Shutting down speech on Canadian television

In Canada like the United States, television content is subject to review by regulatory bodies for a variety of reasons. In Canada, however, this material is subject to review for undesired political messaging.

Take a look at the following two produced-for-television spots from the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association (CRFA):


Bio Who?


On The Hill

It might surprise you to find out that the spots were canned by a regulatory body of private broadcasters called the Television Bureau of Canada (TVB). In the opinion of this self-regulatory body for networks such as CTV and Global, the content of the ads has been classified as “Issue and Opinion” by TVB. In fact, according to a letter obtained by this blogger (reproduced below), “the subject of renewable fuels being a hot topic these days makes it an opinion expressed.” Uh oh.

You might be thinking that opinion has never really been subject to censorship in Canada unless it crosses the line of hateful speech, decency or the promotion of unlawful activity. Of course, the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association is doing nothing of the sort in these spots.

Here is the letter from TVB to the advertising agency for Canadian Renewable Fuels:

The “On the Hill” spot was deemed unairable for a couple of reasons. First, Canadians would not be protected, it seems from clandestine opinions to change their economic behaviour (in the advertising industry, this is called “9 to 5, 7 days a week, 365 days a year”). Because renewable fuels is a political “hot topic”, vulnerable Canadians might suffer if the source of the advertising is not “on screen for at least 6 seconds [occupying] 1/3 of the screen in size”. The closing tag “greenfuels.org” on the spot is too covert for the audience even though it is likely meant as a plug for a website on which the CRFA presumably wants the audience to visit.

And what’s this about an “attestation letter” to the rights to use footage of Harper and the claim that the PM’s personal permission to use electoral footage of himself is needed before CRFA can proceed? Did anyone else know that the use of footage of a political candidate is forbidden in this country without the express written permission of that individual?

My pal Kory Teneycke, executive director of the CRFA wrote to the Conservative Party to inquire about such a request and passed on the party’s response to me:

Armed with confimation of his common sense, Teneycke wrote to TVB and expressed his concern:

What is your opinion on the stifling of speech on the over-regulated medium that is television in this country? I can think of a few instances of the suppression of public debate in this country, but only via government bodies. This marks a particularly egregious example perpetrated by a private organization. Further, this case is yet another example of how YouTube is helping individuals/organizations get around the regulatory filters. And why was the use of Harper’s image in a commercial that actually compliments his environmental plan such a deal-breaker for the Television Bureau of Canada?

You can write Jim Patterson, the President of the Television Bureau of Canada (Telecaster, TVB) at jpatterson@tvb.ca

UPDATE: CRFA mascot, Corncob Bob is on a Hunger Strike to protest the Television Bureau of Canada’s decision!

UPDATE: Gerry Nicholls, VP of the National Citizens Coalition and veteran of fighting censorship in advertising had the following to say when contacted for comment:

“Just another sad example of how we are regulating speech in this country and how we consistently underestimate the intelligence of Canadian consumers.”

UPDATE: Gerry also comments on his blog

CBC Lockout blogging

I haven’t been thinking too much about the CBC lockout and its effect on the state-run broadcaster. This seems to be the case with many Canadians. But, what I do find interesting (from a political blogging perspective) is the commentary behind the scenes in the blogosphere. Gerry Nicholls has commentary from the right and Antonia Zerbisias has coverage on the left.

There are also the blogs of the locked out employees here, here, here, here, and here

and even one that’s locked in.

The employees have even started their own news service

There’s even a blog that is encouraging people to put silly buttons on their blogs such as this one:

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I’ve remixed a few of these buttons and encourage your to put them on your blogs! You can link them back to this blog post if you like.

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and here’s my personal favourite:

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LSS Podcast – Gerry Nicholls of the NCC

Gerry Nicholls is president of the National Citizens Coalition and he gave a great speech at Peter Jaworski’s Liberty Summer Seminar.

To access the Blogging Tories podcast feed click here. (Podcast instructions here).

Or, you can download the audio file directly to your computer

Freedom-Government crossroads

freedom-crossroads.jpgI’d like to pose a simple question: “Could the Canadian government censor the Internet?”

Now, depending on your political leanings you might respond, “you Conservative wacko conspiracy theorist, the government wouldn’t do that!”

