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Canada, Politics, Telecommunications

Pro CRTC Amendment 2010-931 Arguments & Responses

I’ve been seeing quite a bit of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) regarding the CRTC’s Amendment 2010-931, and thought I would address some of the more common arguments being brought up in favour of the amendment.  Most of them are pretty baseless, and some even contradict each other.

The CRTC has never used this regulation in the past to address bad news broadcasting.

I see this one fairly often, but have yet to see anyone put forth an example of when it should have been used, but wasn’t.  If anyone knows of such, I’d love to hear about it in the comments so I can research it!

While journalism has certainly become more sensationalist in the last few years in order to compete as entertainment, as far as I know it has yet to actually start inventing news to draw in viewers.

The CRTC has no power to actually prosecute or enforce violations of the regulation as it stands.

True… but only for a certain narrow value of “prosecute or enforce violations”.  It is certainly capable of revoking a license for violating its regulations, so it’s wrong to say it has no way to enforce the regulations.  And it can certainly prosecute violations through the regular justice system if it is so inclined – that is what the justice system is there for.  Charges could easily include libel, public mischief, etc.

The current regulation makes even expressing an opinion about the news an offense, as it would not be true news.

The obvious answer here is: don’t air opinions as if they ARE news, air them as opinions.  Most people are able to discern the difference between fact and opinion fairly easily if they’re presented as such in a conversation or oration.  Especially if an opinion preceded by something like “…in the opinion of this reporter…”  This can’t be too difficult – much like inserting the word “alleged” in front of the names and crimes of the accused.  However,  broadcasting opinion as if it were fact is an entirely different kettle of fish!  The wording and expression of opinion is generally substantially different from that of fact, and easily discerned from it… unless the presenter is being deliberately misleading.

A news agency accidentally reporting something erroneous could be held liable under the amendment.

This is actually a reasonable objection to the current amendment.  Although the pro-amendment faction seems to be contradicting itself here, having previously called the existing regulation toothless and that it has never been used for disciplining broadcasters.  However it certainly is possible, if rather unlikely.  After all, newspapers and the like print retractions all the time and I’ve seen newscasters apologize for broadcast errors in subsequent segments.  However, hamstringing the accountability in news reporting seems a bit of an extreme response.

To address this potential issue, I could easily support amending paragraph 3(d) of the Radio Regulations, 1986.  Changing it from “3. A licensee shall not broadcast (d) any false or misleading news; “ to “3. A licensee shall not knowingly broadcast (d) any false or misleading news;” seems quite reasonable, really.  Giving news broadcasters carte blanche to report whatever they like as news without any sort of accountability, however, seems juuuust a touch too far!

Those seem to be the major points I’ve seen from the pro amendment side.  If there any I’ve missed, please let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to try and address those as well!

Seeing as the CRTC regulations haven’t impeded news broadcasting notably since 1986, and given the current PC (Progressive Conservative) government’s US Republican party policies and techniques, coupled with the recent emergence of Sun TV (widely seen as a blatant pro-conservative mouthpiece and nicknamed Fox News North), I honestly can’t see this as anything but a politically motivated move to allow more US-style political control of the media to try and influence the public by rather unethical means.  I rant about this a little more in depth in an earlier post outlining how to register a comment on the proposed amendment with the CRTC.  One of my own comments on that post quotes from a mediamatters.org’s article cites a former Fox News insider describing exactly what I fear Sun TV / Fox News North would become if news reporting was no longer required to be factual:

“…a purely partisan operation, virtually every news story is actively spun by the staff, its primary goal is to prop up Republicans and knock down Democrats, and that staffers at Fox News routinely operate without the slightest regard for fairness or fact checking.”

“People tend think that stuff that’s on TV is real, especially under the guise of news.”

“We were a Stalin-esque mouthpiece. It was just what Bush says goes on our channel.”

“They’re a propaganda outfit but they call themselves news.”

Canada, stay good!

One Comment

  1. Tyler Style 2011-02-17 15:48

    Interesting development! A Commons committee has voted to question Tom Pentefountas, the newly appointed CRTC vice-chairman, about whether he’s really qualified for the job and what he’s expecting to do policy wise. He’s thought to be a completely political appointee, unqualified, and who was not even vetted or on the short list of candidates according to the Globe & Mail. The most interesting passages from the article:

    The Prime Minister’s Office wants friendly faces on the CRTC because there is a decision coming down that would remove the obligation of any broadcaster or newspaper to fact-check stories or be accurate in their coverage as long as the reporting does not endanger lives, Mr. Angus said.

    “We see their intense interest in Fox-style news. Mr. Harper has already asked for personal updates on the process at the CRTC,” the New Democrat charged. “His former communications director [Kory Teneycke] suddenly leaves and then announces that he is going to lead up the run for Sun TV. Then the CRTC announces well maybe we don’t need any broadcast standards.”

    On the eve of that decision there will be someone with ties to the Conservative Party with no broadcast experience who is sitting as the vice-chair, Mr. Angus said.

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