By now the (very successful) attempts of the Harper government to control and cow the national press corps are old news, from the lists to ask questions to using the RCMP to chase the media out of public hotel lobbies. If you thought Harper’s recent press conference in the National Press Theatre was a sign of a thawing of the relationship between the PM and the press, think again: Harper is just getting warmed up:
The Prime Minister's Office, which has long had a rocky relationship with the national media, has been working on a secret project to build a new, government-controlled briefing room at the cost of $2 million, documents obtained by the Star show.
Long kept under wraps, the plan – codenamed the Shoe Store Project – is in the works by the Privy Council Office and the PMO to establish a new government-controlled media briefing centre near Langevin Block.
The yellow-brown building that now houses Stephen Harper and his senior staff would supplant the current National Press Theatre, just a block away.
The difference between the two? The National Press Theatre, the traditional venue for press conferences along with the smaller Charles Lynch room in the Centre Block, is ran by the non-partisan Parliamentary Press Gallery, which controls membership and who gets to ask questions. In Harper’s Shoe Box,
The result would be a little fancier than the National Press Theatre and, most important, give the PMO a lot more control over who gets in and, quite possibly, what gets filmed and broadcast.
A hand-drawn sketch of the PM's renovated shoe store/press theatre indicates a space for "maybe permanently installed cameras with feeds to media."
That could put the news cameras in the hands of government-employed camera operators, not independent photojournalists employed by the television networks. It suggests the Prime Minister's communications people would send broadcast feeds to the TV networks for their use in reports, or as most politicians prefer, live-to-air broadcast.
I don’t expect the public to care although that’s unfortunate, as the subversion of the vital role an independent media plays in our democracy is certainly an issue worth caring about and the lack of interest speaks ill of the level of political engagement in the country,
One wonders though when the media will start caring, and just how much longer the national press corps is going to keep getting dumped on by the Conservatives and just pretend it smells like roses. As Scott Feschuk wrote today, talking about the huge unexpected Conservative surplus, you know the kind the Cons used to dump on the Liberals for having:
Harper must stare at the media horde and wonder to himself: what line of hooey won't these suckers swallow? Maybe tomorrow I'll send troops toUPDATE: Great column on this from Macleans.ca's Kady O'Malley. Sadly, I suspect that among the press gallery her moxie will be a minority. I hope they prove me wring
and deny having denied having supported the invasion in the first place. Don't think he could pull it off? Remember that the press gallery routinely reports that Harper has achieved his five priorities from the 2006 election, even though wait times haven't been reduced, the promised 125,000 new child care spaces won't be achieved, the GST hasn't been cut to five per cent and Harper killed his own anti-crime legislation when he decided to prorogue Parliament. But, you know, apart from all that ... Iraq
If this double plus Machiavellian madness actually comes to some sort of fruition, and WeThePressGallery consider going along with it for so much as a nanosecond, we may as well just hand over our press passes, turn in our BlackBerries and move on, en masse, to some other profession; one, perhaps, not quite so essential to a functioning democracy.Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers