In May, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) contemplated a ban on Fox News cable packages after an LGBTQ advocacy organization filed a complaint against the American media corporation.
“[The outlet’s] coverage aimed to provoke hatred and violence against 2SLGBTQI communities, particularly those who are Two-Spirit, trans, nonbinary and gender non-conforming,” wrote Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, in an open letter.
She accused then-host Tucker Carlson of propagating falsehoods about transgenders, such as painting them as “violent” and “dangerous.” The allegations stem from March coverage of a transgender shooter who killed six staff and students at a Christian academy in Nashville, Tennessee.
Eagle Canada argued Fox News, a non-Canadian broadcaster, should be fined or lose their licence for broadcasting abusive content that is likely to “expose an individual or a group or class of individuals to hatred or contempt based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age or mental or physical disability.”
In response, the CRTC consulted the public on whether to ban Fox cable packages from Canada. They accepted submissions until June 2, with 70% favouring a ban on the channel.
Thousands of Canadians weighed in, with one commenter calling “Fox a propaganda outlet which undermines the democratic ideals of Canada.”
Those who opposed a ban expressed concerns about freedom of expression. “Denying access to Fox News because some find it objectionable is a very dangerous step towards government censorship,” said one comment.
If the CRTC bans the media outlet, Canadian viewers cannot access the channel through cable packages or subscribe to it through their TV providers. However, Canadians would still have internet access to the media group.
Fox denounced their potential banning as “grossly disproportionate and unprecedented.” It noted they face only one complaint, whereas the CRTC fielded nearly 100 complaints against a radio station two decades ago, whom they later denied a broadcast licence application.
“There is a stark contrast between the lack of notice and lack of evidence before the Commission in the instant proceeding and the voluminous record, prior warnings, specific notice, and progressive enforcement measures implemented by the Commission before engaging delisting procedures in the CHOI-FM case,” wrote the media outlet in a statement.
According to Egale Canada, Tucker spread “malicious misinformation” by stating trans people are ‘targeting’ Christians. “To position trans people in existential opposition to Christianity is an incitement of violence against trans people that is plain to any viewer,” wrote Kennedy.
Fox contends the Egale application is “moot” since Carlson and his show are no longer part of its programming lineup. Carlson and Fox unceremoniously split last month due to a matter unrelated to the application.
In their statement, the media outlet also contends a ban would ridicule the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Bill C-18, the Online News Act, which “requires the Commission to exercise its authority in a manner consistent with ‘ensuring freedom of expression and journalistic independence.’”
The Forum for Research and Policy in Communications, a research group specializing in Canadian communications and broadcasting, said “it is unclear whether these [concerns] constitute the record needed” for the CRTC to grant Egale’s application.
Should the CRTC proceed with a ban “because of a segment within a program, the Commission could be accused of arbitrariness in decision-making, especially given the express protection that Parliament has given to freedom of expression in the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Broadcasting Act.”
According to Blacklock’s Reporter, Bill C-18 would mandate the CRTC to define ‘newsroom ethics’ as they combat “disinformation” in Canada. Section 27.1.b.iv of the controversial legislation said applicants must “follow the code of ethics of a recognized journalistic association or has its code of ethics whose standards of professional conduct require adherence to the recognized processes and principles of the journalism profession.”
“It puts…an onus on us to define [who] is a credible news organization,” testified CRTC executive director of broadcasting policy Scott Shortliffe at the Senate Transport and Communications Committee.
Bill C-18 passed the Commons last December 14 by a 213 to 114 vote. It is currently under consideration in committee at the Senate.