The Immediate Issue: The CRTC’s Proposed Amendment
This is, with no exaggeration, one of the most important issues we as Canadians need to take action on this decade. The definition of what may be reported as news in the media as described by a new Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) amendment would allow broadcasters to report as fact anything that wouldn’t actually put the public in immediate, physical danger. In other words, broadcasters may report as factual news anything they like so long as it doesn’t immediately endanger people, such as Orson Welles’ famous “War of the Worlds” broadcast hoax. Opinions, rumours, propaganda – basically anything can be reported as factual news without any disclaimers whatsoever!
The changes in the actual wording are simple but staggering in scope. Here’s the original regulation:
And the CRTC’s proposed amendment:
1. Paragraph 3(d) of the Radio Regulations, 19861 is replaced by the following:
(d) any news that the licensee knows is false or misleading and that endangers or is likely to endanger the lives, health or safety of the public; or
The implications are immediate, obvious and appalling!
Canadians need to act now and object to this proposal allowing an almost total lack of accountability and responsible journalism! Fortunately, the CRTC is still taking comments on the proposed amendment to the Broadcasting Distribution Regulations until February 16th. To comment requires several rather particular steps:
- Go to the CRTC’s “Participate in a Consultation” for Amendment 2010-931, select “I Agree”, and click the “Next” button:
- Double check that under the “Submit a Comment” title that you are commenting on “Notice #: 2010-931″. Select the category for your comments, presumably “Opposition” :) Finally, type in your comment in the “Enter comment:” text area. The CRTC comment guidelines has some rather fussy formatting rules for faxing; it can’t hurt if you use them for your online submission as well. Number all paragraphs (eg, “1)”, “2)”, etc), and add separate line with “***End of document***” at the finish:
- You next have the option of requesting to appear in person to present your comments if there is an oral hearing. Assuming you don’t want to appear in person if there is a hearing, select “Do not want to appear” and “I agree”, then click “Next”:
- Next you will need to fill out your personal information, so that the CRTC can verify your comments are legitimate. DO NOT use bogus information when filling this out, it is an official Government of Canada document:
- Finally you will be asked to verify your comments and personal information, and given a checkbox option to “Send me a copy of this submission via email”. I would check this, to be sure your comment has been received. Verify your information (I removed mine from the screen shot) and click “Submit”:
- You’re done! You’ll see a confirmation page appear, and if you selected the checkbox in Step 5 to “Send me a copy of this submission via email” an email should come into your inbox almost immediately:
The CRTC is also taking omments on this specific part of the amendment, but those comments are only open until February 11th. I commented on both myself:
1) I object to the proposed changes to: Paragraph 3(d) of the Radio Regulations, 1986 Paragraph 5(1)(d) of the Television Broadcasting Regulations, 1987 Paragraph 3(2)(c) of the Pay Television Regulations, 1990 Paragraph (3)(d) of the Specialty Services Regulations, 1990 2) I object to the proposed changes to those paragraphs which would replace the current language of the law to not broadcast any false or misleading news with the proposed new ambiguous language “any news that the licensee knows is false or misleading and that endangers or is likely to endanger the lives, health or safety of the public.” 3) I object as this wording seems to allow a great deal of leeway in reporting opinion or even propaganda as ‘news’ so long as the broadcaster can rationalize that what they report doesn’t actually put anyone in danger (which I assume would be interpreted as immediate, physical danger). The dangers to the Canadian social fabric and the public’s being well informed on actual facts surrounding an issue is just as serious, and would be left completely to the mercies of broadcasters without accountability or responsibility. After having lived in the USA and been subjected to ‘news’ there, I am particularly sensitive to this, and cannot object strongly enough against any amendment which permits ‘truthiness’ in news reporting. ***End of document***
Please don’t copy and paste my comment! Duplicates will just be thrown out by the CRTC.
That this proposed amendment appears at this particular point in time is no accident. The strongly conservative, pro Progressive Conservative party Quebecor Sun TV news channel was approved in November 2010 for launch on January 1, 2011. Sun TV is a fairly blatant attempt to have a US-style news channel that is more or less a tool of a particular party in order to manipulate public opinion and spread fear, uncertainty and doubt. In fact, this seems so obvious that Sun TV is referred to as “Fox News North” in the media (Fox News being the US Republican party’s mouthpiece). To be able to act effectively as a similar mouthpiece for the PCs, however, Sun TV would need as much leeway as Fox News has to report news it’s own special way. Stephen Colbert popularized the term “truthiness” to describe this – “a ‘truth’ that a person claims to know intuitively ‘from the gut’ without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts“. However, “truthiness” in reporting is not allowed under the original wording of the CRTC’s regulations. So under the current Progressive Conservative government we have a sudden drive to change the 24 year old regulations to allow anything to be factually reported as news so long as it doesn’t harm the public directly. It’s impossible to imagine that the establishment of a pro-PC ideals news network and the almost simultaneous push by the government to loosen broadcasting regulations pertaining to the truth in news reporting are coincidental.
For those that don’t know already, Sun Media publishes tabloid newspapers, generally called “The Sun”. Notable features include sensationalist headlines in two-inch-high bold type on the front page and the page 3 “Sunshine Girl”. It’s pitched to a low reading level, and it’s politically & socially conservative articles that show a strong similarity with US style right wing attitudes (Christian family values, anti social programs, liberal elitist conspiracies, etc. The Sun News TV channel, “Hard News and Straight Talk”, seems to be much the same; it is supposed to “offer Canadians an attractive mixture of ‘hard news’ reporting during the day and ‘straight talk’ opinion journalism at night” and aims to be less politically correct and unapologetically patriotic.
Having lived and worked in the US from 2003-2010 as a voting citizen, I’ve seen first hand how this sort of news manipulation destroys the political process and turns it into overly simplified “patriotic” “us versus them” shouting matches and ad hominem attacks. I’m already appalled at how far the Harper government has taken Canada down to the USA’s level of political discourse, dirty tricks and legislative changes in order to please corporate interests. Olease help keep Canada’s political system Canada’s, not just a carbon copy of the ostensibly democratic corporately controlled US oligarchy!