Anyone who has paid any attention to the rulings, musings and operations of the Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission can be excused if they are confused and amazed. Every time I think the CRTC can’t get any worse, they confound me and most fellow Canadians with something crazier than they have ever considered before.
Believe it or not the CRTC has chosen this time to suggest a loosening of the rules that demand truth and accuracy in radio and television news. I know, I know, the first question is why the heck would anyone want less truth and less accuracy? Especially in the days of Fox News and all the havoc that they have wreaked on the American public.
Stacey Hannem Assistant Professor, Criminology Laurier Brantford wrote this in the Brantford Expositor:
The CRTC is currently in the process of proposing changes to its regulations for news media which prohibit the publication of “false and misleading” statements in the guise of “news.”
Under the proposed changes, media outlets would be prohibited from broadcasting statements that they know are false and misleading statements only if said statement also “endangers or is likely to endanger the lives, health or safety of the public.”
Let’s get this straight. This means that the CRTC is willing to allow media outlets to broadcast known falsehoods as news; that is, opinion, slander, and outright lies, as long as they think it won’t hurt anyone.
I ask you, how do they know which lies will be harmful? Can they predict which lies will cause unnecessary stigma, divisiveness in communities or between ethnic groups? Can they predict which lies will cause unnecessary fear among the public? Can they predict which lies will cause Canadians to vote in ways that they might not otherwise and completely change the political and social trajectory of our nation?
How can they define or predict the harm that will be caused by the publication of lies as news?
So far as I know, nobody, no organization has publicly asked for these changes. It is possible that some broadcasters have secretly demanded the right to be less than honest in their reporting, but I am sure they would never make this request publicly. Why? Simple, because then we would all know or be free to conclude that the broadcaster that requested the changes was willing to lie or bend the truth and the result being that the broadcaster would lose all credibility and hopefully all their viewers or listeners.
So I ask again why? Without any obvious explanation one has to wonder about the fact that the new right wing talk and all-news station is about to hit the airwaves this year. Will the new rules allow them to emulate Fox and publish inaccurate stories? Fox is still questioning President Obama’s birthplace even though the facts have been clear for more than two years. Is this unfair to the new television station? Perhaps it is, but pundits and analysts are scratching their heads trying to figure out where this came from and they are looking for the obvious when no other explanation is forthcoming from the CRTC. One Toronto Star letter writer put it this way:
It is bad enough that the CRTC is allowing a politicized Fox-like station to mount its operations in Canada, a country so admired for its standards of truthfulness and values that should not be undermined.
We are the country that should be emulated, not lowered to the standards of others. It is worrisome that the CRTC would contemplate watering down the requirement of broadcasters to air factual – not misleading information.
Janet Denton, London Ont.
Janet gets it even if the CRTC does not. But that’s not all the CRTC has been up to. Konrad Von Finckenstein’s mates have decided that Bell and Rogers are not making enough money from their internet services. Hey I know we all feel sorry for the poor sods at Bell and Rogers. It’s tough to keep squeezing more billions from consumers when there are so few new services they can offer.
So Bell and Rogers, I presume, got together with Konrad and his pals at the CRTC and came up with a great plan. Let’s allow the big internet providers to charge based on usage. We’ll call it “usage based-billing” and we will let Bell, Rogers and Telus force it down the throats of all their customers, especially the small ISPs (Internet Service Providers) who buy access for their service from the big boys. We’re not talking about small changes either. One company, Tekksavvy, which allowed its customers to use 200 gigabytes per month has advised its users that they will only be allowed 25 gigabytes from now on. That’s 1/8th for the same price. Where does that leave their customers? Canadian internet subscribers will be paying more for less in the future. That means any small company, hey, any large company, that depends on or uses the internet will have its costs driven up substantially. Guess who will end up paying for that in the end? Too easy. Us. The consumers.
Here we are in a country that already sees us paying way more than our competitors in the U.S. for mobile phone services and the internet and what does the CRTC do? Allow the corporate giants who are already making huge profits to gouge us for even more.
Peri Maric of Vancouver said all that has to be said in a letter to The Globe and Mail:
It’s a repugnant corporate money grab, sanctioned by the federal government, directly aimed at exploiting…our citizens, the most active national internet community in the world.
The mandate of the CRTC, I checked their website, clearly states that they are supposed to “serve the Canadian public.” It also says, “the CRTC works to serve the needs and interests of citizens…” Yeah right. When does that start happening?
Maybe the time has come to reform the CRTC or completely replace it with an agency charged with the primary responsibility of protecting consumers. The telephone companies and the cable companies already share very close to a national monopoly on all forms of communications and they are expanding their holdings with the help of the CRTC. Their power needs to checked not enhanced by the federal government.