News  Culture Shock 2008: Quebec central in history of alt media

To kick-off CKUT’s Media Democracy Days last week, writer, radio host, and McGill alumna Anna Leventhal presented a history of the rise of alternative media in Quebec.

A wide collection of publications were showcased from the social and political movements of Quebec in the 1960s and 1970s. They were generally radical, socialist, and experimental in content, and discussed protest, community organization, the environment, and women’s liberation.

“You have to think about who owns media,” Leventhal said. “It is also meant to entertain you as much as inform. It capitalizes on stereotypes.”

The rise of alternative media in Quebec came in the wake of the Quiet Revolution. Frustrated with the single, hegemonic views of mass media – which were largely in tune with governing institutions – independent publications were developed as avenues of democratization and communication.

Fuelled by cheap and available production materials and technology, the papers had minimalist and practical designs which allowed them to be distributed to a wide audience.

Quebec became a hub of independent media for the United States and English Canada – particularly those that feared repercussions at home.

But in spite of this historical impact, Levanthal cautioned that independent media must constantly reinvent itself – because of its unique structure, it lacks a common institutional memory.

“A lot of [what the media did] and their history gets lost in the air,” she said.

She also voiced uncertainty for the future of alternative media in the age of technology, and was dubious of the internet.

Leventhal hosts “Venus” on CKUT and blogs for Shameless.