Canada to probe media

Clash follows pro-Chretien op-ed; editorial bias alleged

TORONTO — The Canadian government will launch a long-awaited committee to examine media ownership. Angry politicians had complained about alleged infringements on press freedom by the son of Izzy Asper, founder of media conglom CanWest Global.

The clash in the House of Commons follows an essay by David Asper in a CanWest-owned newspaper last week knocking the media for accusing Prime Minister Jean Chretien of improperly helping a businessman secure a loan.

Opposition MPs complained that the Aspers were flexing undue editorial muscle by indirectly ordering CanWest journalists to drop the story. They also alleged that the Aspers are trying to gain government favor while CanWest Global’s broadcast license is being reviewed for renewal.

“The article that was submitted by David Asper appeared as an op-ed article on the editorial pages and was clearly an opinion piece,” said CanWest spokesman Geoff Elliot. “As such, I would argue that the Aspers have the same right to submit an opinion piece as anyone else.” He pointed out that CanWest papers have continued to pursue the story.

CanWest Global Communications bought the majority of Hollinger’s Canadian newspaper holdings for C$3.1 billion ($2 billion) last year, making CanWest the largest media organization in the country.

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