Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The broader truth

Yes, it's utterly asinine for David Akin to complain that keeping the law on truth in broadcasting as it currently stands will result in the sudden emergence of "truth squads". But let's put that non sequitur aside and take a look at what's even more obviously wrong with Akin's take on the wider media picture.

To the extent one wants to assume that any standard requiring truth in broadcasting will inevitably lead to crackdowns on the media, the change Akin is defending doesn't help matters in the slightest. After all, a broadcaster is still subject to sanction if it broadcasts false news "that endangers or is likely to endanger the lives, health or safety of the public". But apparently Akin is entirely fine with "truth and safety squads", so long as the media can lie without consequence when nobody is arguing that lives are at stake.

But that presents even more serious problems. I don't see much room for doubt that Akin's example of a crackdown in Egypt is exactly the type of situation where a controlling government would waste no time in shutting down dissent based on the public safety excuse that the Cons have so readily abused in other contexts.

So the question isn't whether the CRTC should be policing truth to some extent, as Akin is defending a change which keeps that role in place. Instead, the question is whether the CRTC should try to hold broadcasters to a standard of reasonable correspondence with reality at all times, or whether it should step in only in exactly the situations where state power is most likely to be misused. And the answer from Akin and the rest of the Sun Media Party suggests not only that they plan to play fast and loose with the facts under normal circumstances, but also that they see no problem with suppressing any notion of free speech when it matters most.

No comments:

Post a Comment