Yesterday, on Dave Rutherford’s show, the Calgary radio host had Jim Patterson, CEO of Telecaster (TVB). Rutherford got right to the point which I first raised in this post: Is Jim Patterson a partisan Liberal? While Patterson admitted that he supports the Liberal Party of Canada, he denied partisanship. I outlined about $4000 in donations that came from “Jim/James D. Patterson” (or someone that shares that exact name that lives in Lakefield Ontario) over a period from 2004-2006. The data compiled included one donation made just 12 days before Canadians went to the polls in the 2006 election. This donation came at the very time that Patterson had the last word on the suitability of election advertising for the home stretch of that election campaign.
Of course, party supporters (large and small) and even high donors to political parties are able to run large private corporations and organizations, but I question how appropriate it is for Mr. Patterson to oversee the advertising process during an election when his group has admitted more than one mistake when it comes to election/advocacy advertising? Telecaster made a mistake in dumping a Canadian Renewable Fuels (CRFA) advertisement and cited an odd request that CRFA require Stephen Harper’s permission because the ad included his image. Of course, issue and advocacy advertising cannot be subject to an easy veto by a political figure who may not like the content of an ad which may hold them to account. How would election advertising work in this climate?
Telecaster admitted its error and eventually let the CRFA advocacy ads run.
However, given Telecaster’s folding to Liberal (and CBC) demands during the last election that a Conservative ad be pulled only to have the private regulatory body flip-flop and re-approve it days later is unacceptable. Free elections cannot be run in this environment.
Should a non-partisan parliamentary body be assigned to provide oversight into potential partisan abuses of Telecaster’s unique position? The free market allows competition of ideas, of product and even of partisanship. However, when an effective monopolistic cabal has editorial control over election and advocacy advertising and its suitability for viewing on every private television network, the market is not free and potential abuses are bound to arise.