Corporate media concentration is still a threat say professors

We disagree that concerns about the “perils of media concentration” are as dated as the hula hoop (Hot About The Media – editorial, June 23), wrote a trio of communications professors that included David Skinner, professor in York’s Communications Studies Program, Faculty of Arts, in a letter to The Globe and Mail June 27. Rather than “media fragmentation”, the group said, the real problem faced by commercial media is “audience fragmentation” that is driving concentration of ownership as corporations strive to reassemble audiences across various media platforms, often using the same content.

It is a myth, they continued, that the Internet resolves problems of scarcity of supply. Most blogs simply comment on news reports and cannot match the resources of Bell Globemedia. The most visited news sites on-line are owned by the largest media corporations.

Finally, they wrote, you raise the bogeyman of government regulation when market forces have been most responsible for trends of ownership concentration and hyper-commercialization. As all the public inquiries into the Canadian media illustrate, serving markets and serving the public interest are not the same thing. By cynically dismissing these inquiries as “doorstoppers,” The Globe and Mail exercised its corporate muscle rather than intellectual leadership.

Teachers face higher payments to pension plan

A new estimate of what Ontario teachers should set aside for an average retirement age of 57 will be daunting for young teachers and other retirement savers, wrote finance columnist James Daw in the Toronto Star June 27. “There is an element of unfairness (to both),” says Chris Robinson, a professor of finance at York’s Atkinson School of Administrative Studies, who is brave enough to say so while married to a teacher. Young teachers will pay much more over their careers to enjoy the same level of benefits guaranteed to retirees and older teachers.

Robinson and York honorary degree recipient Claude Lamoureux (LLD ‘06), president of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, say several factors explain the increase in contribution rates, and difference between the teachers’ plan and that of firefighters and police. Teachers won the right to retire once their years of service and age total 85, like the police and firefighters, without having made contributions to pay for this costly option. Robinson says it’s extremely expensive to shave 2.5 years from a working career, and extend the period of retirement.

“The province and the teachers’ unions should have made it absolutely clear to the teachers that, if you do this (get this improvement), this is what could happen,” Robinson argued. “Junior people will have to pay more.” Robinson suspects that young teachers will end up subsidizing senior teachers and retirees as a result of the increase in contributions. But Lamoureux says he cannot predict what the plan’s actuaries will say about this.

Lazar thinks new airline is timed for success

This fall, Ottawa will be among the first of 17 planned routes of less than 500 kilometres distance from Toronto’s Island Airport offered by Porter Airlines, reported The Ottawa Citizen June 27. “Ironically, all the politics and complications have worked in Porter’s favour,” says Fred Lazar, professor at York’s Schulich School of Business. “If this had gone ahead in 2002 when it first surfaced, its success would have been far less certain. The market then was still crowded and volatile, the economy wasn’t as strong. Now, the timing couldn’t be better.” He adds that this time around, the industry has not responded to strong economic conditions by automatically increasing capacity and running up costs. “There’s plenty of spillover demand for Porter to pick up now,” says Lazar. “And they’re targeting a narrow niche where there’s strong demand.”

Montengro recognition boosts federalist case on Quebec, says Monahan

Canada’s decision to recognize Montenegro as an independent country after it voted to separate from Serbia sets a precedent that would force Ottawa to recognize a vote by Quebecers in favour of sovereignty, Bloc Québecois Leader Gilles Duceppe said Monday. Duceppe’s comments came after Canada quietly recognized Montenegro’s independence, reported CanWest News Service June 27. Others, however, say the precedent set by Montenegro actually benefits the federalist cause. Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said in the case of Montenegro, the European Union proposed a threshold of 55 per cent – higher than the 50-per-cent-plus-one threshold sovereigntists maintain.

Legendary guitarist studied at York

When Don Ross (BFA ‘83) takes the stage at the Woodstock Market Theatre Saturday night, there will be more than a few amateur guitarists in the audience, wrote the Woodstock Sentinel-Review June 23. Ross has that kind of appeal for his fellow strummers, an appeal fostered by the passion and intensity of his idiosyncratic “fingerstyle technique.” Since the tender age of eight, Ross has explored the possibilities of the acoustic guitar, experimenting with alternate tunings and other techniques. “I think he’s incredible,” said Garry Atkinson, the promoter of Saturday’s performance. “He’s one of the best acoustic guitar players I’ve ever heard.” Since beginning his career, Ross, a graduate of York’s Department of Music, Faculty of Fine Arts, has preferred to record and perform his own songs, refining his personal style with his very personal compositions.

Former professor John Sewell is running for city hall again

Frustration and anger with Toronto’s city council and Mayor David Miller are spurring former mayor and former York professor John Sewell to run for office once again, reported the National Post June 27. Sewell, 65, will compete with Ward 21 Councillor Joe Mihevc, a close ally of Miller, in November’s municipal election. “Rather than stand outside and continue to be frustrated, I’ve decided to fight back,” Sewell said. “I want a different and better city hall, one that encourages local voices, one that listens to them, one that is reshaped to restore local democracy.” Sewell taught law, politics and social science at York from 1989 to 1991.