COLUMN: Levant – Expose and dispose

- June 20th, 2012

My five-point plan to fight back at the broadcast standards council

 

Did you know that a secretive group called the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council is censoring what you hear on the radio and see on TV?

I bet you didn’t. Because they truly are secretive.

Unlike a real court, or even the kangaroo courts of Canada’s human rights commissions, the CBSC doesn’t hold open meetings when it gets together to censor TV and radio.

In fact, they don’t even let the people they’re censoring attend. No right to face your accuser. No right to ask questions. And when you lose, you don’t have the right to appeal.

I should know, because last week I was condemned by this Star Chamber myself.

On the face of it, the condemnation of my TV show by the censors’ council was for my use of a Mexican insult to tell off the Chiquita Banana company, which had announced trade sanctions against the oilsands.

But, of course, there is no rule against swearing on Canadian TV. So the censors said I violated Clause 6 of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics (apparently there is a list of rules), that I didn’t provide a “full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial.”

Hang on a second. What I do isn’t reporting — it’s opinion journalism. It’s editorials. It’s taking a side in the story. Giving a “full” presentation of opinion would require that after I denounced Chiquita, I’d then have to make their case for them.

Or if I endorse the Conservatives in an election, I’d then have to argue the case for the NDP. It’s absurd. By definition I take a side of the debate — not the boring, mushy middle of the road.

But that’s precisely what I was convicted of by these censors. Well, here’s my five-point plan to fight back.

1. Keep breaking the rules. I’m going to violate the censors’ rules every single day on my TV show. Not just me — I’m going to invite other TV and radio hosts who have been censored, and invite them to re-offend on my show. I’m going to make a mockery of the rules.

2. Scrutinize their every move. Let’s point out their inconsistencies and how their rulings violate the Charter of Rights guarantee of freedom of speech. Let’s shine a light on who exactly these censors are. Let’s make it an embarrassing job for them to have.

3. Build a grassroots army. Most journalists in the NSM (the non-Sun Media) are too timid to take on the censors. Let’s encourage them — this can’t just be a personal battle for me. But let’s get the ball rolling ourselves on blogs, Facebook, letters to the editor, etc.

4. Encourage Parliament to act. The censorship provision of the Canadian Human Rights Act was finally repealed this month. We need an MP to champion this and bring it to a vote — repeal the broadcasting regulations that require this sort of censorship on TV.

5. Contact the bosses. James Moore is the minister in charge of CRTC, the government agency that regulates TV and radio. His e-mail is james.moore@parl.gc.ca.

The prime minister is at pm@pm.gc.ca.

E-mail them. Tell them we want our TV and radio as free as the rest of the media in our life — newspapers, magazines and the Internet.

We don’t need a nanny to tell us what we can hear or see. And we sure don’t need some censor saying you can’t take a political point of view they disagree with.

Categories: Contributor Columns

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8 comments

  1. Ken says:

    Before anyone sides with Levant on this they should actually read the ruling. The ruling did not oppose anything about the show in question other than him concluding by telling the Chiquita executive to go F*** his mother. If Levant is so sure that he did nothing wrong I suggest that he use the exact same phrase, but in English, to close all interviews he has with people he disagrees with.

    Whether or not Levant agrees, membership in the CBSC is voluntary. There are numerous private broadcasters who are not members. If the CRTC made membership mandatory in the SNN licence, then Levant’s grievance is with the CRTC, not the CBSC.

    I have read several CBSC rulings and I have found that most of them, with the exception of the Dire Straits ruling, to be appropriate. And with the Dire Straits ruling, they reversed it when the stupidity of the ruling hit the press.

    For example, contrary to what Charles McVety claims, the ruling against CTS that was about his WordTV show was for the fact that he used lies and misinformation to support his views. In fact, they even stated that his views on homosexuality were OK to broadcast.

    The CBSC is a member association. Rather than fight it, why doesn’t SNN get involved and try to change it from within? Or do they prefer to play the martyr card, hoping that it will raise sympathy and viewership?

  2. Kathie Hogan says:

    How come the CBC does not have to also provide…”“full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial.”?

