As America's middle class battles for its survival on the Wisconsin barricades -- against various Koch Oil surrogates and the corporate toadies at Fox News -- fans of enlightenment, democracy and justice can take comfort from a significant victory north of Wisconsin border. Fox News will not be moving into Canada after all! The reason: Canada regulators today announced they would reject efforts by Canada's right wing Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to repeal a law that forbids lying on broadcast news.Well perhaps a bit of an idealistic take on our home and native land. "Political dialogue in Canada is marked by civility, modesty, honesty, collegiality, and idealism that have pretty much disappeared on the U.S. airwaves." is a slightly rosy view. I'd recommend Kennedy check out the writings and rantings of Ezra Levant or Lorne Gunter's disappointed snarl at the CRTC decision and he'd find we have our own homegrown ideologues, raving bigots, demagogues and fools with major media soap boxes.
Canada's Radio Act requires that "a licenser may not broadcast....any false or misleading news." The provision has kept Fox News and right wing talk radio out of Canada and helped make Canada a model for liberal democracy and freedom. As a result of that law, Canadians enjoy high quality news coverage including the kind of foreign affairs and investigative journalism that flourished in this country before Ronald Reagan abolished the "Fairness Doctrine" in 1988. Political dialogue in Canada is marked by civility, modesty, honesty, collegiality, and idealism that have pretty much disappeared on the U.S. airwaves. When Stephen Harper moved to abolish anti-lying provision of the Radio Act, Canadians rose up to oppose him fearing that their tradition of honest non partisan news would be replaced by the toxic, overtly partisan, biased and dishonest news coverage familiar to American citizens who listen to Fox News and talk radio. Harper's proposal was timed to facilitate the launch of a new right wing network, "Sun TV News" which Canadians call "Fox News North."
Harper, often referred to as "George W. Bush's Mini Me," is known for having mounted a Bush like war on government scientists, data collectors, transparency, and enlightenment in general. He is a wizard of all the familiar tools of demagoguery; false patriotism, bigotry, fear, selfishness and belligerent religiosity.
Harper's attempts to make lying legal on Canadian television is a stark admission that right wing political ideology can only dominate national debate through dishonest propaganda. Since corporate profit-taking is not an attractive vessel for populism, a political party or broadcast network that makes itself the tool of corporate and financial elites must lie to make its agenda popular with the public. In the Unites States, Fox News and talk radio, the sock puppets of billionaires and corporate robber barons have become the masters of propaganda and distortion on the public airwaves. Fox News's notoriously biased and dishonest coverage of the Wisconsin's protests is a prime example of the brand of news coverage Canada has smartly avoided.
The difference is that they don't have anywhere near the profile someone like Glenn Beck can get, with no restriction at all on blatant partisan dishonesty on the airwaves. Canada's false news law never stopped Mike Duffy from performing the kind of yeoman service to the Conservative Party that earned him his Senate seat, but it has resulted in the closest thing to a Glenn Beck in Canada being a loud mouthed Hockey announcer with horrible taste in suits almost universally considered to be little more than a rodeo clown.
Of course a law is useless unless it's enforced, so Canadians need to remember to hold our broadcasters to their legal obligations. Sun TV will be pushing against that boundary every day its on the air, lets make sure their legal department earns their money responding to CRTC complaints every time they do.