Thursday, August 19, 2010

“You can’t have the Prime Minister handing out radio and TV licences.”

Just when you think the anti-democratic narrative couldn't get any worse, another possibility for Harper to flex his controlling tendencies appears: "Is Stephen Harper set to move against the CRTC?" Word is starting to circulate that Harper would like to remove the independent minded current CRTC chair, Konrad von Finckenstein, and while he's at it, the vice-chair too. The reason? To make way for the approval of Sun Media's TV application and that coveted must carry status on the cable dial. Recall that Sun Media was recently told by the CRTC that must carry status was not available now and would not be until October 2011.
In a private letter sent to Quebecor on July 5, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission rejected Quebecor’s request for a rare must-carry license. It would have guaranteed distribution by all cable and satellite firms – and the subscriber fees that come along with that distribution.

The license Quebecor requested – known as a Category 1, soon to be Category A – is rarely granted, and in March of this year, the CRTC announced that it would not consider any new applications for those licenses before October, 2011.


“We’re not particularly fazed by that letter. We’re focused on moving forward,” Mr. Teneycke said. “We’re confident that we’ll have a licence in time for our projected launch, and one that will satisfy our needs on the business side.”

The channel is set to launch on Jan. 1, 2011.
No wonder Teneycke wasn't "fazed." Not if Martin's column has got it all right.

That Sun Media application deserves independent scrutiny and the same rules being applied to it as to all other applications of its kind. Anything less, rules suddenly being bent, etc. and the favoritism and taint of being Harper's news network will follow. As will the disrepute of our national broadcasting regulator.

Luc Lavoie being rumoured as a replacement CRTC chair? A former Quebecor vice-president? That's not serious, Lavoie is presently working with Teneycke, it would be chutzpah of the highest order for Harper to appoint such a blatantly conflicted individual. The impartiality of the CRTC would be ruined. If Mr. Harper were to go that far, or as far as putting in someone less well known but who will nevertheless do political bidding on a television application, he'd be massively enlarging his political risk appetite and probably beyond repair. He keeps gambling that people won't care, that he can push it a little further with each decision emanating out of his PMO fiefdom. Playing politics with the nation's airwaves though, we'd be getting into some rarefied air there in terms of abuse of power in Canadian political history.
“You can’t have the Prime Minister handing out radio and TV licences.”
That's absolutely right. This is Maurice Duplessis stuff, or worse, and the backlash to such a fundamentally undemocratic move would be fierce.