The credibility of television news is about to take a huge nosedive in the next of what seems like a series of astounding blunders from the CRTC. The Commission will soon allow Canadian news media to intentionally broadcast what is currently considered false or misleading information. And the deadline to oppose is this Wednesday. (UPDATE: Deadline for one of the submissions has been extended. More after the jump.)
The CRTC has done a lot of good things for us over the years, like forcing broadband providers to expand into rural areas and lease their bandwidth to resellers like TekSaavy. Things like that make the CRTC awesome, and that’s why we need to keep them around even if their boss makes a few unfortunate assessments now and again. Unfortunately, issues like their upcoming change which allows broadcasters to report news that is known to be false or misleading is making it much more difficult to defend them.
To be more specific, the CRTC is currently proposing to change a rule applying to conventional radio and television (as well as to cable and satellite providers in a separate application) that currently reads like this:
“prohibition on any news that the licensee knows is false or misleading”
to now read like this:
“prohibition on 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 more specific description may at first seem innocuous, but close evaluation makes it clear that this change is fully intended to lead broadcast news in Canada in a more sensationalist direction. As it currently stands, licensees can be held accountable if they report news which they know is false or only partially-true. This can currently have significant repercussions if evidence is accumulated to prove it, but that will no longer be the case if the Commission approves this change.
So why on earth is the CRTC considering something that will inevitably have dire and irreversible effects on Canadian media? Good question. Apparently it’s because of some kind of concern raised by Parliament’s Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. Naturally, no specifics are given at all, although it does go without saying that this change will greatly benefit the corporate giants currently backing the major news outlets throughout the country.
The most obvious potential problem that comes to mind is with Quebecor. Should all speculation on the subject prove to be true, they will now have a much easier time running their upcoming Sun TV News channel in a manner similar to Fox News Channel in the United States. Alternatively, given how CBC is constantly starving for viewership, it is possible that even their news outlets may not longer operate in an exemplary manner should these changes be made. Not to mention that CTV and Global will be able to directly report about usage-based billing in a completely positive light, rather than have representatives from Bell and Shaw appear to give the occasional “opinion” piece.
People, I don’t care if you’re liberal or conservative, or if you even watch TV news. This change is undoubtedly going to be bad for society in general. The current state of news media in the United States has eroded and polarized political discourse in that country to an unprecedented degree, and our media’s credibility is barely hanging on by a thread as it is. Please submit a comment in opposition to this change for convention television and radio here by Monday 7 February. If you have time, submit a comment in opposition for cable and satellite services here by the end of Wednesday 9 February.
UPDATE: The deadline to submit comments regarding the changes for cable and satellite services has been extended through 16 February. The deadline for conventional broadcasters remains the same.