Public input and regulation of the "airwaves" is one of cornerstones for a well-functioning democratic country. We learn much of what we know about the world around us from the mainstream media. We are even more in tune with what's going on with the advent of the internet.
The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is supposed to have our backs but too often they seem to care more about corporate interests (Big Media) than consumers, taxpayers and citizens. They are a powerful government institution whose decisions impact the daily lives of just about everyone. They regulate phones, cable, access to the internet, radio, television and Canadian content.
The CRTC is run by a board of up to 19 commissioners appointed by Cabinet (i.e., the prime minister). The latest appointee is the hand-picked new vice-chair, Tom Pentefountas, who has no experience in telecommunications. But Pentefountas is politically connected to the Conservative Party and that's enough to earn him a six-figure salary. The Conservatives are politicizing the CRTC just as they have been doing with judicial, Senate and other appointments.
"In the Commons Monday, Heritage Minister James Moore denied accusations from the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois that the government is trying to take control of the CRTC.... Moore countered criticisms about Pentefountas's lack of experience by calling it a good thing."
Yes, the only qualification for the job is be a party hack who will do as they are told. And that's the backdrop for the bigger story of why the HarperCons want to control the CRTC. They are now proposing loosening the broadcasting standards to gut Canada's version of the "fairness doctrine" (which Bill Clinton did away with in the late '90s in the US). These rule changes will legitimize the idea that there is no such thing as truth, just a bunch of opinions that are equal and protected by the Charter. They will work to the benefit of governments and political parties that rely on distorting the truth for their very survival.
That may be an over-simplistic demonization of the issue, but the reality means that Canadians are about to be bombarded with a steady stream of lies and distortions in the name of commentary, as if we don't see and hear enough of that already. Politically speaking, the "war on the truth", in the name of "fair and balanced" news-a-tainment, will dumb down Canadians and that will make it easier for the likes of Stephen Harper to win elections and run the country.
Commercially, it will make Canadians more vulnerable to unscrupulous snake oil salespeople. Buyer beware.
"I am very surprised that the CRTC appears to be lowering the standard for truth in broadcasting,” Charles Smedmor, the managing director of Smedmor and Associates, said in an e-mail on Tuesday "In addition, I am perplexed that the exemption is only for ‘lives, health or safety of the public...'"
"The current proposal sets a very low threshold for truth. False or misleading information about the investment alternatives (RESP vs. RRSP), economic trends, the stock markets, and potential investments (either specific stocks or a mutual fund) appear to be overlooked," he said.
From a corporate perspective, the "fair" in "fair and balanced" means that all truth becomes fair game for sowing doubt. The truth must be "balanced" with the opinion of every crackpot "expert" whose role (often paid) is to bring the public onside with corporate interests at the expense of their own. Climate change. Energy policy. Trade policy. Public education, health care, transportation and other public services. Immigration. You name it. All these things need an informed public because where there's a buck to be milked from the public trough, there are no sacred cows. And in case there's any doubt that lies have become the new "normal" for the Harper Conservatives, keep watching Bev Oda and the KAIROS debacle.
Care2.com is sponsoring a petition directed at the CRTC to protect honesty in journalism. Please consider signing it.
This post was cross-posted from Catch 22 Harper Conservatives.
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