February 6, 2011
OpenMedia original article
CRTC - Two false news deadlines
Many people know that the the CRTC has announced that it wants to change its current regulation prohibiting the broadcast of false or misleading news, to a regulation prohibiting the broadcast of “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”.
This innocuous-looking change will have serious consequences for broadcast journalism in Canada. The current regulation strictly and and simply prohibits the broadcast of false or even misleading news: it therefore forces broadcasters to hire professional reporters/journalists who adhere to fact-checking rules of conduct, and re-check their facts before news is broadcast. It is like the 'speed limit' for broadcast journalism - you can't exceed the limit, or you risk a ticket.
The changed regulation allows false facts to be broadcast, and relies on audiences to complain after the fact that the information was false or misleading AND might have hurt someone -- much harder to prove. This is like changing every speed limit sign to, "No more than 100 km/hr if you don't know the car is over the limit AND you might have hurt someone".
The only reason given by the CRTC for this change, is that it is addressing "concerns raised by Parliament’s Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations". were these concerns raised? were the concerns? raised the concerns? The CRTC's notice does not say.
But on May 18, 2000, here this Committee did refer fleetingly to the CRTC and certain vague "concerns" , as follows:
It was agreed, -- That Counsel to the Committee correspond with the Designated Instruments Officer of the CRTC with respect to certain comments made by the committee; and -- That the committee send copies of counsel's letter and the response to the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications and the Commons' Heritage Committee.
What did the Committee's counsel write? What did the CRTC answer? We don't know. Why did it take the CRTC ten years to address the Committee's concerns? Again, we don't know. Perhaps none of that matters, even though that Committee and its unknown concerns" are the only hat on which the CRTC is hanging its plan to fundamentally alter its requirements for truthful news.
You can tell the CRTC what you think about its proposal:
But you should also know that the Wednesday February 9 deadline for commenting on the false news regulation is not the only CRTC deadline related to false news. The CRTC also wants to make the same change in its cable/satellite regulations - and that . (Why different deadlines, about the same issue? Ask the CRTC.) If no one opposes this separate proposal and the CRTC adopts it, cable companies that offer community channels or their own “local TV” service on a cable channel, will be able to broadcast false/misleading news, if it cannot be proven that the cable companies knew the news they broadcast was “false or misleading and … endanger[ed] or [was] likely to endanger the lives, health or safety of the public”.
So what? If no one opposes the BDU change, even if the CRTC drops the proposal for radio and TV thanks to comments filed on Wednesday, the CRTC can adopt the identical proposal for its cable and satellite regulations – and in a few years, radio and TV broadcasters can petition the CRTC to be treated in the same way as the cable companies offering community and local programs.
Having given BDUs more flexible treatment, the CRTC could claim it is unable to 're-regulate', and thus must treat radio and TV services the same way it already treats BDUS.
If accurate news and information and professional broadcast journalism matter to you, tell the CRTC what you think about Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2011-14 online at the CRTC website by .
We need stronger protection for professional jouranlism, not less.