Youth reject big media disinformation on PR Referendum

BY PETER EWART

 Special to the News

Big media, which includes the big corporate chains and monopolies, has waged a relentless campaign against proportional representation and its advocates in British Columbia for going on a year now.  As such, it has served as the “spin doctor” for the No side in the referendum by propagating half-truths, fearmongering and outright lies, as well as attacking PR advocates.

What has been the result?  Yes, big media has been able to sow considerable confusion, but what has been the effect on the younger generation?  According to a recent poll, despite all the big media disinformation over the last year, 53 per cent of youth between the ages of 18 and 34 are likely to vote for proportional representation while only 22 per cent say they will likely vote for the existing First Past the Post (FPTP) system.  

Whatever the eventual outcome of the referendum, this is a stunning repudiation of big media, as well as the No side.  Instead of opening a path for youth in renewing the voting system, big media has stood squarely blocking the way.  But this will have consequences.  For one thing, it will result in even more youth abandoning big media as a source of credible news, a trend that has been developing for some time, with many news outlets closing or going bankrupt because of declining readership, especially amongst youth.

Instead, young people are extremely active on social media and are empowering themselves by developing their own communication networks, as well as connecting to alternative and independent news sites.  This trend promises to only further develop.  After all, why should youth bother with big media’s smug editorialists and windbag pundits who stand in the way of renewing the electoral process and who, as Bill Phillips points out, will now be going cap in hand to big government for bailouts?

Indeed, there has been a stark contrast between the Yes and No campaigns as can be seen in the activity each engaged in during the referendum.  From the beginning, the Yes side has relied on thousands of volunteers across the province who have organized many public meetings, distributed countless leaflets, canvassed door-to-door and by phone, and numerous other activities.  The critical thing in this work has been public engagement and discussion.  In these last few days of the referendum campaign, youth on college and university campuses have been especially active getting the vote out with their own “Pro Rep is Lit” organizing campaign.

In contrast, the No side has organized hardly any public events, instead relying on negative attack ads financed by corporate CEOs, a few debates organized by anti-PR business groups, and, especially, big media disinformation and fearmongering.  It is quite fitting that the No side has admitted that its activities in the last weeks of the campaign will focus on more expensive attack ads to run in big media outlets.

In the PR referendum, it’s been people power against big media.  However, in the long term, it’s big media that could lose the most as young people reject it and develop their own alternatives.  

Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia.  He can be reached at: peter.ewart@shaw.ca