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Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.

Public newspaper funds should come with strings attached – to diversity: Mochama

The carrot-and-stick approach might work for more than one industry lacking diversity. Canada’s print media could stand to feel some pressure.

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If our institutions won’t take diversity seriously, then it’s fitting they be forced to if Ottawa gives them money.

Last week, the federal government issued an ultimatum to universities participating in the Canada Research Chairs program. Within the next three years, schools must meet diversity targets or face funding cuts.

Currently, universities underperform in awarding chairs to four designated groups: women, people with disabilities, Indigenous people and visible minorities.

Schools have made some progress. 2017 data shows universities met targets of 15 per cent and one per cent for visible minorities and Indigenous people, respectively.

But, as federal Science Minister Kirsty Duncan told the Globe and Mail: “It’s been a decade, and there simply hasn’t been enough progress.”

Thus, the ultimatum.

It should work that way with newspapers too. Some publishers are asking the Canadian government to assist the industry with its struggles and others are suggesting Ottawa step up its print advertising budget.

This is an opportunity. The carrot-and-stick approach might work for more than one industry lacking diversity. Canada’s print media could stand to feel some pressure.

If the federal government opts to assist the press, there should be strings attached – on diversity.

It’s a truism that Canadian media is mostly white. But it’s only axiomatic because the data is non-existent: the majority of print publications do not publish diversity data.

Unlike print media, the nation’s broadcasters are bound by the Employment Equity Act. With varying degrees of transparency and consistency, they report their diversity efforts.

Print media has been hesitant to tackle diversity despite there being ample evidence of its benefits. It would not infringe the free speech of the press to join the rest of the nation’s media in both making a profit and reflecting the nation it serves.

There are countless studies showing the value of diversity. A 2015 study from McKinsey, a global consulting firm, found gender-diverse companies are 15 per cent more likely to financially outperform their competitors. For ethnically diverse companies it’s 35 per cent. There is a clear return on investment.

For the most part, it seems universities are welcoming Ottawa’s demands. Self-regulation has only gotten them so far, and it’s not far at all.

The academy and the press are valuable members of our society and democracy. While universities have made steps towards diversity, they can’t do it alone.

The same is true for print media.

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