Doug Ford Mysteriously Getting Positive Press Coverage After Ad Spending

The allegedly “not easily swayed” media is mysteriously very easily swayed after Doug Ford shovelled tonnes of ad money their way.

From failing to take action when Ottawa was under siege by terrorists to the greenbelt land swap scandal, Doug Ford’s leadership has been filled with scandals and controversy. However, a cursory look of the coverage today and you would never know it. If anything, you would think, based on the coverage, that Ford is a great leader who leads by example and is an otherwise swell guy.

So, how is the media suddenly singing the praises of the Ford Ontario provincial government? Well, apparently, all it takes to sway the coverage of the Ford government is dumping ad money onto those newspapers. Once the check clears, the media is willing to slavishly sing your praises and that scandal filled history mysteriously doesn’t even exist any more. It really is that simple.

Steve Faguy noted this sudden change in coverage bias by highlighting the front page of the National Post which has a front page filled with glowing positive coverage of the Ford government:

In Postmedia papers today, a story about Ontario promising to buy ads in news media, an opinion on why Ontario is making the right decision buying more ads in news media, and another opinion on why the federal government should buy more ads in news media.

The tweet is accompanied by a screenshot of the front page pretty much confirming this summary of that page which you can see below:

Yup, you read the papers right. The Ford government is great and wonderful and perfect in every way. Meanwhile, the Federal Trudeau government is terrible and extremely shady. You can’t trust anything the Trudeau government does. The punchline is that the reason for this coverage is right out in the open. Spend money on ads for us and you are a great government. Refuse to put more money into our advertising and you are a terrible government. The blatant corruption of this coverage is downright farcical.

Of course, some people reading this might say that the National Post was never that great of a source for news. This stupid coverage only continues that trend and no other news source would stoop to this level of blatant corruption. For that, you’d be wrong. As pointed out in the comments, the Toronto Star is doing the exact same thing. From the Toronto Star:

Doug Ford did a good thing for Canadian media. Justin Trudeau should follow his lead

When the Government of Canada spends more per year on advertising with China-based TikTok ($1,113,056) than it does on all of Canada’s print publications combined, something is seriously wrong with government advertising procurement policies.

Yup, you heard that right. The Trudeau government is terrible and untrustworthy. They do a terrible job. If only they ran government like the great and wonderful Doug Ford and they wouldn’t be on the way out like they are. After all, if you want a government, you hope its a Conservative government because they always have the people’s best interest at heart.

The glowing coverage was also found in the Toronto Sun who was pretty much on the same page as the other papers:

Ford government takes bold move to support journalism

Premier Doug Ford has instructed his ministers that as of September, a significant portion of the province’s advertising budget must be spent with Ontario media outlets.

Perhaps more importantly, Ford has instructed his ministers in charge of the province’s four biggest agencies, in terms of advertising, to do the same.

Governments of all stripes and at all levels across the country have said that they want to support journalism, but few have been willing to do so, putting most of their money into Google and Facebook products. The latest annual report from the federal government shows that they spent $1.1 million advertising on TikTok in fiscal year 2022-23 despite all the security concerns around the social media app which has been banned from government devices.

By comparison, the Trudeau government spent just $944,602 on any and all print advertising across Canada in the same year.

To be clear, none of this should be happening. If publishers like these were professional, all of the above wouldn’t even come close to entering their “news” coverage. Instead, the papers can be grateful for the support, but they will continue to pursue fact-based journalism and present the facts in an unbiased manner. Not only does the above highlighted coverage break those rules blatantly, but breaks those basic journalistic rules proudly. The publishers are saying loudly and clearly that if you want positive press coverage across our newspapers, governments better be willing to pay up. In other words, their blatant bias is up for sale and publishers can’t even be bothered to hide this.

Throughout the Online News Act debate (formerly known as Bill C-18), publishers repeatedly told lawmakers that their coverage is not influenced by advertisers. One told lawmakers that if an advertiser told them that they don’t like their coverage, they would tell them to “take a hike”. At the time, this was in response to the question of whether or not journalistic integrity would be compromised if the government were to be taking over funding journalism. The punchline? This answer was by none other than Paul Deegan, the author of the Toronto Star piece blatantly buttering Fords buns. From our coverage of that hearing:

Housefather commented that another thing he keeps hearing is the compromising of journalistic independence. Will this compromise the independence of you and the people that work for you? (yes)

Skok responded that it does not and he personally recused himself of any coverage about this bill in September of 2020 when he found out he would have to be involved in this (no worries, leave it to the other journalists in your news rooms to act as cheer leaders). He doesn’t know what they report on, but sometimes they report on things that actually hurt his own personal interest (You know or you don’t, simple as that).

Housefather forwarded the question to Deegan. (the answer is still yes)

Deegan responded not at all. If General Motors were to run an ad in the Globe & Mail or the Toronto Star – he means if someone from GM were to phone up the Globe and said ‘hey I don’t like your coverage. I’m going to pull my advertising’, he thinks the publisher would tell them to go take a hike. (I’ve personally worked in media and that is absolutely not what would happen. Based on my personal experience, if the advertiser is paying big bucks, publishers, especially smaller ones – will bend over backwards to keep things smooth with the advertisers – even to the point of compromising their integrity as journalists. If a huge portion of revenue risks leaving the company – especially in this day and age – they would ask the advertiser how high they should jump. Publishers may have many things, but a spine isn’t one of them.)

The level of hypocrisy in this is staggering. You’ll note that my personal thoughts of these comments are in parenthesis. You can tell how much I was calling those clowns out for blatantly lying about the subject. Now, those comments are downright clairvoyant thanks to today’s coverage.

All of this only contributes to the continued trend of a collapse in trust in the media. Some people might attribute the falling trust in the media to right wing conspiracy theories online. While that does play a role, it is certainly not the only factor. I’ve long contended that the terrible quality of coverage contributes heavily to this. Today was a beautiful example of this.

This was something long warned about throughout the Bill C-18 debate. If the biggest publishers are dependent on the government cutting them their paychecks, it’s hard to expect those publishers to hold government power to account. After all, are you really willing to publish negative coverage of the very entity writing your paychecks? Not really.

When it comes to media bias, not only does it exist, but it is up for sale to the highest bidder. Multiple media outlets have shown that they don’t even bother hiding this fact any more. If your government wants positive press coverage, you better be willing to pay up. Otherwise, if your political opponents do so, expect non-stop negative coverage. Given the media’s willingness to go so far as to publish obvious disinformation, they are willing to go to any extreme to please their financial backers.

Drew Wilson on Mastodon, Twitter and Facebook.

2 thoughts on “Doug Ford Mysteriously Getting Positive Press Coverage After Ad Spending”

  1. The Press is addicted to government money. It’s like crack cocaine to them. Our idiot PM gave them tax credits, grants, C18, and a C11 fund, but it’s not enough. Now they want a minimum share of government ad spending. Enough already. The Press needs to figure out how to produce content people will pay for instead of producing an endless stream of filler about which celebrity is getting divorced or what stupid dance Trudeau performed.

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