Conservative MP Garnett Genuis’ Facebook page
September 25, 2022
This week’s update begins as last week’s: a story of a moment’s lack of judgment by a Parliament Hill journalist, exploited by the Conservative Party to continue its vilification of the media.
Last week the story was about the confrontation between David Akin of Global News and Pierre Poilievre.
This week the focus was freelance journalist Dale Smith who poked Conservative MP Garnett Genuis’ for his conduct in Question Period:
Smith has solid journalist credentials, but according to some a reputation for “snark.” His Twitter feed has an edge.
You can follow the ensuing series of events here in the CBC account of it.
But to summarize, the Tories alleged a threat of violence by Smith. Genuis said he feared for his own safety. Conservative voice True North equated Smith’s Tweet to other, less ambiguous threats made against politicians.
The Globe’s Andrew Coyne denounced the Conservatives for engaging “in performative bullshit.”
Smith was defiant and refused to apologize.
The Conservatives upped the ante and demanded Smith be booted from the Parliamentary Press Gallery and, effectively, reporting on federal politics.
As expected, the self-governing Press Gallery refused the demand but not without admonishing Smith:
“The Gallery wishes to dissociate itself from the comments made by this journalist … the Press Gallery would like to emphasize that intimidation, in all its forms, is unacceptable … it is important to remember that it is not for politicians to determine who is or isn’t a member of the Gallery.”
The Toronto Star’s Bruce Arthur, who wrote an excellent column on Akin-Poilievre encounter last week, had this to say about Smith-Genuis:
Like l’affaire Akin last week, the problem is a major Canadian political party has decided to demonize the media as a strategy, and acts in bad faith while doing so. This, however, was an escalation, because the Conservatives demanded the press gallery and Parliament intervene over a journalist’s hacky tweet. The gallery operates under the purview — usually and appropriately at arm’s length — from the Speaker of the House. Imagine what mischief a dedicated anti-media Conservative Party in power could get up to. Imagine how bad this could get.
To add my own opinion, the “how-bad” is more than the harassment, vilification, and doxing of reporters, or Conservative attempts to ban unfriendly journalists.
“Bad” is also about turning off audiences and fueling news avoidance.
“Bad” is also the latest feature of media bashing: Internet trolls that counterfeit news posts to “prove” the alleged bias of professional journalists.
Global News’ Rachel Gilmour, a frequent target of the populist troll army’s ugliest harassment, retweeted a couple of these counterfeit posts aimed at her:
The Senate hearings on Bill C-11 the Online Streaming Act continue.
Senators are giving critics lots of air time to dwell on the controversy over user generated content and platform algorithms. Commentators like myself accommodate this oxygen-sucking debate by writing about it.
In my latest post, I suggested that the competing claims about the need for, or danger of, discoverability tools to promote Canadian content mostly concern the music industry and ought to be meticulously examined by the CRTC after C-11 passes into law.
Not getting enough public attention are the provisions of Bill C-11 weakening the CRTC’s ability to ensure that Canadian programming services get carried on foreign-owned online platforms operating in Canada. Senators do appear to be paying attention.
I commented on that issue here.
The federal cabinet has granted the petition from sixteen industry and advocacy groups to overturn the CRTC’s licence renewal for the CBC, handed down in June.
The CRTC is instructed to re-do its public hearing. As is customary, the cabinet’s directions are somewhat opaque. The Commission is mandated to:
…consider how to ensure that, as the national public broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation continue to make a significant contribution to the creation, presentation, and dissemination of local news, children’s programming, original French-language programming, and programming produced by independent producers.
Those instructions explicitly reference some of the worst of the CRTC’s ruling but are less clear about others such as scheduling of Canadian programs during evening prime time hours and the relationship between digital and linear television programming expenditures.
In a previous post I suggested the petition gave cabinet an opportunity to signal a broader consideration of the CBC, slated for review by the Minister’s 2021 Mandate Letter. There’s no sign of that yet, although there is an appetite for it.
The House of Commons Heritage Committee (CHPC) began its examination of Bill C-18 the Online News Act. The legislation is intended to rebalance the bargaining power between Canadian news organizations and digital platforms Google and Facebook over the value of the media’s intellectual property (I hesitate to use the loaded term “copyright.”). I previously wrote about C-18 here.
There’s a Globe and Mail report on the first day of Committee hearings here. There is also a helpful account on Cartt.ca.
In US Congress, a slightly different version of C-18 emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee’s “mark-up” hearing and will go forward to the full Senate after sponsor Amy Klubachar (D-Minnesota) struck a deal with Ted Cruz (R-Texas) over the issue of platform content moderation.
I may have already spilled too much ink over the BeerGate controversy involving CRTC Chair Ian Scott, Bell CEO Mirko Bibic, and Tek Savvy’s appeal of the Commission’s Wholesale Internet Broadband pricing decision.
This summer Scott was cleared by federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion of any violation of the Conflict of Interest Act.
In reviewing the legal filings on the Tek Savvy appeal to Federal Court I noticed a reference to the CRTC’s internal Code of Conduct which, the Bell factum correctly points out, contemplates Commissioners engaging with stakeholders at social events.
That got me interested in reading the CRTC Code for myself. When I couldn’t find it online I requested it from the Commission. The Commission responded that it was confidential and refused to release it.
With the assistance of a couple of colleagues I discovered the Code had in fact been posted on the Commission website as late as June. Thanks to the Wayback tool, I got a copy and indeed it verifies what Bell is telling the Federal Court:
The Code also says this:
Here’s the document:
If you are interested in the ongoing debate about the wholesale pricing of Internet and mobility services, or the dynamics behind the Rogers-Shaw merger, there is a series of articles in the Globe and Mail that focuses on the capital commitments to building fibre networks.
The articles are based on interviews of the CEOs of Shaw, Bell and Telus.