Culture & Conversation

Érable à la Radio

A cacophony of casserole dishes is heard nightly in this city from Montreal North to St-Henri. The aim is to voice dissent over draconian emergency legislation, like Bill 78 (or Loi 78, if you will). Banging on pots and pans in the street is the poetic way Chileans (home to Pablo Neruda) protested during the Augusto Pinochet regime. And I have to say, what a beautiful way to be heard!

However, I’m not going to talk about the casserole protest and how creative, non-violent actions such as this have completely discredited both those protesters and police who use violent tactics to achieve nothing. Nor will I discuss the even more repressive measures brought forth by Premier Jean Charest in his loi spéciale.

The real story behind the student strike is its coverage. Week after week, more and more people are turning away from the “mainstream” media to what I call the “livestream” media (CUTV, OM99% Media, CKUT FM and others).

CKUT has gone above and beyond the call of duty and provided critical analysis of the student strike with its flagship news program, Off the Hour. As well, the weekly morning show Friday Morning After has been a place for students, protesters, teachers, academics, activists and others to come in-studio and debate the issues intelligently.

FMA host Josh Hind gives listeners a weekly dose of the student strike with what he calls the “Red Square Roundtable.” Not only are people given an opportunity to come in and talk, but Hind dedicates the entire second hour to listening to all sides of the debate (although no one from the government has come on to date, but I’m sure he’s tried).

François-Olivier Chené, the man who originally started the Facebook page calling on Quebecers to take to the streets to defy the government’s orders, shared his excitement with Hind about the success of his bold idea, appearing on FMA last Friday, May 25 to talk about it. Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail (arguably Canada’s largest daily) waited until Wednesday, May 30, to run a story about the originator of the casserole movement in Montreal. A case in point of how mainstream press takes time to catch up with the livelier livestream media, busy reporting, tweeting and broadcasting as the story unfolds. Sure, some may argue that radio can act faster than print media, but I disagree. It takes about the same time to contact someone and have them come in-studio to talk about issues as it takes to call them for a few quotes in a story.

This week FMA brought in Anna (keeping her last name on the down low) from Translate Érable (their domain name was donated to them). This group of dedicated, tech-savvy, media types translate reports and stories from the French language press for anglophones who struggle to understand what’s happening in the student strike and on the streets of Montreal.

Translate Érable is now a resource in this media street battle for hearts and minds across the country. English language coverage of the months-long student strike has been poor, to say the least. Now it has a website where it can be informed of how and why “la grêve étudiante est devenue la lutte populaire!” for francophones in Québec.

CUTV is Concordia University’s web television station. Broadcasting live from protests almost every night with a core of volunteers willing to put themselves in harms way (even if you don’t agree with the voice-over/commentary). Their presence on the street from day one has earned them notoriety, especially when their journalists and camera operators got caught up in the fray.

OM99% Media was born out of the Occupy movement here in Montreal. Following the lead of the NYC camp, Occupy Montreal decided to produce its own media to counter the mainstream press’ portrayal of their encampment.

Then there’s Rabble. More seasoned in the alternative press, they have now consolidated all non-mainstream coverage on their Maple Spring page. It has become a one-stop shop, especially for Canadians outside of Quebec. Because, after all, that’s where the revolution is spreading.

Adam Bemma is a new media journalist and documentary filmmaker based in Montreal, Quebec.

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