  3. Alain says:

    Okay Ken, we get it. You see nothing wrong with censorship, but I wager that you would quickly change your tune were it your views being censored. As an adult I do not need busybodies telling me what I can watch, hear or read, much less think or say.

  4. Stephen Smith says:

    A long time ago in a galaxt far far away…

    EZRA WAR’s

    Episode IV, A NEW HOPE

    It is a period of civil war. SUN spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil CBSC Empire. During the battle, SUN spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the CENSORSHIP DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire television show. Pursued by the CBSC’S sinister agents, Prince Ezra races home aboard his starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save his people and restore freedom to the galaxy….

  5. Ken says:

    @Alain: “You see nothing wrong with censorship, but I wager that you would quickly change your tune were it your views being censored.”

    If the CBSC had censored his views I would have a huge problem, but I don’t see any views being censored here. No matter how I look at this, “Hey you. Yeah you, [name of Chiquita executive]. Chinga tu madre [F*** your mother].” is not a view point.

    If I were to go on the comments section of the Sun News website and tell Mr. Levant to go F*** his mother because I disagreed with his views, my comment would be removed (as it should). I doubt very much if you would defend me and claim that I was being censored.

    The facts are this: 1) SNN agreed to abide by the CBSC code of ethics when they became a member; 2) the CBSC received several complaints about a complaint by Ezra; 3) a panel reviewed the complaints and the show in question; the CBSC ruled that the code was indeed violated; 4) this requires SNN to announce the ruling twice on air and notify the complainants of the ruling.

  6. Constantin says:

    Let the public be the censor. Ezra is a bit strident at times, but compensates in spades with intelligent and revealing inquiry. There is no need for a group of competitors to sit in kangoroo court judgement of his behaviour. That is the whole point of his crusade and I think we should side with him even if, some of us, may have to hold our noses a little bit in the process.
    The logic in Ken’s comment above completely escapes me. How can membership that is mandatory for brodacsting at all, be in the same time voluntary in a related but different context?
    The problem is not with CRTC only. Ezra rises important issues with the composition and procedure of CBCS.
    I would also sugest that, in the context in which it was used, the colorful (color-foul) language used was rather refreshing (just like a recent incident involving the media darling Justin in Parliament). Let’s stop pretending that we are righteous and “upset” when the media outlets represented on the CBCS “panel” unanimously rated Justin’s fault as refreshing. What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander, unless we intentionally and unfairly apply a different standard.

  7. Ken_M says:

    Constantin, I have no problem with letting the public be the censor. But I find it amusing that Levant is willing to repeat the Spanish phrase repeatedly but has never once uttered the English translation on the air. Why do you think this is? Could it be that he doesn’t do it because he knows that he would get a backlash from his predominantly English speaking audience?

    If he really had the courage that he claims to have, he would use the English tranlation under similar circumstances. There are plenty of English speaking people that Levant despises as much or more than the Chiquita executive (Suzuki comes tom mind). So I challenge him to put his money where his mouth is. Or is he smart enough to realize that his audience, primarily English speakers, would not tolerate it?

  8. Bill Elder says:

    The CBSC is a fossilized machinaton of our flirt with pop sovietism in the PET era. It is essentially state control over the free press.Licencing control is bad enough but the very thought that the content of the free press can be regulated by the state is abhorant – even if it delegates censorship power to a private sector star chamber – it’s about the dangers of censorship and the potential abuse of authority – sorry sunshine, “trust us” doesn’t cut it in this age of political/partisan bias.

    We have libel and slander law, but most of all we have the law of consumer demand – we need no other official censors. We are our own censors. If Levant offends with his off color remarks, I can turn him off, which ultinately does more damage to a private sector media business than the smarmy mewling from sinecured fat cats on sanctimonious censorship boards which must justify their existance by every so often burning a scapegoat.

    Ken: Until I see the CBSC apply their warnings on obscene language (or any reprimand) evenly, I remain unconvinced that the Sun’s competators can give unbiased judgements on “proper standards”. Personally I think the regulatory culture is so charged with divisive politics these days it’s impossible to get “fairness” from any “official” source.

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