was with what the customs agents were searching for. It wasn’t drugs or firearms they were concerned with as much as magazines, books, and newspapers. The Soviets didn’t want to allow unfettered information to reach citizens and it was seized if found.

It was an eye-opening life lesson for me as a young man coming from a free nation. Authoritarian governments must control the flow of information to their citizens if they want to maintain power. Despite the efforts on the part of the Soviet Union to keep citizens from being exposed to free discourse and information from the outside world, it still managed to trickle in. As people in the USSR learned the outside world wasn’t living in the same state of privation and were enjoying individual rights, they found inspiration to challenge the state and the Soviet bloc finally collapsed.

While Canada is far from reaching the condition of the former Soviet Union, the trend toward having state-controlled media should concern everyone. The fall budget update from the federal government included an expansion of media bailout funds for Canadian media outlets. The attempted shakedown of social media platforms through Bill C-18 failed, so the government increased direct subsidies to media organizations.

Media outlets have had a tough time over the last 30 years. The advent of the internet and streaming TV services has decimated the once massive media sector. The loss of classified ads alone to sites like Craigslist and Kijiji cost major newspapers a revenue source of thousands of dollars per day per outlet. Layoffs in the media world have become endemic as outlets contract in size or shut down altogether. The loss of thousands of reporters and columnists has harmed news coverage and critical commentary terribly. Having the government step in to fill that void through subsidies could be a cure worse than the disease, however.

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Iron Will

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