Back in May 2014, most of the major broadcasters in Canada (CBC/Radio-Canada, CTV, Rogers, and Shaw) unanimously announced that they would refrain from airing political attack ads that featured material taken from their airwaves without their consent. The crackdown wasn’t intended to stop politicians from creating attack ads—considering the ads have been a part of the political process as long as politicians have, they’re something of a mainstay—but it allowed them to keep an eye on their materials. In their joint statement, the broadcasters said, “the use of our content in political advertisements without our express consent may compromise our journalistic independence and call into question our journalistic ethics, standards and objectivity.” Rather than take the government to court, the outlets decided—in true Canadian spirit—to unite in not airing such ads. Under the Copyright Act as it stood, they had the leverage to do so.
Canadians may have heaved a sigh of relief back then, but it now appears that the Conservative Party of Canada, infamous for their attack ads on Justin Trudeau (who gets the brunt of their attacks), will challenge Canada’s broadcasters. Considering they’ve already challenged US Broadcasters who opposed the CPC’s promise to create a “pick and pay” method for television channels, it was only a matter of time before they clashed with the broadcasters on this side of the border. Leaked documents suggest a pending motion in the House that will allow all political parties to use whatever news content they want.
Liberal and NDP MPs have denounced this move. Liberal Ralph Goodale referred to the government as a “tin pot banana republic.” Conservative MPs Gerald Keddy and Tom Lukiwski, who knew little about the idea (it hadn’t reached them in the nosebleeds yet), were tentatively supportive of it and pointed out that all parties could use it. Keddy highlighted that the clips would need to be used in a “reasonable and responsible way.” He presumably means that parties can’t deliberately mislead audiences by using clips without providing the full text of what the attacked said. If that’s the case, the CPC will have to clean their ads up a bit!
When prodded in question period, Heritage Minister Kelly Glover argued, “Canadian broadcasters shouldn’t be able to censor what Canadians can see on TV.”
Mr. Speaker, as a future Member for Ontario, I have a question for the Honourable Minister of Heritage: if Canadian broadcasters can’t censor what we see on TV, does that mean that CBC, Radio-Canada, CTV, Rogers, and Shaw will start airing hardcore porn? I have a feeling doing so would increase viewership, and perhaps even save the CBC from your party’s massive underfunding! We’d keep it “after hours,” of course.