Is TVB’s Jim D. Patterson a Liberal partisan?

Yesterday, I broke the story about how a regulatory body of Canada’s private broadcasters was apparently holding back advertising produced by the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association (CRFA).

The reason for the rejection of CRFA’s advertising? Insufficient size (and duration) of a disclaimer describing who produced the ad spots as TVB categorized the commercials as “Issues and Opinions” due to the buzzworthy nature of renewable fuels.

However, CRFA was given another bizarre reason for the rejection of one of their ads: a two second clip of Stephen Harper stumping during the previous election on a renewable fuels promise needed a “letter of attestation” from the Conservative leader in order for it to appear in the commercial. In other words, CRFA needed Harper’s permission to use Harper’s image even though the use of such an image was from a public event and without media restriction. The clip was used by CRFA to remind Canadians of the promise made by the Conservatives during the previous election on renewable fuels.

CRFA cried foul and rightly argued that such a stipulation for advertising would mean that public figures that debate and write legislation for the public could have an automatic veto over any commercial that they don’t like that featured their image. It should be noted that the issue of ownership of the video content was never in dispute, but rather that the subject of the video (Harper) had not signed off on it’s use.

This got me thinking. Surely there are other examples of commercials produced using the images of elected officials. Election advertising and especially attack ads come to mind.

During the closing days of the previous election, I doubt that Stephen Harper signed off on the blurry, war drum fade-in of his image while Liberals warned of “soldiers with guns. In our cities. We’re not making this up”. Why would he give his permission for such a spot? Further, if TVB is responsible for editorial control over commercials that air on private broadcasters, why on Earth did a spot showing women hunched over cowering while a voice-over falsely accused Harper of being an ideologue that would prevent a woman from her right to choose get approved, while Corn Cob Bob got canned for using an innocuous clip of Stephen Harper (for about two seconds on less than 5% of the screen).

The TVB apparently greenlighted obviously slanderous ad copy while rejecting a happy-go-lucky ad about renewable fuels.

During the last days of the 2006 election, after the Liberals made those war drum spots (we’re not making this up), the Conservatives responded with their own ad with clips of Liberals saying the soldier ad was a “bad idea” etc and a clip of Paul Martin admitting that he approved the ads. The Liberals were quick to condemn the ad in a press release dated January 15th, 2006:

Conservatives Called on to Withdraw TV Spots
January 15, 2006

The Conservative Party of Canada has produced new television ads which the Liberal Party of Canada believes are in violation of Canada’s Copyright laws.

The Liberal Party of Canada calls on the Conservative Party to withdraw these ads.

Here’s the ad:

The Liberals lobbied to have the ad pulled because they claimed that the Conservatives violated CBC copyright by using a clip of Paul Martin admitting that he approved the controversial Liberal attack ads. A CP story from January 16th, 2006 gives us some more perspective:

OTTAWA (CP) — A new Conservative TV ad is reminding voters some of Paul Martin’s own candidates disapproved of a controversial Liberal attack which some say implied a Tory government would send tanks into the streets.

The Conservative ad recycles quotes from prominent Liberals including John McCallum, former defence minister, who last week called his party’s ad a mistake.

The 30-second Liberal spot was based on a campaign promise by Conservative Leader Stephen Harper to station 500-member battalions of Canadian Forces personnel in major cities for deployment in emergencies.

The Liberal ad outraged military personnel, who said it implies the Tories were advocating some form of martial law.

It was quickly yanked from the Liberal party’s English website, but a French version aired on television in Quebec.

Martin has said he gave an initial go-ahead, then changed his mind and pulled the ad, which McCallum and Keith Martin, a former Reform party MP and now a Liberal incumbent, later criticized.

The Liberals called on the Conservatives to withdraw the ad in a statement Sunday, saying they believe it violates copyright laws by using CBC footage which they did not have permission to use.

But the Conservatives said all their ads were approved by the party’s legal counsel and Telecaster, the Canadian advertising authority. They added they haven’t received any complaints about the ad from the CBC.

