An activist friend has alerted me to another proposed change in CRTC regulations that would effect truth-in-broadcasting laws. The deadline to respond to this one is February 7, and the deadline to respond to the other proposal - which I blogged about here - is February 9.
If enacted, these proposed regulations would: weaken media accountability, further blur the already cloudy distinction between news and entertainment, weaken already eroded trust in media, and ultimately undermine democracy.
Naturally this is happening quietly, one might even say stealthily. The period for public comment is unusually short, and the mechanism for public comment is cumbersome.
Please don't let that stop you. Here's what to do.
1. Go to this page on the CRTC website.
2. Find Notice Number 2010-931.
3. Click "submit".
4. Follow prompts until you get to the page on which you comment. Name and postal code are mandatory. Street address is not.
5. Write and submit your comment.
6. Return to this first page.
7. Find Notice Number 2011-14.
8. Repeat above steps.
On my earlier post, I copied a sample letter written by Antonia Zerbisias. Here's another I received via email forward.
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I strongly object to any weakening of the policy prohibiting the broadcast of false or misleading information in Canada.
Firstly, there are no reasonable circumstances where outright lies and deceit, as prohibited by the current policy, could be in the public benefit. On the contrary, there are endless examples where broadcast falsehoods have or continue to endanger the public interest. In Canada, broadcast falsehoods promoted and supported the wrongful confinement of Japanese-Canadians, for which the Government of Canada eventually had to apologize and pay compensation. In the United States of America, a significant proportion of the population currently believes lies about their own president, falsehoods knowingly broadcast by news channels for
Secondly, there is no likelihood that the Supreme Court would uphold any challenge to the provisions. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not elevate private interest over public interest. It is clear that the private benefit of broadcast falsehood (whatever that might be) would not be considered to outweigh the public benefit of the regulation prohibiting it. The only possibility is that the court might determine certain very specific conditions on the restriction, which could be added to the regulations as required by the court at that time.
Thirdly, the modified provisions as proposed are dangerously inadequate. There is no definition as what kind of danger to the public safety is considered. Certainly any promotion of false or misleading information by a major broadcast network is a threat to the people of Canada. Democracy only ultimately falls in countries where political lies come to dominate the media. But given this fact, the modified provisions are entirely inadequate. To put the onus of proof on the truth-tellers is wrong. A broadcaster found to be lying to the Canadian people must be the one responsible to try to defend their actions.
For these reasons, under no circumstances should the proposed regulation change be made.
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