Sun News Network host Ezra Levant is in trouble again. That’s the same guy who, when he was the editor of the Western Standard magazine, was dragged before one of Canada’s kangaroo courts of human rights over complaints lodged by Muslims for Levant’s “audacity” to reprint the infamous Danish cartoons that made light of Islamist terrorism.
This time, his “offence” is a Spanish phrase – chinga tu madre – that he directed at the boss of Chiquita after the banana company tried to stage a boycott of Alberta over its oil sands. The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) didn’t like such candour and decided to censure Levant – even going so far as to demand that he read a statement on air that, according to Levant, would be tantamount to reading a lie.
One of the censors, Troy Reeb, himself affiliated with Sun’s competitor Global TV, at least had enough backbone to face Levant on his own show to explain the situation. As Reeb explains it, Sun News is a voluntary member of the CBSC, and as such the organization can issue directives to Sun News.
Levant claims that membership isn’t voluntary, because joining the CBSC was a mandatory requirement under Sun News’ broadcast licence. To which Reeb responded that Sun was free to leave the CBSC, but also warned that if more broadcasters followed suit, the CBSC would cease to exist and broadcast censorship would revert to a government body like the CRTC, the national regulator.
I wasn’t involved in the licence negotiations between Quebecor, the owner of Sun News, and the CRTC. I don’t know what led to the inclusion of the requirement that Sun News “had to” join a voluntary organization like the CBSC to obtain its licence, but I have a fairly strong feeling about the kind of game that’s being played here.
Both the CRTC and the CBSC are filled mostly with left-wingers, even some radical elements. When they first heard of the plan to launch a conservative and libertarian news channel, leftists were aghast. I still remember the drama queen routine Margaret Atwood performed daily on Twitter and elsewhere, giving everyone the impression that one non-leftist news channel would mean the end of the world – regardless of the fact that all other news outlets are firmly in the pro-left camp.
I also remember that Sun News’ licence application hung by a tiny thread because of the immense onslaught of negative opinion against it – all coming from the usual left-wing suspects in the mainstream media and certain political parties. My thoughts then went something like this: It’s alright for left-wingers to operate their stations and newspapers, but woe to any conservative who dares claim the same right.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the CRTC blackmailed (you know, like “Agree to this or forget about ever airing a single second of air time in this country”) Quebecor into accepting the clause about “voluntary” CBSC membership so as to have some kind of left-wing control over the news channel, not to mention a weapon leftists could deploy against the hated station at a moment’s notice.
What bothers me is Reeb’s comment that there had to be some sort of censorship, whether it is exercised by the CBSC or the CRTC. I don’t think we need any of that. We are a liberal democracy, and broadcasters should be free to air whatever they deem fit. If any content breaks the law, then let the courts deal with it.
There shouldn’t be censorship over language, even if a station decided to air utterances of the F-word nonstop for half an hour. People are free to change channels. If they’re worried about children seeing any of that, they can put a lock on the channel or even call the cable company to remove the channel from their line-up. (Some of the newer technology actually allows viewers to remove channels from the line-up right from their cable box.)
We must stop treating TV viewers like newborns and start showing respect for people’s freedom of speech, including broadcasters or commentators like Levant.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of The Prince Arthur Herald.
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