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Monday, July 19, 2004

Censorship or Public Safety?  

During my last trip to Quebec City, a local radio station’s broadcasting license was cancelled by the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission). According to the CRTC, CHOI Radio X: “has been the subject of numerous complaints with respect to the conduct of the hosts and the spoken word content that is aired, including offensive comments, personal attacks and harassment”.
 
The decision is unprecedented in that it is the first time in Canada’s history that a radio station’s broadcasting license is cancelled because of the nature of comments made by its hosts. All other cancellations were caused by non-respect of language constraints in musical programs. As you can imagine, the story has sparked a passionate debate around censorship and freedom of speech in Canada.
 
My opinion is that a very effective censorship is to decide to tune in another station when we don’t like what we hear. We can think that if people were all well informed and able to make their own opinions, we would not need a regulation commission such as the CRTC to “protect us from bad influence”.
 
I have listened CHOI several times during the last years because they are playing music that I like. I have to admit that most of their hosts are either vulgar or stupid, which still doesn’t keep them from making insightful comments from time to time. So my opinion is that if people were able to make their own opinions, CHOI would in fact be creating some diversity. On the other hand, it would disappear if it were being too offensive. However, the reality is that CHOI is Quebec City’s most popular radio station and that a lot of people identify and believe to what is being said by Jeff Filion, André Arthur and the likes. That includes their occasional racist, sexist and offensive comments.

CRTC is indeed a censorship organization, and it is unfortunately still necessary for those who can’t make by themselves an opinion they can call their own.

Comments:
Do you mean that the CRTC is still necessary, or the governemnt, in its paternalistic wisdom, thinks that it is still necessary? I don't like what is on most TV channels, so my children don't watch TV. That's where censorship should be - with the viewer.

BTW, welcome back.
 
I think likewise Harold. In an ideal world, everybody would be his/her own censor and an institution like the CRTC would become irrelevant. The only thing I question today is the capacity and the desire of each individual to take that responsibility.

I recently discussed with a man who is a regular listener of the controversial CHOI's morning man. We were discussing about the American foreign policy. To support his strong pro-Bush position he was using all the arguments Jeff Filion (the morning man) is using in his rhetoric. So I asked him if it was his opinion or Filion's. He answered it was the same because Filion is the man and he knows his stuff. That was scary.

I would never give away my right to think independently but this man is willingly doing so. So if I was part of a minority, such as an African student at Université Laval (one of Filion's target), I would probably be glad that the CRTC exists. Do we need the CRTC? Most of the time it's an unnecessary censor. In extreme cases, it's a public safety tool.
 
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