Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
The campaign against ‘Fox News North’ threatens the intellectual freedom of all Canadians.
The American Library Association says we are all entitled to intellectual freedom. This is defined as:
…the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored. [bold added]
Back in 1953, when the library association issued its first Freedom to Read statement, right-wing public morality busybodies were attempting to restrict their fellow citizens’ access to material they considered offensive.
Here in Canada in 2010, left-wing bullies have waged a shameful campaign to, as the library association would describe it:
…impose their view of what is truthful and appropriate, or offensive and objectionable, on everyone else. [bold added]
These left-wingers are apoplectic over the planned launch, in January, of an all-news specialty cable channel called SunTV. Similar to America’s Fox News in that it would serve a conservative market and would be neither staid nor stale, activists have nicknamed the channel Fox News North.
In a bizarre twist, a New-York based left-wing group called Avaaz is sponsoring an online petition headlined Canada: Stop ‘Fox News North’. At the time of this writing 83,345 people have signed the petition (we have no way of knowing how many are actually Canadian citizens). Avaaz says that if the number reaches 100,000 it will “publish full page ads in Canadian newspapers.”
What might those ads say? Well, according to the Avaaz website, Canada’s Conservative Prime Minister
…is trying to push American-style hate media onto our airwaves, and make us all pay for it. His plan is to create a “Fox News North” to mimic the kind of hate-filled propaganda with which Fox News has poisoned U.S. politics. [bold in original]
So a television station months away from broadcasting its first five minutes has already been accused, tried, and convicted of promulgating “hate-filled propaganda.” Let us hope that those who wrote this stuff never get any real power. Keeping an open mind isn’t one of their strong suits.
The accusation that everyone will be coerced into funding SunTV refers to the fact that parent company Quebecor had applied for a Category 1 cable license. Typically – but not always – Category 1 channels are bundled into basic cable packages and therefore benefit from a guaranteed revenue stream. (The Canadian cable landscape is complex, inconsistent, and highly regulated – with a government body determining the channels for which everyone must pay whether we want these channels or not.)
Journalists describe Category 1 licenses as “rare.” The implication is that the mere act of requesting such a license proves that SunTV was looking for “preferential treatment” at a time when Canada’s federal government is of a Conservative persuasion.
Based on my recent experience, I think Quebecor is an unprofessional corporate entity lacking even a shred of honour. But if Canadian cable providers have been obliged, for the past decade, to offer a channel serving the 10% of the population that is homosexual why should a station serving the
50% one-third of the population that votes conservative not receive an equivalent deal?
It’s no secret that left-wingers despise Fox News. Avaaz believes a similar channel in Canada would be a “nightmare.” But nightmares, like beauty, are in the e
ye s of the beholder. Should you be denied access to a television channel just because your neighbour doesn’t like it? Avaaz, remember, wants SunTV stopped.
Quebecor’s request for a Category 1 license was turned down in early July, partly because there’s a moratorium on new Category 1 applications until October 2011. Since July 5th, therefore, it has appeared unlikely that cable customers will be required to fund SunTV against their will. Avaaz, however, continues to claim the opposite.
SunTV has now reapplied for a Category 2 license, with a twist. It has requested that cable providers be obliged to make the channel available to customers for the first three years. Anyone who thinks this request is unreasonable is invited to peruse Wikipedia’s account of PrideVision’s trials and tribulations.
Now called OUTtv, the channel has long held a Category 1 license. Nevertheless, it has been forced to appeal to the authorities more than once concerning the behaviour of more than one cable provider that had concerns about its programming.
In the case of SunTV, some of Canada’s cable companies are financially affiliated with already-established news channels. Since SunTV would compete directly with these channels, it isn’t difficult to imagine cable companies trying to block SunTV’s access to the airwaves. Viewers equal advertising revenue. In the US, twice as many people watch Fox News compared to CNN.
An e-mail message that Avaaz encourages its supporters to send to their friends claims:
This is a fight for the soul of Canadian democracy. Our media is not perfect, but a ‘news’ network that slavishly serves a political agenda through mass manipulation and fear threatens the fabric of our democratic society.
The full text of this e-mail message contains numerous unsubstantiated accusations. Rumours, ominous meetings, sinister motives – this is what left-wing analysis has been reduced to. The e-mail links to an opinion piece on the website of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) titled The absolute last thing this country needs.
Think about that for a moment. All Canadian taxpayers – not merely cable TV subscribers – fund the CBC to the tune of $1 billion a year (14-page PDF financial report here). We are given no choice. Now this same media venue is being used to argue that the country doesn’t “really need a right-wing news channel.”
Well, we don’t really need an Al Jeezera channel, either. But we have one. We don’t need a biography channel, a fashion channel, an adult movie channel, a reality TV channel, a Portuguese channel, or a music video channel. But we have all of those – in some cases, multiple flavours of them.
Avaaz’s chain of reasoning is so weak and its tone is so hyperbolic I’m amazed anyone has been willing to associate themselves with this group. But the Stop ‘Fox News North’ petition gained traction after a Canadian cultural icon announced she had signed it.
read Part 2 here
Saint Margaret of Atwood takes center stage in Part 2 of Slaying the Unicorn – coming soon.
NOV. 9th CORRECTION:
I try hard to triple-check my facts (and to link to my sources so that no one need take my word for anything), but the original version of this post included an error. I apologize.
Fifty percent of the Canadian population does not vote conservative. The correct figure is about one-third. Federal election results are available here. If one looks at the previous 7 elections (back to 1980) and counts votes for the Conservative Party, the Progressive Conservative Party, and the Reform Party all as conservative ballots one gets the following results: