The Influence The Media Has On Canadian Politics

Posted: March 09, 2016






The media always have a unique power in any political system. The powers stem from both their roles as the main source of the information about people, events, and culture. The studies of the media effects show that media yield huge influence on the audience’ opinions, behaviors, and attitudes.  With the current complexity of the society, a huge diversity of news and information and speed of events, the media have the power to influence our understanding and even affect our behavior in the society. The media assist in correlating our response to the opportunities and challenges in the society. The influence of the media in the modern society is more pervasive now than it was some years ago, and its role in the politics has become one of the major topics of discussion in the recent years (Eid, 1).

 There is a general agreement in the social science discipline that media play a critical role in shaping civic engagement and shaping political stand in any country. The media are good transmitters of the information, space of participation and source of information for the members of the public. Moving beyond these general statement one may find less agreement on the role of media in politics (O’Neill, 105). Many researchers are concerned that the democratic engagement, especially among the younger citizens is at low levels hence affecting healthy democracies. The media has been blamed for this low level of political engagement.

Researchers such as Putnam argue that the television’s dominance is to be blamed for the reducing stocks of the social capital among the younger generations. The rest of the researchers are not willing to blame only the television for this decline, but the other media are also responsible. Some have placed the internet as the only media holding the potential power to re-invigorate democratic engagement (Siegeil). The purpose of the paper is to address how the Canadian politics are influenced by media. Besides, the paper would also address common media that are used by the politicians to convey their information to the members of the public.

The Role of Media in the Canadian politics

Much of what the Canadians know about the politicians and the government comes from the media. The common media that are used by the Canadian to get this information include television, radio, internet and newspaper. The media explains the government policies and goals, thus helping to rally public support that is important for effective political action. The media also focus on the controversial issues such as corruption and exposing the politicians who are misusing their powers (Siegeil). The media are responsible for selecting the issues that should receive the needed public attention.

In Canada, the meaningful accounts of the political issues and events are important for the public to understand the politics, political processes and formation of the public opinion. The freedom of the media from any political interference and the openness of the government to provide the information have influenced the health of the Canadian democracy.

There were bitter struggles between the political authorities and newspaper editors during the 19th century. But the libel trial of Joseph Howe established a very important precedent on the rights of the press to criticize the government (Siegeil). In the 20th century, the relevance of the free media and importance of the democratic government got very strong support from the Supreme Court of the Canada. The role of media in the Canadian politics was also strengthened in the year 1982 through the Canadian Charter of the Rights and Freedom that provided the constitutional guarantees for the freedom of expression. The freedom of expression provided in the constitution included the freedom of the press and media of communication (Siegeil). The charter gave a formal recognition to the tradition of press freedom which evolved for one hundred and fifty years despite regular setbacks. The Canadians’ courts have played an important role as protectors of the freedom of the press in the Canadian politics.

In every society, there are barriers to the flow of information provided by the government. The Canadian parliamentary system tends to be more secretive as compared to the US congressional system. The right of the public to get the information from the government is often sacrificed to the penchant of the government to carry on with business away from the eye of the public. In the year 1982, the Canadian’s parliament corrected this awkward situation with the enactment of the Access to the Information Act (O’Neill). The act was aimed at opening up the federal government to more scrutiny by the public and the media. Since the legislation was passed by the parliament, there has been no much effect on the access of the information by the media. The loopholes that were in the legislation limited the full access of the information by the media and the members of the public.

The Changing Role of Media in the Canadian politics

The Canadian’s press deeply engaged themselves in the politics in 1820. It was during this time that the economies of British North American colonies could support a newspaper system through print jobs, subscription, and advertising. By focusing the attention on politics, the newspaper system helped in politicizing the population and mobilized the public support for the democratic institutions. In the late 19th century, politics and the press were so entwined that the Canadian’s famous journalists were often politicians (Siegeil).

In the year 1886 at the Charlottetown Conference that led to the confederation, out of the 98 delegates who were present, 23 were journalists. Furthermore, the newspaper has helped the growth of the political parties, while the political patronage assist finances the newspapers. The 1900s changes in technologies in the production of the newspaper and the changing interest of the advertisers led to a new relationship between politics and the press (Siegeil). The newspaper completions reduced and there was less of party attachment. The mass communication industries were revolutionized with the introduction of television and radio in the 1950s and 1920s respectively. Although these industries compete for advertising dollars and audiences, the broadcast and print media did not operate autonomously, but they were complementary and interdependent. In the 1990s, economic and new political realities were created by the combined effects of market forces, technology, and government policies.

Some of these new realities include the broadening of the definition of broadcasting; this was done under the 1991 broadcasting act to comprise ‘any transmission of the programs,’ irrespective of the technology used. This created a more competitive environment; the telephone firms plan to provide the television programs into homes in the competition with the cable companies (Siegeil). Besides, the new attitudes of the Canadians changed the business environment in which media operate. In the 1990s, more of the Canadians started opening up on their relationship with the mass media. In 1995, there was great cable revolt against billing practices of the cable industry. The newspaper industries were shocked after the Canadian started purchasing fewer newspapers as a result of the increase in the price.