Telecaster (TVB) initially approved the ad for distribution, however, the Liberals complained and the ad was subsequently pulled.

TVB’s greenlight of controversial Liberal ads, the rejection of CRFA’s ads which favourably portray Harper’s environmental policy, along with the pulling of the previously approved Conservative response ad during the past election after Liberals complained raises a few red flags.

As with other elements of our democracy, the approval of private advertising of election ads (and non-election advocacy ads) should be accomplished on a level playing field. Why should one party (whether Conservative or Liberal) have an advantage over the other when trying to get advertising approved for consumption by the public on private networks? Of course, private networks are free to do business with whomever they choose, but would it be a scandal if the umbrella group that is is in charge of editorial content control for these networks controlled for preferred partisanship rather than what they are supposed to control for? (hate speech, indecency, promotion of unlawful acts)

According to the Television Bureau of Canada’s website, the president of the organization is a man named Jim Patterson. In this document we find out that Jim Patterson also goes by the name James and that his middle initial is D.

I decided to search the Elections Canada donations database for donations from people named Jim/James D. Patterson. The following results describe one individual who, according to Elections Canada, lives in Lakefield Ontario with the postal code K0L 2H0.

Name of contributor Political party / Return type / End period Date received Class of contributor / Part # of the return Contribution transferred to (leadership contestant) Monetary ($) Non-monetary ($)
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Annual / 2005 Dec. 31, 2005 Individuals / Part 2a 450.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Annual / 2005 May 25, 2005 Individuals / Part 2a 250.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Annual / 2005 Dec. 20, 2005 Individuals / Part 2a 450.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Annual / 2004 Jun. 30, 2004 Individuals / Part 2a 500.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Annual / 2004 Sep. 29, 2004 Individuals / Part 2a 1,000.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Jun. 2005 May 25, 2005 Individuals / Part 2a 250.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Dec. 2005 Dec. 20, 2005 Individuals / Part 2a 450.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Sep. 2006 Jul. 27, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Jun. 2006 Apr. 28, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Jun. 2006 May 30, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Jun. 2006 Jun. 30, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Mar. 2006 Jan. 31, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Mar. 2006 Feb. 28, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Mar. 2006 Mar. 31, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Sep. 2006 Aug. 31, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Sep. 2006 Sep. 29, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
James D Patterson Lloyd, Diane / Liberal Party of Canada / Peterborough Jan. 11, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 250.00

Is this the same Jim/James D. Patterson that is the head of the Television Bureau of Canada, the private regulatory body that has editorial control over “Issues and Opinion” advertising?

If so, should a partisan be in charge of approving ads during a time sensitive period (such as an election) where parties depend on television advertising for their most critical rapid responses? Also, would it be appropriate for a partisan to have an advanced look at a competing party’s ads?

Cue Mark Holland

This past week, the Conservatives have nodded in the general direction of Elections Canada by refiling their 2005 expenses with the government body which recently clarified its position on convention fees as political donations. This provides some declouded some of my confusion last week when I received a tax receipt to a “donation” that I didn’t make this year. The receipt instead was for 2005.

The status of convention fees was a significant point of contention this year between the Conservative and the Liberals. The Tories via their minority government’s federal accountability act legislation threw a wrench, the Grits argue, into their leadership convention plans. That convention, which wrapped up at the beginning of this month saw approximately 5,000 delegates paying about $1,000 each to participate in the process that elected Chretien-era cabinet minister Stephane Dion as the leader of that party. The Conservatives pointed out that the Liberals, by arguing for donation status for their convention fees, were in fact asking the Canadian taxpayer to subsidize their party’s convention costs as political donations receive a healthy tax refund.

The Liberals, in turn, tried to make hay out of Conservatives being caught afoul of their storied drive for accountability arguing that the Tories had over-donated to their own party and, in a weak attempt of Tu Quoque, tried to paint the Conservatives over-donations as a measure of corruption in line with the embezzlement of millions by Liberal-friendly advertising firms in previous years.

