Catching up on MediaPolicy.ca – Feds concede defeat in CBC n-word appeal – ‘Viking’ – UK and US online safety- the Torstar divorce

December 24, 2022

The federal Attorney-General’s office has raised the flag of surrender to the CBC’s appeal of the CRTC’s controversial censure of Radio-Canada for on-air references to the title of Pierre Vallières’ classic “N—— blancs d’ Amérique.”

The Radio-Canada hosts’ multiple quotations of mot d’n in the title, once in English and four times in French, were spoken during a consideration of ‘taboo topics,’ in particular the controversy of classroom references to the same book title by a Concordia University professor.

In its filing to the Federal Court of Appeal on behalf of the CRTC, the A-G has plead no contest and backed the dissenting Commissioners on all points. Back in July, MediaPolicy.ca reviewed the Commission majority and dissenting statements here and here.

There can be no doubt the majority Commissioners made a hash of it even though they had the opportunity to review the dissenting comments before publishing, criticisms that the A-G believes are dead on.

Of the many legal errors, perhaps the most puzzling was the majority’s failure to consider whether the offending speech violated the ‘Equitable Portrayal Code‘ that is a condition of licence for the CBC and all broadcasters. Article 10(c) of the Code gives broadcasters the opportunity to rebut the usual presumption that on-air racist vocabulary is a violation of licence:

9. Language and Terminology

Broadcasters shall be sensitive to, and avoid, the usage of derogatory or inappropriate language or terminology in references to individuals or groups based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.

b) It is understood that language and terminology evolve over time. Some language and terminology may be inappropriate when used with respect to identifiable groups on the basis of their race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability. Broadcasters shall remain vigilant with respect to the evolving appropriateness or inappropriateness of particular words and phrases, keeping in mind prevailing community standards.

10. Contextual Considerations

Broadcasts may fairly include material that would otherwise appear to breach one of the foregoing provisions in the following contextual circumstances:

a) Legitimate artistic usage: Individuals who are themselves bigoted or intolerant may be part of a fictional or non-fictional program, provided that the program is not itself abusive or unduly discriminatory;

b) Comedic, humorous or satirical usage: Although the comedic, humorous or satirical intention or nature of programming is not an absolute defence with respect to the proscriptions of this Code, it is understood that some comedic, humorous or satirical content, although discriminatory or stereotypical, may be light and relatively inoffensive, rather than abusive or unduly discriminatory;

c) Intellectual treatment: Programming apparently for academic, artistic, humanitarian, journalistic, scientific or research purposes, or otherwise in the public interest, may be broadcast, provided that it: is not abusive or unduly discriminatory; does not incite contempt for, or severely ridicule, an enumerated group; and is not likely to incite or perpetuate hatred against an enumerated group.

The A-G did not take a stand on whether article 10(c) vindicated the CBC as the broadcaster had already complied with the CRTC’s order to apologize.

It’s up to the Federal Court to formally accept the A-G’s surrender. You can download the court file (en français) below. The A-G’s brief begins at page 84 of the PDF.

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Last week Rupert Murdoch was ‘deposed’ in preparation for Fox News’ defence of a defamation lawsuit filed against it by Dominion Voting Systems (DVS) which was falsely accused by election deniers of having rigged the 2020 Presidential vote count.

This week Fox News personality Sean Hannity was grilled by DVS lawyers about hosting Trump lawyer Sidney Powell who made the false claims on his show.

Hannity claimed he ‘never believed for a minute’ Powell’s false claims even though he did not contradict or question her on their truthfulness. Hannity’s admission will no doubt be relied upon at trial by DVS as proof of Fox’s ‘actual malice,’ the knowing or reckless expression of defamatory statements.

***

If and when the federal Liberals table an online safety bill we will no doubt benchmark the Canadian approach against similar efforts in the US, UK and the EU.

Last week the EU unveiled its Digital Services Act. Its emphasis on the responsibility of online platforms to develop, explain and enforce codes of speech conduct is consistent with the approach promised by Canadian Heritage.

Another legislative tool is being considered in the US Senate, the Democrat-sponsored Platform Accountability and Transparency Act. It would require platforms to share data with independent researchers so that the public has a better view of whether the platforms are living up to their own speech codes.

***

The Globe and Mail’s Joe Castaldo has a piece on the Torstar divorce: the parting of the ways by co-owners Paul Rivett and Jordan Bitove.

One tidbit: Bitove is quoted as saying the Toronto Star is “approaching profitability.” That’s a long distance from Rivett’s public comments about the Star losing $1 million per week. It’s a good thing these folks aren’t a public company.

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The man who fired CTV news anchor Lisa LaFlamme seems to have landed on his feet upon return from a leave of absence. Former head of CTV News, Michael Melling becomes Bell Media’s VP of Shared Services. His interim replacement Richard Gray has been confirmed in the News job.

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Oh glorious time of the year when film critics deliver ‘best of’ lists.

Here’s Barry Hertz’s list of ten great CanCon movies. If ‘Viking’ is half as good as its trailer, it will become an oddball classic.

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Published by

Howard Law

I am retired staff of Unifor, the union representing 300,000 Canadians in twenty different sectors of the economy, including 10,000 journalists and media workers. As the former Director of the Media Sector and as an unapologetic cultural nationalist, I have an abiding passion for public policy in Canadian media.

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