Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Canadian foreign affairs reporting: a critique

Canadian news outlets focus too much on American news.

This is the conclusion of an article just published in the Canadian Journal of Communications by Abby Goodrum and Elizabeth Godo Elections, titled "Wars and Protests? A Longitudinal Look at Foreign News on Canadian Television."

"American content has steadily increased," say the authors. "American news is far more common [in Canadian foreign news] than that of any other nation, and past research has shown that representation of a country in news media is a predictor of favourable public opinion regarding that country. The nature of the coverage has been demonstrated to be irrelevant; it matters simply that the audience is exposed to the country in question (Perry, 1990; Semetko et al., 1992)." (472)

According to the authors, foreign news in Canada tends to "focus on human interest and domestic politics among culturally similar nations, and international conflicts, wars, and violence elsewhere," according to the authors. The “Third world”, according to the article, is portrayed "as rife with conflict and directly opposed to the stable, civilized west", a problem even more worrying given "the diversity of Canadian society and the struggle of Canadian immigrants to see themselves reflected in the national news of their new home country." (472)

This fact, the authors say, "paints a bleak picture for Canadian citizens, whether first-generation or otherwise, whose knowledge of the world and connection to their country of origin is based on what they see in the news" (473).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Possible Major Shakeup in International IP System after US withdrawal of funding from UNESCO

The United States cut funding to UNESCO yesterday in response to the approval of the Palestinian bid for membership in UNESCO. The CBC reports this morning that Canada is now considering whether it should follow suit. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is considering "how much" support it gives, perhaps in place of complete withdrawal. The US also plans to retain membership in UNESCO despite the funding cut, according to the CBC.

Palestinian membership in UNESCO opens the door to Palestine joining WIPO, and a similar withdrawal of United States funding from WIPO. There is no indication at this point as to whether Canada might follow suit.

The United States' exit from UNESCO in 1984 led to a major reorganization of international intellectual property relations. It ultimately resulted in the United States' joining of the WIPO Berne Convention, the decline of UNESCO's Universal Copyright Convention into irrelevance (also due to the establishment of the TRIPs Agreement) , and the rise of WIPO and the Berne Convention as the unrivaled cornerstone of international intellectual property and international copyright respectively. That led to a new era in intellectual property normsetting.

Non-payment of membership fees can lead to the loss of voting power in WIPO bodies. Were the United States to stop its payments, and were other countries like Canada to follow suit, the policymaking initiatives of the United States, having lost power in WIPO, would likely be taken to other forums. This raises the prospect of a major shakeup within UN bodies, and major changes to the shape of international intellectual property institutions and relations.

Update: The AP confirms that Canada will reduce funding to UNESCO.