Canada's Media Mogul Goes Bankrupt

Hey Leonard Asper: You still owe Adbusters $15,000!


When Canwest – Canada’s largest media conglomerate and Adbusters’ longtime adversary – filed for court protection against creditors earlier this month, the company left a lot of people high and dry. In addition to the long line of creditors the company is trying to default on, dozens of recently laid off employees will lose their promised severance packages, 80 non-union retirees will lose their health benefits and 120 former employees are facing reduced pensions.

Oh well, times are tough. Everybody’s taking a hit right now, right?

Wrong. Three Canwest directors, four top executives and 13 other senior members of Canwest management will PROFIT from this mess, splitting $9.8 million in Key Employee Retention Plan bonuses. That’s in addition to their already exorbitant salaries. So in one of the most baffling phenomena to come out of this current economic crisis, the very execs who drove the company into the ground are being paid millions of dollars to stay. Everyone else is simply out of luck.

This outrage is the latest hurdle in our protracted battle against Canwest and would-be media mogul Leonard Asper. We’ve been fighting Leonard in court for years, battling for the right of Canadian citizens to access their own public airwaves under the same rules and conditions as corporations and ad agencies do. It’s been a long, hard and expensive fight but finally, last April, a BC Court of Appeals overturned previous rulings and declared that television airtime may indeed constitute the “public space” we have claimed it to be. The ruling cleared the way for us to move forward against media corporations like Canwest that refuse to sell airtime for citizen-produced messages.

Canwest fought back with a technical challenge. They knew they couldn’t defeat us on the principle of free speech so they went after our pocketbook, hoping to tie us up in nonsense litigation and deplete our modest coffers. But in September, we won again. The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed Canwest’s challenge and gave us the green light to pursue our case in the lower courts. The courts also ruled that Canwest is liable for a portion of Adbusters’ legal costs.

But suddenly Canwest is out of money. And Adbusters joins the ranks of employees and creditors the media giant is refusing to pay. But we’re looking at the bright side of things … it seems Asper’s media empire (the one he inherited from daddy) is beginning to crumble. And any blow against his biased, autocratic rule is worth the money. With Conrad Black in jail and Asper on the run, we may finally be on the road to ending media tyranny in Canada once and for all!

For the Wild, Kalle