Harper and the media (Montreal radio)

I just finished up as a guest on Aphrodite Salas’ show in Montreal after being invited to speak on the topic of Harper’s alleged control of the media’s access regarding his cabinet ministers. During the election, Salas’ producers called and re-scheduled more than a couple times as the dynamic schedule of the election and even that of this blogger’s life were often incompatible with each other (especially for early morning radio). Now that things aren’t as hectic, I’m glad that I had the privilege of appearing on Salas’ show as an invited guest. Her producer was very accommodating and Salas is a good host.

Anyways, there are a few points that I’d like to make (or make clear) that may have briefly come up during the short discussion:

  • The current media preference of blocking up any ministerial escape after cabinet is not a constitutionally protected tradition of Parliament or anything to that effect. Certainly, Harper’s communication team is changing the routine and they certainly have a right to do so.
  • It’s always a slow news day/week when the media does a story on itself and how its job is becoming more difficult.
  • This IS a communications strategy! This IS a political strategy! Welcome to Ottawa. Harper is going to have to balance his control of information with the story that he’s controlling the flow of information. It’s obviously a carefully measured plan.
  • The upstairs lobby may have served as a good area to scrum in the past, but the number of reporters/technicians/cameras packing that hallway is not ideal. Consider also that the location at which this scrum packs in is also the nodal point which leads to the opposition member’s gallery, the Speaker’s gallery, the main access stairway for the PM and cabinet to the House of Commons. Moving these large scrums downstairs to the main lobby is more accommodating.
  • The head of the Parliamentary Press Gallery has noted that Stephen Harper has been the most-available PM to the PPG in many years.
  • As a blogger, I have to make my own calls and create my own opportunities. Granted, the reporters that Harper’s new strategy affects the most are the television people who need their image, whereas print journalists can pick up the phone and get a comment from a minister.
  • The House opens today, there will be plenty of access.