Thank you so much, Chair, vice-chairs, and members of the standing committee. It's a great opportunity for me and my colleague, Jagdeep Kailey, to make the presentation today.
I would like to start with an introduction about my media house. The Canadian Punjabi Post was started in 2002. It became Canada's first daily newspaper in the Punjabi language. It also became the first daily newspaper in any language published from the Peel Region. It was also the first daily newspaper in the Punjabi language to be published from anywhere in the world outside of India.
Back in those days, it was seen as a daredevil's gamble by many. Through our hard work and persistence, we have turned it into a mainstream newspaper among ethnic newspapers in Canada.
With a daily readership of more than 35,000, it stands tall in terms of its reach and credibility. It is respected for its fair and balanced reporting. Canadian institutions, both government and non-governmental, look to the Canadian Punjabi Post to gauge public opinion among immigrant communities living in the greater Toronto area on matters of their interest.
It plays a pivotal role in creating stronger ties of immigrants with their new country, Canada, and also towards strengthening Indo-Canadian ties. We are the only newspaper in the Punjabi language in Canada whose editorial content is 100% Canadian. Also, it is the only newspaper to write an editorial every single day.
More than 25,000 copies are published five days a week. Its website is read all over Canada. We are followed by over 25,000 people and businesses on social media, including Facebook pages.
I also host a radio program that is beamed across North America on 770 AM. It is aired on prime time from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on all weekdays from Monday to Friday. Radio Khabarsar, which means “news talk radio”, stands out from other ethnic radio programs due to its matchless quality and rich content. It aims to serve the varied needs of the South Asians, particularly its vibrant Punjabi community settled in Canada. Like the Canadian Punjabi Post, the content of our radio program is over 70% Canadian.
Regarding access of local communities to information, Indo-Canadians are politically more active than any other visible immigrant community in Canada because of their exposure to strong and rich democratic experiences back home in India. That explains their hunger for news and the need for a large number of Indo-Canadian media outlets.
Political parties of all stripes do round tables and media conferences with the ethnic media throughout the year. It happens more during elections. With three major elections—federal, provincial, and local—happening almost one after another, it keeps the local ethnic media busy and the local population engaged.
Brampton has emerged as a political test laboratory in Canada. It is said that how Brampton immigrants behave during an election is how the rest of the immigrant communities will likely vote in Canada; hence, there's more value to the ethnic media outlets.
As for the consequences and impacts of concentration in the media, we act as a gateway for business and political organizations to get access to the immigrant communities. But for us, they would find it very difficult to reach this important section of the Canadian population.
However, as said before, Indo-Canadians in general and Punjabis in particular are politically more active than other groups. This has led to a mushrooming of media outlets in the Punjabi language. There are so many weekly newspapers, radio programs, and television channels that it is almost impossible to create an inventory of them.
You see a new channel being started every other day. It has become a crazy situation now and is not a healthy sign for responsible journalism. There is an utter lack of professionalism. People without any training or commitment are entering the ethnic media just because they see it as a tool to promote themselves. It makes them feel better, but it causes many problems in the community.
Over-concentration of media is having a negative impact on the social life of the community. To stay one step up from the other, the dirty and petty matters of the community are discussed in disgusting details in public. It has a heavy cost in terms of impact on the social well-being of people who consume this information.
Hard-core elements within the community exert overt and covert pressures on us to cover their news, the majority of which is very controversial and is dangerous as well. There was an attack on my life in October 2010 because I said no to some of the things they wanted me to say. This has happened not only to me, but to many of us. At least my case was profiled in the mainstream media, but in the majority of other cases, journalists are beaten, threatened, and forced to keep silent, which is a dangerous trend that is happening on a large scale. Political patronage to the hard-core is dangerous to us in the ethnic media.
Political pressure is causing fractures within and between the communities, which is not a healthy trend. An editorial in the Brampton Guardian last year is an example.
In regard to the impact of digital media on local information, the new generation of immigrants is using digital media in a big way to create a space for themselves. Canadian youth born to immigrant parents are making waves through the use of digital media. New immigrants coming to Canada these days are more inclined to use digital media than print media. However, as a large section of immigrants are still not tech savvy, there continues to be a strong demand for print media, and it still the way to go because of its acceptability and receptivity. Things will change gradually to make room for the digital environment.
How do we see the future and where is the industry going? OMNI Punjabi television, an initiative of Rogers, had to cut down its operation because it could not sustain itself under the rising cost of hiring quality journalists. Similarly, two daily and several weekly newspapers in the GTA themselves have died unnatural deaths. That explains why serious journalism among ethnic media is missing. The print newspapers are already facing serious difficulties in surviving because of dying sources of revenue. The same is going to happen to radio and television channels.
The federal government must think of supporting well-meaning ethnic media outlets on the same pattern as it supports the CBC. It could be on a much smaller scale, but help is clearly needed. There should also be an initiative for us to hire professional journalists through subsidy programs. In the absence of such support, there is going to be a crisis among the ethnic media industry, and this will be a devastating blow to immigrant communities and to Canada as well.
The government should work with the CJF, the Canadian Journalism Foundation, or any other such initiative to support and strengthen our ethnic media.
Thank you very much.