Where's John Crosbie when you need him?
(Updated at bottom)
Tequila Sheila has an amateurish column in today's Post defending the CRTC (subscriber only; I caught it in the dead-tree version). To be fair, one of her central points is that we do not want politicians making licensing decisions based on the political flavour of the month, which is 100% correct. However, most of the column is snippets like this:
"In French, CHOI is pronounced choix, which means 'choices' [thanks Sheila!], and it was clear that the 50,000 people who demonstrated in Quebec City last month and the 5,000 who made it to Ottawa this week were demonstrating their belief in choice."
"But do they really believe that freedom of choice includes radio meant to insult, denigrate, or demean?"
Um, yes. I sincerely hope that the aim of the protesters is not to have Liza Frulla issue some kind of diktat specifically relating to CHOI; the aim should be to have the government rewrite the CRTC's mandate to limit the kinds of judgement on content they can presently make. "Insult, denigrate, and demean" are not the same as libel. Promoting "racial and linguistic divisions" is not comparable to inciting violence. These are very subjective standards! I generally dislike "slippery slope" arguments, but when we allow government bodies to make these types of judgements, we are proceeding down the hill.
I'm no Bob Tarantino, but a few more comments on Ms. Copps column:
- Was the editor on vacation? She could have used a little help. This is the concluding paragraph:
"Before we all jump on the bandwagon, demanding that politicians decide who gets a license and who gets kicked off, just remember: There was an information system like that once. It was called Pravda."
Chills, no? No? You're right - I will charitably describe it as inelegant.
- Until I see photos, I decline to believe that Liza Frulla "is literally between a rock and a hard place."
- Al-Jazeera has not "become a household world in the Middle East". (Seriously, where the hell was the editor?)
- "Howard Stern Howard Stern Howard Stern" is not a reasonable way to address objections that the CRTC has gone too far in regulating content.
- It is blatantly disingenuous to claim that the CRTC is "not political".
- A Martha Stewart quote? Seriously?
- And finally (editor's fault again), the column header is "The CRTC is right to silence CHOI", an argument Ms. Copps does not make explicitly in the column (or arguably, even implicitly).
There is lots of room for discussion of "public ownership" of the airwaves, a suitable mandate for the CRTC, and more. But the wrong that needs to be righted, right now, is this:
The government has created a body (arms length doesn't matter) which is charged with regulating "offensive" or "demeaning" speech. Regardless of the purpose, or the public good they are aiming to serve, it is totally inappropriate and wrong for the government or one of its organs to be in this position, especially outside the realm of Charter protection.
UPDATE (1245PM): I should have added that what makes it doubly wrong is that the CRTC noted explicitly that the accuracy of the controversial comments broadcast on CHOI was not relevant to their ruling. Sorry, but it's tough to accept the legitimacy of any quasi-judicial body for whom truth is not an acceptable defense.
I was also pondering Nobody's Baby a bit more. Ms. Copps is unarguably thick-skinned (I can't think of any 20-year MPs who aren't). I wonder, if Sheila's own funbags were the topic of discussion on CHOI, and not Weather Girl Whatsername, if she would be railing against radio meant to "insult, denigrate, or demean." I sincerely doubt it, and she would probably be amused at the suggestion that she should.
But, I don't even know if the CRTC objected to the boobies discussion on the subject's behalf, or on the behalf of listeners who ought to be spared such discussion. I suppose it doesn't matter. Whatever, I'm rambling...