Thursday, January 27, 2011

URGENT: Canadian Radio Television Commission to Accept Comment Until Feb. 9th on Allowing False and Misleading Information Purposely

The following was sent to me from a radio journalist in Montreal. It appears that the Conservative Reform Alliance Party (CRAP) under Prime Minister Stephen Harper is pursuing the agenda to destroy the integrity of media in Canada. If you live in Canada please take action as instructed below. If you don't live in Canada, the information is instructive to the erosion of democracy happening in Canada.
The CRTC would like to change its rules so that they will allow intentionally false and misleading information to be broadcast as long is it does not "endanger or likely to endanger the lives, safety, or health of the public".  As Stephen Scharper  points out below, the clause saying the false material must not endanger the public is worthless because the CRTC does not specify who will judge whether intentionally false or misleading material does or has endangered the pubic. This is timed conveniently to protect the appearance in March of the right-wing SUN TV News station. 
The CRTC is accepting comments on its proposed ruling change only until Feb. 9. For information on how to submit comments, visit
For the email response site:
[The Minister responsible for the CRTC is James Moore, Minister of Cdn. Heritage.  While no email address is given out, his fax is 819 994 1267; his phone no.  is 819-997-7788, accessible 9-5 EST.]

There is no time to lose! Please register your protest quickly and circulate this as widely  as you can.  Karin

A model letter follows to respond to  Notice #: 2011-14 , The call for comments on amendments to the Radio Regulations, 1986, Television Broadcasting Regulations, 1987, Pay Television Regulations, 1990, Specialty Services Regulations, 1990, and the Broadcasting Information Regulations, 1993

We object strenuously to any policy that permits intentionally false or misleading information to be broadcast in Canada.  We wonder why the CRTC is betraying the public interest by protecting the 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?   ********

Truth, lies and broadcasting in Canada

Published On Mon Jan 24 2011

By Stephen Bede Scharper Christianity
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.
An aphorism comes to mind, “If it’s fixed, break it.”
The CRTC is apparently responding to concerns raised by Parliament’s standing joint committee for the scrutiny of regulations, which worried that such a sweeping ban may not withstand a court challenge under the Charter of Rights.
It seems, however, that the societal benefits of a commitment to truth-telling in broadcasting far outweigh any potential legal potholes emerging with a hypothetical court case in future.
As University of Ottawa law professor and media expert Michael Geist points out, there is some irony in the CRTC’s timing. Just as the U.S., reeling from the Arizona massacre that targeted Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, is reflecting on the wider social impact of its poisoned airwaves, the CRTC is embracing a more U.S.-style approach.
This is made all the more disconcerting as a new right-leaning all-news network, Sun TV News, prepares for its debut in March. In a recent interview, Geist observed there’s a growing fear that Canada is about to adopt the more bellicose U.S. approach to political news coverage. The CRTC’s proposed change will only deepen these fears.
“I think that those same kinds of fears are out there in much the same way (as they are in the U.S.). This just provides freer licence to do it,” Geist commented.
Yet concerns over journalistic integrity in Canada are not new. Over the past 15 years, many have sounded warnings, and some of the clearest and most compelling tocsins have been rung by the venerable dean of Canadian journalists, Knowlton Nash.
The former anchorman for CBC’s The National, with more than half a century’s experience in print and broadcast journalism, Nash laments the obsession of the media with the pursuit of “trivia,” as well as its increasing preoccupation with “entertainment and gossip” at the expense of well-grounded analysis and truly investigative reporting.
In his book, Trivia Pursuit: How Showbiz Values Are Corrupting the News (1998), Nash sees the “dumbing down” of the news and the supplanting of crucial political events by celebrity scuttlebutt as nothing less than a threat to Canadian democracy.
In a series of lectures he once graciously delivered to my undergraduate students, Nash noted that when serving as an “unembedded” CBC journalist during the war in Vietnam, he was with a U.S. platoon as it engaged in a firefight. He saw several U.S. troops killed.
When he attended the official U.S. military briefing later that afternoon, however, a U.S. army media official stated unequivocally that there had been “no casualties” that day. (There was a reason journalists called those official afternoon briefings the “five o’clock follies.”)
For Nash, while the full truth of any situation will always at some level elude us, the commitment to truth-telling, which was a hallmark of his journalism career, should never be watered down.
The CRTC is accepting comments on its proposed ruling change until Feb. 9. For information on how to submit comments, visit
There is still time to share with the commission a commitment to keeping broadcast news free of lies and misleading information, for any “news” that deliberately misleads can only be the product of a society that is seriously misguided.
Stephen Bede Scharper is associate professor of environmental studies and religious studies at the University of Toronto.

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