By 1997, 70% of the Canadian’s household had at least two television sets, and at least 80% of the households are attached to the cable. The remote controls and VCRs were approaching saturation levels since there were more radios than even the number of people. The Canadians who were spending at least twenty hours watching television regarded it as the most reliable and important source of the information to the members of the public. Therefore, the politician used it as a great battleground for the public opinion in the struggle for the political power. The flow of the political information was dictated by the television since it exposes more people to politics than ever before. Television continues to be one of the main sources of the political news (Graber, 552). But many researchers underscore the role of television in the provision of the information that allow for the political efficacy and learning.

The election campaigns in Canada are now increasingly run from the news media, and there is less concern with convincing the live audiences. The political leaders are taking time providing television-filming at the right places so as to convince the members of the public. Most of the party campaign strategies are aimed at maintaining effective use of the media. The public opinion surveys are utilized to assist the parties decide on the acceptable image that best suit the members of the public and even determine the party platform to be used.

Television Viewing and Newspaper Readership

The two media have been argued to place a critical role in encouraging political participation but in different ways.  The newspapers have been known to be proving some in-depth coverage of the political issues, but the television coverage is less effective as compared to newspapers. However, television viewing in Canada appears to be even more successful at involving and attracting the viewers. The television medium can be a good effective mobilizing means for the political organizations and social movements since it provides a good avenue where the public can learn their political position.  

On the other hand, not all the television content in Canada has the same effect in encouraging the political participation. Therefore, it is incorrect only to assume that all programs and stations play the same role in the politics of Canada. There are some programs and stations that are meant only to provide entertainment or specific information (O’Neill, 109). The economic imperative of the commercial television is to provide entertainment rather than to inform members of the public. Therefore, it is not only the amount of time that the Canadians spend on watching television that matters on how they are influenced politically, but only the content in which they are watching at any given time.

In Canada, newspapers and radio have been known to be more effective as media of political participation as compared to the television sets, especially with the levels of the political knowledge and interest  (Livingstone and Tim, 27). But in the recent years, newspapers have started losing favor among the younger people. The younger population is now relying more on the social media and the internet to get their information.

The Role of Social Media in Canadian politics

More than 82% of the Canadian are currently active in the social media platforms. Hence, most of the politicians are now forced to push their messages through these social media platforms. The social media is a critical tool that is used by the politician in their campaigns. Given the number of Canadians who are accessing the social media, the politicians can reach a large number of voters at any given time. Besides, the social media give an opportunity for the politicians to provide immediate feedback on any issue raised by the voters (Siegeil). The method is also cost effective since one is not required to incur too much cost, for instance, in hiring the conference halls or even creating TV commercials. The social media platforms are also effective as compared to other media platforms since its provide the audience an opportunity to chat one on one with the respective politicians.

For instance, at the start of the 21st century, the voting support of the Canadian Green Party rose up quickly. From 2000, the party received only 0.8% of the votes cast in the federal parliamentary election. In the year 2004, the party managed 4.3% of the votes. But in the year 2008, the percentage of the votes received by the party increased to 6.8%, but in the year 2011, the support of the party dropped to 3.9% of the votes cast. The gradual rise in the support of the party since the year 2000 up to 2008 was due to the Living Platform.  It was introduced in the year 2004 as the open wiki project for election campaigns of the famous Canadian Green Party (Toivo, 9).


The media play a critical role in any society since it is through the media that the people can access the information. At the same time, it is through the media that the people can provide their opinion on the various issues affecting the society. Canadian politics are influenced by the media as depicted by the analyzes provided in the paper. The freedom of the media has been improving gradually in Canada with the enactment of various legislation that have given the media freedom to access some information that the members of the public have been using to make their decision.

The main forms of media which are being used by the Canadian frequently in getting information about their politician include radio, television, newspapers and internet or the social media. In the past few years, the public has relied mainly on the radio, newspapers and television to access information about their politician and using this information to make their political decisions (Siegeil). With the upcoming of the Internet in the recent years, most of the members of the public are now relying on the social media to get more information, besides social media provides an avenue for the politicians to chant one on one with their voters. Therefore, social media is regarded as the most useful and effective mean of communication in Canada. Most of the politicians now are investing much of their time and resources in these social sites since they are known to be better tools to be used during campaigns. Social media as a political tool has proven to be successful in countries such as the United States of America during the 2008 campaigns.

Works Cited

Eid, Mahmoud. "Media and Politics." Global Media Journal (2013): 1-3.

Graber, Doris. " Mediated Politics and Citizenship in the Twenty‐First Century." Annual Review of Psychology (2004): 545-571.

Livingstone, Sonia and Markham Tim. ", Nick Couldry and , 2007, “Youthful Steps Towards Civic Participation: Does the." Couldry, Nick. New York: Routledge, 2007. 22-34.

O’Neill, Brenda. "The Media’s Role in Shaping Canadian Civic and Political." The Canadian Political Science Review (2009): 105-128.

Siegeil, Arthur. Politics and the Media. 2 July 2006. 21 October 2015 <>.

Toivo, Suomen. Social Media- The New Power Of Political Influence. Brussel: Center of european Studies, 2011.

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