However, consider that the government already regulates the content of television and radio through the CRTC. The government body has the power to pull a station’s licence if they don’t play enough Canadian content or if they happen to be quite outspoken against the government in Quebec (see: ChoiFM). The Canadian government has incredible power over magazine publishers and think-tanks as well as these groups receive millions of dollars of government grants and support. Many Conservative think-tanks (e.g. Fraser Institute) and magazines (e.g. the Western Standard) are proudly independent of government subsidy and thus do not have to worry about publishing contrarian opinion and getting their funding cut.

In a discussion with Gerry Nicholls of the NCC over the weekend, we discussed the gag laws and the dissemination of Liberal-harmful news and message over the internet. Considering Jean Brault’s publication ban failure and the eventual NCC election gag law loss in the Supreme Court of Canada, Gerry mused that the Internet technology may have caught up with political censorship and thus gag laws have become pointless.

It is actually possible to censor the internet in Canada. The government would merely require that Rogers/Cogeco/Telus/Bell include a couple of lines of code within their global settings on their networks. The government can require that these companies ban connections to certain IPs or even ban pages automatically with certain keywords.

“But they only censor the internet in repressive third world countries”, you might say. However, consider that I, along with several Blogging Tories, and Brian Neale of Nealenews were facing potential charges for breaking the Jean Brault publication ban and consider that this very ban on Internet linking (!) is a circumvention of our right to free speech. Now consider that the Internet is the only unregulated medium in Canada (satellite television signals, that float through the air, are also regulated for CRTC-approved content). Also consider that more and more people get election news from the internet and that blogs will be front-row-centre(-right) during the next election. Furthermore, trends such as these mean that the government will either make a globally embarrassing move to regulate “the great democratizer” that is the Internet, or it will make no move at all. If the latter is true, government pressure on broadcast TV, radio, satellite, thinktanks and magazines will become less relevant as the Internet provides more freedom of information for all Canadians.

Liberty Summer Seminar – Summary of the event

What if the “establishment” was left-wing?

Yesterday I returned from a camping trip with some friends in Orono, ON. More specifically, our particular group gathered with other like-minded individuals and discussed ideas, activism and how to effectively oppose those that make the rules and those that are in power. The gathering represented various activist groups that sold either sold t-shirts emblazoned with hip slogans, gave speeches that stirred the crowd, or performed stirring songs that promoted the common agenda.

Now don’t worry, I haven’t joined the hippie hoard, but you might be surprised if I told you that everyone present found themselves firmly on “the right”.

This weekend I attended the 5th annual Liberty Summer Seminar, hosted by Peter Jaworski. The cause of the event was liberty and it was well-attended. Speakers at the seminar included Ezra Levant of the Western Standard news magazine, Marni Soupcoff of the National Post, Tasha Kheiriddin of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Mark Mullins (executive director of the Fraser Institute) and Gerry Nicholls of the National Citizens Coalition, among others. Certainly, the attendees were supporters and leaders in liberty and libertarian ideals in Canada. Perhaps the most notable invited guest was the one who didn’t show: Marc Emery, who faces extradition to the United States.

The event had the well intended feel and character of activism, so often practiced only on the left. Quite characteristic of the feeling of the event, one of those t-shirts sold at the event proclaimed (with a bar across the iconic Che Guevara), “Real rebels don’t support centralized state authority”. Our country has been disabled by those on the left that seek to give more power to the federal government, that seek to restrict personal freedom and reduce choice in healthcare and education.

What if “the establishment” was left-wing?

It is.

The libertarian philosophy finds itself squarely within the Conservative Party. It is often at odds with social conservatism but shares its disdain for liberalism and the gluttony of the state. Stephen Harper has also been described as a libertarian as his resume both boasts a master’s degree in economics and a stint as the president of the National Citizens Coalition. In a letter to Preston Manning, before he was even a politician, Harper advised the Reform party leader that socially conservative issues, such as abortion and traditional family values, cannot distract from the actual intentions of the Reform party, (fiscal liberty, reduced government and democratic reform).

I enjoyed the weekend incredibly and would like to thank the Jaworskis for their hospitality (and the best sauerkraut I’ve ever tasted). I represented Blogging Tories at the event and was surprised and humbled by how many of the invited speakers cited the website as a perfect example of how Liberty- and Conservative-minded individuals need to organize to take back the government in order to make a freer country for us all.