There are two types of ownership of media: public and private. The first type, public ownership, refers to providing communication as a public service and addressing audiences as citizens rather than consumers. This differs from private ownership, which provides communication for the purpose of generating profit.
Public ownership in Canada provides a "nation building service". It is a state monopoly that exists side by side with private sector broadcasters. This can be illustrated in the public broadcasting sector of Canada, where Canadian content laws (CanCon) have been formally put into place in order to maintain the nation's cultural identity and keep it distinct from its neighbor (the United States). The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was originally set up due to the fear that the US would "take over" in terms of programming. What started out as a radio station eventually expanded to television, with the goal of bringing information reflective of Canada's cultural identity to the greatest number of Canadians. Although the government of Canada does fund the CBC, the network is independent of direct government control and has its own board (though government appointed) controlling program policies.
In recent years, the idea of a national public monopoly has been challenged by questions such as "should governments be spending money on protecting indigenous culture in this way?" and "is cultural production an appropriate sort of state activity?". Colin Sparks in the 1980s coined the term "cultural discourse" which sees cultural production as primarily a cultural activity. Today, we see a shift from a cultural discourse to an "economistic discourse", which sees cultural production as a commercial enterprise. Is it just another way to make money?
Private ownership differs from public ownership in various ways. First of all, there are two types of private ownership; ownership can be held by an individual or a small group of people, or, ownership of a company can be held by shareholders (who buy and sell shares of the company through the stock market). The primary focus of the private (or commercial) media outlet is surviving in the marketplace and producing profit. Unlike public media institutions, those of private media have the ability to change their course in seeking more lucrative markets for the purpose of profit. An example of this would be the Thomson Corp., which was once one of Canada's two main newspaper chains (as well as a newspaper owner in both the United States and the United Kingdom), who withdrew itself from the newspaper industry in the 1990s and moved its assets to other business opportunities with more potential financial growth (specifically, markets of financial, legal and scientific information).
There are multiple forms of private ownership. There is the 'single enterprise' structure in which an independent firm (usually operating on a small scale) has only one owner and limits itself to one business. These sorts of small businesses have become fewer and fewer as large chain corporations have begun to take over the market.
The next type of ownership structure in private media is chain ownership or horizontal integration, where numerous companies in the same business occupy different markets (like in the case of newspapers, radio and television stations). This is a common form of media organization in Canada. For example, CanWest MediaWorks (owned by CanWest Global Communications Corp.) operates a chain of 13 daily newspapers (like the National Post, the Montreal Gazette and the Ottawa Citizen to name a few). CanWest also owns the Global Television Network which is made up of 11 stations in 8 provinces.
Another type of private ownership is vertical integration, which is the concentration of firms within a particular business that enables the company to have control over the entire production process. One example of this could be a newspaper company owning a paper mill. Or another example is major Hollywood companies owning production studios and distribution companies as well as being involved in theatrical exhibition, television and DVD rentals (this allows them to ensure their films reach audiences).
Then there is conglomerate ownership which is made up of large companies with a number of subsidiary firms in related and unrelated businesses. Media conglomerates use a media strategy called convergence, which is where they attempt to create synergies among their media properties. A clear example of a media conglomerate that employs such a strategy is Quebecor Inc. They are not only a newspaper publishing company but they also operate in other areas such as television broadcasting, new media, and music retailing.