In fact, Elections Canada reveals that even under the new interpretation of convention fees as donations, a mere three delegates at the Tory policy convention had to be refunded for over-donating. Underneath it all, only three people were at or near the maximum donation amount and also attended the convention that year. One of those delegates was Stephen Harper. Harper likely made the maximum possible donation to his party that year and because he also attended the policy convention, he over-donated via his own convention fee. The Conservatives had not considered the fees to be donations in part because of their position that political conventions should not be subsidized by the Canadian taxpayer.

The PMO has expressed that while they do not agree with Elections Canada’s decision, they will comply with it. They also underscore that it has always been their position that whatever the decision rendered by Elections Canada, they would comply with it.

NCC article

Gerry Nichols, who heads up the National Citizens Coalition invited me to write an article about freedom/liberty issues and I agreed. What else to write about than blogging and its role in spreading liberty in Canada. The article will appear in next month’s newsletter and I’ve been given the go-ahead to give my readers a sneak peak here.

Beware The Blog!

The Internet is changing the way the world communicates and that’s good news for those of us who value freedom.

On an international level this new technology is breaking down barriers of communication and linking citizens in emergent democracies to ideologies and philosophies of freedom that were otherwise denied to them by their governments.

And here in Canada, blogging, podcasting and online communities are radically changing how information is handled, reported and interpreted.

The advent of blogging, in particular, has enabled every person to easily make their opinions available to a global audience. It has also provided Canadians with an alternative to the often biased mainstream news media.

Indeed it was to counter this bias that we started BloggingTories.ca, an online community of approximately 200 conservative-minded bloggers including several Conservative party MPs and candidates, journalists and authors.

These BloggingTories interpret Canadian news and events as they unfold free from the biased filter of the media.

And BloggingTories just don’t interpret the news. They also investigate and publicize facts and information the mainstream media either ignores or fails to uncover.

For instance, Blogging Tories have uncovered a variety of government-related concerns from the limited mandate of Justice John Gomery to the preponderance of Liberal donors on the boards of Crown corporations.

In fact, print and broadcast media have actually taken to publishing and broadcasting the opinions and findings of Blogging Tories.

All this has made our group a real thorn in the side of the ruling Liberal party.

But the value of blogging and the Internet goes beyond just making life difficult for Liberal politicians.

These new technologies, I believe, will also make it possible to sidestep the Liberal governmentÂ’s notorious election gag laws.

Of course, supporters of the National Citizens Coalition know all about the gag law and how it stifles freedom of expression.

You know how it makes it a crime for citizens to freely and effectively communicate political opinions during elections and how the NCC bravely battled against them in the courts for more than 20 years.

You also know how last year the Supreme Court of Canada endorsed this horrible law as constitutional.

What you might not know, however, is that the gag law is designed to zero in on election expenditures.

Once you spend more than $500 on election advertising you must register with Elections Canada; you are not permitted to spend more than $150,000 on a national campaign; you can’t spend more than $3000 on a local campaign.

But blogging is virtually free. So the costs of getting your message out on the Internet falls far below the gag law imposed limits.

This opens the possibility of running an election ad campaign on the Internet. Why not? Certainly the value and widespread ease of dissemination of a blogger’s message can match or surpass any of the Liberal government’s paid propaganda.

My point is that citizens with a message for change are enabled by blogging; they can use it to weaken the grip of incumbents who craft anti-speech laws to protect their positions.

Of course, the government may yet move to control the Internet. The Canadian Radio-Television Commission (CRTC) is perhaps one of the most significant spoilers of free expression in this country and it likely has its eyes set on regulating cyberspace.

The CRTC may argue for instance that to be granted the right to broadcast information, one must apply for a license and must fall within the ideological mission of the government body.

At the present time however, the CRTC has not put up a significant challenge to the free expression of otherwise legal political opinion on the Internet. Time will reveal whether or not they will try.

In the meantime, the BloggingTories will continue to provide a grassroots voice for change.

And in the process these conservative-minded bloggers will reshape how we receive political news and commentary.

They are changing the concept of democracy.