Language, the press and political attitudes

Date of publication: August 1, 1975

Author: Arthur Siegel


Canada’s communications experience is of interest to other heterogeneous societies, especially where there are vertical cleavages such as language and region. The influence of language in the communications flow is highly visible, it means that in Canada two distinct media systems have developed: one French and the other English. It has been asserted that French language newspapers in Canada have a different orientation that English language one. In order to find out more about these differences and evaluate their implications in terms of the interaction of the press, politics and the public it is meaningful to examine press coverage during a crisis. In time of crisis, the media become more important than is usually the case in their influence on political opinions, for they are drawn into an active role in the events themselves. This paper reports on a study that concentrated on one sector of the Canadian communications system, namely the printed daily press, and examined its coverage of the Canadian emergency in the fall. The study examined the influence of both language and region in the dissemination of news and sought out other factors such as size of community and distance from crisis that might be associated with variation in news coverage. For it was hypothesised that different population clusters in Canada receive significantly different accounts of the same political events and this has serious implications for Canadian unity.

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