1.28.2011

action alert part 1 of 4: tell the crtc truth in broadcasting matters

Largely under the radar, the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC) has proposed changing its rules to allow the broadcasting of intentionally false and misleading information, as long as that information does not "endanger or [is] likely to endanger the lives, safety, or health of the public". These dangers are not defined further. See more on this below.

To believe this is mere coincidence as SunTV launches its news station - so-called "Fox News North" - strains credulity.

The CRTC is now accepting comments on the proposed rule change until February 9 only - and they don't make it simple. To learn more about how to submit a comment, go here; scroll down on that page.

Here is the link link to submit a comment online. Reference Notice number 2011-14.

You can also contact James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage, who is responsible for the CRTC:
- by fax: 819.994.1267, and
- by phone: 819.997.7788.

Via Antonia Zerbisias, here is a letter you can use as a model for your own.
We object strenuously to any policy that permits intentionally false or misleading information to be broadcast in Canada.

We wonder why the CRTC would betray the public interest by protecting broadcasters of intentionally false and misleading information.

We cannot think of any false or misleading information that would not ultimately endanger the public in some way, whether it is misleading information on international affairs, on scientific information, on health or environmental information, or on other news. Broadcasting intentionally false or misleading information presumably reflects a corporate or governmental agenda that will in some way ultimately damage members of the public.

That intentionally bogus information is to be acceptable as long as it does not "endanger or likely to endanger the lives, safety, or health of the public" provides no protection to the public:

* Who will determine whether intentionally bogus material could "endanger" members of the public?

* Who will determine whether anyone has been "endangered"? If someone makes a lifestyle choice (such as joining the military) based on intentionally false or misleading information can they sue the source of the misleading information (or the CRTC) because they have become "endangered" because of that information?

* If people have been harmed or put at any risk by the broadcasting of intentionally bogus material, is that the same as "endangered" or will there be levels of damage that need to be defined in a court of law?

* If intentionally bogus information is found to endanger the public, will the CRTC's permission for the broadcasting of intentionally false or misleading information be revoked?

* How many people have to be proven to be harmed before this might be revoked?

The most basic question is why the CRTC, which is paid for by the Canadian taxpayers to represent Canadian public interests, is violating its mandate by protecting instead the anticipated broadcasters of intentionally false and misleading information. Whose agendas are the CRTC and James Moore, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, actually serving by this amendment?

From Stephen Bede Scharper, a professor at University of Toronto, writing in the Toronto Star:
A recent, little-noticed news item may result in a deep and indelible blemish on the Canadian mosaic.

Earlier this month, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), without fanfare, posted on its website a potential game-changer in the world of broadcast journalism. The CRTC is seeking to relax restrictions concerning the broadcasting of specious information on radio and television.

Currently, the law stipulates that broadcasters "shall not broadcast any false or misleading news."

Sounds reasonable enough — and straightforward — as it should, since it concerns the integrity of news reporting.

But not apparently to the CRTC. It is proposing to soften the regulation, banning "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."

In short, with the new wording, broadcasters could air false or misleading news with impunity, provided that it does not endanger the lives, health or safety of the public.

Unfortunately, the CRTC does not specify who will judge whether or not such disinformation poses a danger.. . . .

Write! Fax! Call!

Many thanks to both AZ and AW for bringing this to my attention. 

2 comments:

Cool Hand Luke said...

I know whose job it's going to monitor it. The ministry of Truth!

allan said...

Project Censored

In February 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with an assertion by FOX News that there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States. ...

[T]he Florida Appeals court claimed that the FCC policy against falsification of the news does not rise to the level of a "law, rule, or regulation," it was simply a "policy." Therefore, it is up to the station whether or not it wants to report honestly. ...

[Fox] argued that, under the First Amendment, broadcasters have the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on public airwaves. ...

What is more appalling are the five major media outlets that filed briefs of Amici Curiae to support FOX’s position:

Belo Corporation
Cox Television, Inc.
Gannett Co., Inc.
Media General Operations, Inc.
Post-Newsweek Stations, Inc.