For those of us lucky enough to have the breadth of television programming that comes along with Canadian cable or satellite, a particular public service announcement from the Coalition Against Satellite Signal Theft may have flickered on our screens one or a hundred times. You may remember it: a boy steals a candy bar from a convenience store and when the boy’s father comes to discuss the situation with the boy and the authorities he asks “Where did you learn to steal?” and the boy replies “But dad, you steal satellite signals”.
According to a ruling by Quebec judge Danielle Coté, that little boy’s father was not stealing at all, and was rather fighting his own victimization by the satellite companies for violating his rights to free expression gained through the importation of foreign television signals.
The Satellite Coalition lamented that the case is not about expression but rather about programming rights.
The problem is that the system is antiquated and constructed in a way that favours the comfort of companies in spite of the reality of the medium. If CTV is upset that Canadians will tune into the West Wing on NBC rather than their channel, perhaps CTV needs to figure out a way to keep Canadians interested. Furthermore, satellite signal interception is not a one-way street; Americans can capture the CTV signal and watch it instead of the Peacock.
Simply, the law is one that comforts corporations at the expense of a consumer’s right to choice and a free market.
Furthermore, it’s not all about Martin Sheen pretending to be President. News sources from around the world (with varying opinions) are occluded from Canadian consumption (and evaluation) merely because they may conflict with the values (read: position) of those that make television and media policy in this country.