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Kings of Convergence

by Gordon Pitts

Very few people can go through their daily routine without coming into contact with the media, be it radio, television, film, newspapers, magazines, the Internet, or even outdoor billboards. Moreover, media play a key role in upholding and monitoring the values that serve to construct a society. As a result, the industry is subject to more scrutiny than any other.

Consolidation has been the major theme for media watchers over the last several years, as companies with a firm hold on one medium have sought (in some cases desperately) to extend their influence into the others. Globe and Mail writer Gordon Pitts’ Kings of Convergence takes a close look at the Canadian angle of this high-stakes process.

Pitts divides the book into three neat sections. The first introduces the established media players and their often flamboyant personalities. (Most colourful of these is CanWest’s Izzy Asper, the jazz-loving former politician who has angered more journalists than Conrad Black.) By exposing their mania for work, their paranoia, and their politics, Pitts lays the foundation for understanding what motivates these moguls. Very often, it seems, sound business judgment is secondary to ego gratification.

This becomes even clearer in the second section, in which Pitts delves into the major deals that have left us with today’s media landscape. It also goes a long way to explaining why many of these companies – CanWest, Quebecor, and Rogers especially – are so deeply mired in debt, having paid far too much for the properties they acquired to get into the convergence game.

And just what is convergence, anyway? What will the word mean in 10 years? Pitts perceptively demonstrates in the third section that there are as many questions remaining for Canadian media as there ever have been. What will be the role of Torstar, the owner of the country’s largest newspaper whose decision to stay out of the bidding wars has left it with money to spend in the near future? Ditto for the ChumCity group of radio and specialty television stations. Where will these companies go next, now that Canada has been divvied up? Gordon Pitts has laid the groundwork for understanding what will happen.