Stephen Harper… When he was first elected, I described him as a George W. Bush of the north and a right-leaning robot, but those are of course empty statements. I have never met the man, and all I can judge him on (indeed, all the vast majority of the country can judge him on) is what we hear reported about him, how he conducts himself publicly, and what changes are enacted during his term of office as Prime Minister.
(For my American readers, I should clarify. Stephen Harper is the Prime Minister of Canada, which makes him sort of like the President of the USA, but without all the cool hype of being the leader of the free world. He has been in power since 2006, and is what we call a Conservative, but you would call them Republicans. The more you know!)
Honestly, I have been mostly neutral on Harper. He did not commit gigantic numbers of soldiers to the war effort or bring in the level of public control of private lives enacted by the US under George W. Bush, but I remain largely unimpressed by anything he has accomplished. Unlike some of his predecessors, he has largely avoided looking like a complete tit in international politics, which I much admit is a refreshing change to say the least.
However, his veneer has always struck me as ultraconservative. I distrust the ultraconservative in the same way and for the same reasons I distrust the radically left-leaning, the fundamentalist Christian, and the dentist who won’t shut up about how amazing dentists are. People who foam at the mouth on topics get under my skin, and I believe them to be blinded to what’s best due to their intense fanaticism of their particular leaning.
The issue I want to focus on today is a current CRTC regulation that states that it will not allow the broadcasting of “any false or misleading news.” to “news that is false or misleading and that engangers or is likely to endanger the lives, health, or safety of the public.” There is much speculation that this was Stephen Harper’s attempt to allow Fox News north of the border, and there are other opinions that say there should be no such legislation simply because the broadcasters should be allowed to run their own affairs and not require Big Government to get in the way of information, which moves faster than government.
I can see the latter point to a degree, but I believe that removing the regulation opens the door not necessarily to Fox News North (or Sun News, as it was intended to be called), but because it removes the need for integrity in journalism. However, it is folly to assume that we are not constantly bombarded with false information. For example, what would happen if the police were looking for a serial killer, and they knowingly put forward a false statement as means to flush the killer out? Technically, under the current law that becomes a criminal act. I suppose if I knew where the line was I could see if there were exceptions for law enforcement et al, but the point is that there are clearly times when misinformation, like it or not, is for the best.
That said, Canadian news has a long history of being excellent. It has certainly tarnished some in recent years with the megacorporations eating up all of the local providers and presenting a much more (though not completely) one-sided view of events. Interestingly, I find that the most balanced of our media outlets is generally the CBC, which is the government-owned news agency. One would assume that a government-run news agency would be more likely to toe the line, but maybe that is just another example of what it means to be a Canadian.
Is this Stephen Harper’s secret agenda? or is it simply a means to bring Canadian news into the 21st Century? It is my opinion (and ONLY opinion) that it may just be a little of both. Certainly, Harper’s right wing platform would be benefited by bias-spreading service like the one provided to US Republicans by Fox News, but what about the allegation (taken from the Calgary Herald article linked above) that this has been something the Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of CRTC Regulations has been pushing for a decade? Of course, other voices imply that this was “never wanted to change the regulation in the first place”. So I can’t say where the truth lies, but it is probably somewhere in the middle of all the hype.
At any rate, I personally don’t want a Fox News affiliate in Canada. I don’t want my broadcasters to be purposely, or even accidentally presenting false or misleading information. I would hope that facts are checked, that details are confirmed, and that the end product has merit. There will always be spin. There will always be badly interpreted data, misleading editorializing, and the promotion and ignoring of stories as it suits the network. But Fox News represents the ultraconservative mindset, which is to say a fanatical mindset. I would be just as contrary towards an evangelical Christian TV station promoting the ridiculous side of the foaming-at-the-mouth Christian, an “islamofascist” (and I giggle every time I write that word) station promoting the destruction of the West, and any other kind of stations that directly chose their own ideology over fact.