Political Perspectives is produced by the students and faculty of Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication, Canada's oldest journalism school.

MAR 2010

Bits and Pieces

Posted by ealboim under All

Elly Alboim


The CRTC decision to launch a federal court reference in the value for signal dispute is dilatory and curious. The stated reason is ambiguity about its jurisdiction, particularly as it relates to copyright. But the CRTC presumably has a view about its own sphere of competence and it knows the courts are loathe to second-guess regulators. It could have proceeded and waited for the cable and satellite providers to challenge it in court – a more normal way to proceed. But these are not normal times and relations with government are not normal either. The current government has overturned CRTC decisions and issued policy directives to it. It has elevated consumer protection to a higher purpose than the CRTC’s normal preoccupation with industry promotion and cultural protection. The reference buys the CRTC time until after a probable election to reduce the likelihood of government overturning its decision. And if a court finds the policy intra vires, government will find it harder to overturn the decision. It also gets to blame the courts and wash its hands of the whole dispute if its solution is found ultra vires.

With regards to the CBC and its angry reaction. The Corp needed the cover and combined clout of the broadcasters to open a new stream of revenue. Now it stands alone. Whatever the CRTC decides about it in the next round (which could be two years away), that solution will have to get by a government that is hardly a strong supporter. With this decision, the CBC watched the best window of opportunity it had shut down.

The politics of maternal health

It’s not often that an opposition party launches an Opposition Day motion over which its own caucus splits. Actually, it’s rarer than rare. While there is no distracting from the curiously inept Liberal performance yesterday, it apparently did not go easily on the government side either. Initial instructions to the Conservative caucus were to not fall for the Liberal “trap” and to vote for the motion. One by one, apparently including from two ministers, the Centre heard demands from MP’s that they be allowed to vote against. A special caucus was called to air the issue but was pre-empted when a change of heart prevailed and instructions were issued for a vote against the Liberal motion.

Government advertising

Has anyone not noticed the Government of Canada television ads for its budget, tax cuts and until last month, the home renovation program? Night after night, I’ve seen a half dozen or more and I don’t watch all that much TV. Today there were full page print ads. The ads, of course, are not about providing significant information to citizens. They are designed to show a government hard at work that cares and provides significant benefits. At a minimum, these ads push the boundaries of what the public should be paying for. Anecdotally, I’ve never seen this weight in a government advertising buy. I hear internal bureaucratic rumblings that the flight of ads is the largest government ad buy in history, by a significant factor. There are some in the ad business who think it may be approaching triple digit millions. An indirect subsidy to broadcasters? Another bit of stimulus? Or maybe that’s why government was so quick to agree to stop sending the ten percenters – these have wider reach and are paid for by the public purse as well. 

Elly Alboim is an Associate Professor of Journalism and former CBC TV News Parliamentary Bureau Chief