Mark Goldberg

Taking responsibility

Over the holidays, a cover story in Toronto’s Metro newspaper caught my eye: “Cleric spreading ‘hate’ on local TV”. The story says “Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada filed a complaint with the CRTC this week over comments aired on the Pakistani network Geo TV, which is carried by both Bell and Rogers.”

According to the news story, the complaint was filed in respect of content aired during a program broadcast on December 22.

The paper sought comment from the CRTC:

The CRTC told Metro it has received six complaints about the program and that it would respond to each individually. But a spokeswoman also said foreign broadcasters operate “under the laws and regulations in place in their respective countries of origin,” adding that Canadian service providers are “not generally involved in any programming decisions.”

A little over 10 years ago, the CRTC imposed special conditions of license when it approved Al Jazeera’s Arabic language network to be added to Canadian TV distribution systems [Al Jazeera applied in October 2013 to have those conditions removed; the CRTC has not yet issued a decision on that application].

However, just because the CRTC only imposed special conditions on Al Jazeera does not mean that Canadians must rely on foreign regulators to safeguard our airwaves.

The Broadcast Act is pretty clear on this point. As the CRTC highlighted in paragraph 79 of the Al Jazeera decision:

… the Commission’s statutory responsibility to regulate and supervise all aspects of the Canadian broadcasting system with a view to implementing the broadcasting policy set out in section 3(1) of the Act. The policies that are most relevant to such a requirement are found in sections 3(1)(d)(i) and (iii) and section 3(1)(h) and are paraphrased as follows:

  1. The Canadian broadcasting system should serve to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political and social fabric of Canada;
  2. The Canadian broadcasting system should, through its programming serve the needs and interests, and reflect the circumstances and aspirations, of Canadians, including equal rights and the multicultural and multiracial nature of Canadian society; and
  3. All persons who are licensed to carry on broadcasting undertakings have a responsibility for the programs they broadcast.

Under the Broadcast Act, “broadcasting undertakings” include TV distributors, including those companies that are carrying Geo TV.

Under the Broadcasting Act, the CRTC and the TV distributors have a responsibility for the programs being broadcast into Canadian homes. Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada’s complaints need to be investigated and given full consideration by the CRTC and Canadian law enforcement authorities.

If foreign content violates Canadian law, Canadians do not need to rely on “the laws and regulations in place in their respective countries of origin.”

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