Nov 6, 2009

On minimum wages and talk radio


Today marks the third time in the past four months that I get booted off a pre-arranged radio interview on minimum wages in BC. What is it about this topic that the universe doesn’t want me to say on live radio? I mean, I try not to be superstitious, but the string of coincidences is starting to get long.

You see, as an economist and public interest researcher at the CCPA, I occasionally get invitations from talk radio to discuss or debate the economic and social policy questions of the day. And since our minimum wages in BC have been frozen for eight full years now, the debate around whether we should increase the minimum wage comes up every so often. Usually, it’s around some auspicious date, such as the day that we took the rock-bottom place in Canada (that was September 1st, 2009) or the anniversary of our embarrassingly low $8 minimum wage (November 1st).

But I just can’t get airtime to discuss the minimum wage on talk radio. Typically, I get bumped off the list in favour of another guest, usually Jim Sinclair from the BC Fed. Ok, I get it: I’m a policy wonk somewhat removed from the proverbial real world while he’s right in there representing the workers, and listeners are more interested to hear from the people directly involved, not just from analysts. Fair enough.

This time around, however, something different happened. My Monday morning TALK 1410 live radio debate on the minimum wage was canceled, period. The reality is that, as of today, Vancouver has one fewer talk radio stations, as TALK 1410 rebranded itself as an all-sports station and became TEAM 1410.

The global recession has not been kind to traditional media. Sadly, this has impacts that go beyond direct job losses and reduced consumer spending to the much more important issues of media democracy as more and more voices are excluded from the mainstream media.

So this coming Monday at 7am, you won’t hear me discuss what we should do about our low minimum wages. But you can stay tuned for extensive coverage of the latest most-crucial-must-win game.

As if you needed one more reason to go to Media Democracy Day at the Vancouver Public Library this Saturday.

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