Alternative media offer a variety of perspectives and ideas that are not commonly conveyed by the various media products or for-profit information services that dominate the Canadian media landscape. They include traditional media formats, such as books, newspapers, magazines, television, radio, and movies, as well as non-traditional formats, considered “new” (ezines, podcasts, and other virtual publications). ). Some definitions include street theater, mural painting, display and cultural jamming.
An alternative to what?
The term “alternative media” frequently raises the question, “what does this media represent as an alternative? Which makes this notion vague and particularly difficult to define. Should it only understand radical or alternative media, such as those that challenge the status quo, or include in its definition all media except mass-circulation dailies and major television networks ? Should media of languages other than English or French be taken into consideration??
Can media that target specific ethnic or cultural groups be included? Should we only consider non-profit media? There are no easy answers to all these questions. Giving too broad a definition would lead us to include the growing number of media specific to certain sectors or categories of workers as well as specialized media, ranging from professional publications for accountants to radio stations broadcasting only Elvis’s music. On the other hand, a definition that is too narrow may exclude media products that address the concerns of most ordinary citizens, which are often not conveyed by the mainstream media.
Media specialists often report shortcomings in the dissemination of news and information by large, lucrative corporations. News Watch Canada, for example, outlined gaps in media coverage of labor issues, social inequalities, corporate power, current environmental issues, and human rights abuses by friendly countries in Canada. Other studies have revealed problems in media coverage of topics related to poverty , race or ethnicity .
The causes of these problems are complex. These are partly due to the fact that media content is determined by the need to offer an audience to advertisers . As a result, news or opinions that do not directly interest the target audience, or information and ideas that may be too controversial or offensive to the potential audience, are simply discarded.
Shortcomings in news content may also arise from specific editorial policies reflecting the political views of the owners or leaders of media organizations ( see Policy and Media).). Another explanation for these problems can be found in journalistic values and practices . Journalists are usually trained to seek the opinions and views of official sources (politicians, business people or community leaders) when it comes to writing their articles. Thus, it is these “business managers” who will often interpret the meaning of the events and create the framework for their interpretation; the articles therefore tend to reinforce the prevailing ideas and the existing relationships within the social power.
Alternative media are generally motivated by goals other than profit. They focus on conveying a range of ideas or opinions that are rarely found in the commercial press or on the interests of a particular community or group that is poorly represented in mainstream commercial media. To avoid being influenced by commercial interests, these media usually belong to the self-employed or often operate on a cooperative or non-profit basis. In addition, to better reflect the needs and interests of their readership and their target audience, they seek the participation and contributions of the members of the community they serve, rather than relying solely on professional journalists.