Nine years ago a Decima Research Poll, published in Maclean’s magazine showed that for an “overwhelming” majority of adult Canadians, 81 per cent of them, the family was by far the most important part of their lives. Moreover, it found that “Canadians are turning inward to families and careers in search of personal rewards.”

Decima executive Bruce Anderson noted that many were disillusioned with society’s reward system, finding far more satisfaction with their spouses and children. This, surely, was great news. Since the early 1970’s media doomsters had predicted the end of the traditional family, but little was said about what would fill the vacuum.

However, most of our media gurus ignored these findings, instead choosing to throw survey figures in a new light. What was meant by family, one CBC know-it-all asked solemnly.  Were loving, caring relations between lesbians excluded from the survey?  What of live-in-young couples? With mandatory daycare available, would the statistics be different? And what of unwed mothers?

Such fatuity continued for a week or so and then dropped into oblivion until the media pack discovered another bizarre angle, but invariably an angle that wallowed in sex, overworked mothers with too many children or homosexuals denied adoption rights. Whatever the issue, it had an underlying anti-family thrust.

Clearly much of the media was at odds with four-fifths of the public. How did this come to pass? Why do so many anchormen, columnists and reporters portray the family as a undesirable anachronism? Most of these are “overwhelmingly white, male, well educated and well paid,” according to a survey of 240 “elite” U.S. editors and reporters. Moreover, they are also pro-abortion and see nothing wrong with homosexuality and wife cheating.

Next month this strange phenomenon comes under a microscope at a special seminar, Media Values vs. Family Values, at Ernescliff College on the University of Toronto campus. Well-known participants come from highly influential publications, whether Alexander Farrell, editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest, Peter Stockland, editor of the Calgary Sun, Haroom Siddiqui, editorial page editor of the Toronto Star and several other noted writers. Interim columnist Sebina McLuhan will be a panelist, too.

The tone is set by Michael Medved whose highly controversial book Hollywood vs. America castigated the film industry for pandering to basest human tastes and for undermining solid family values. Endowed with a strong sense of humor, his deep-rooted concern goes back to a top-selling satire, The Golden Turkey Awards.

Apart from authoring seven non-fiction books, he is chief film critic of the New York Post as well as co-hosting Sneak Previews, a half-hour movie review on more than 200 PBS TV stations. He is also a regular Hollywood correspondent for the Sunday Times of London.

A classmate of Bill and Hillary Clinton at Yale Law School, Medved’s thinking may not always have a profound impact on acquaintances but many in America’s Jewish community listen respectfully. Father of three young children, he is co-founder of the pacific Jewish Center which has attracted hundreds of unaffiliated Jews to a traditional Jewish lifestyle.

Seminar co-ordinator Fernando Mignone notes the topic is of crucial interest to many journalists as well as parents and groups committed to preserving the traditional family, the future’s bedrock. He adds that recent technological advances offer great strides in worldwide communication, whether Internet, videos, cable television, satellite television or media consolidation.

These innovations can help make the world more human and have the potential for helping buttress families. On the other hand they can reinforce the media’s attack on fundamental values and parental authority. “We’ve all got to be better informed,” he adds.

Media Values vs. Family Values comes at a time when Catholic and Evangelical church leaders demand responsible media programming. Bishop Robert Carlson, auxiliary of St. Paul and Minneapolis, asks whether the “entertainment media (have) lost their collective mind or are their values simply hedonistic?”

He adds sadly that Entertainment Weekly named ABC television as the “Naked Network” with its five different shows featuring nudity plus raw sex scenes. Further, Bishop Carlson asserts that the “media are establishing a new religion – a religion of choice . . . This is simply the first step to having no religion where children are no longer immoral but amoral.”

Tickets for the May 6 event are $60 for adults $10 for students. Ernescliff College is located at 156 St. George St. (west side) 50 yards south of Bloor St. Toronto, M5S 2G1.  PhoneL416) 979-5949. Cheques payable to: Ernescliff Media Seminar 1995.