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Mar 06 2011

CRTC: a pawn in Harper’s larger game?

In reading news about the CRTC of late, I can’t help but notice a few converging threads. I legitimately feel that I am above conspiracy theory, and I like to say that without evidence, our understanding of reality is potentially unreliable. Therefore, I write this post tentatively, knowing I may be drawing incorrect conclusions.

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Click for original.

Pictured: the CRTC.

But if they are correct, they are damning conclusions indeed.

The Tory government appears to have a greater strategy of discrediting and generally casting as an anacronism the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Council for at least the last year. Harper’s government — not to be confused with The Harper Government, which you can protest such use by signing this petition — overturned the CRTC’s decision last year to disallow Globalive from entering our wireless market due to regulations requiring telecom companies to be locally owned. On this point, I agree with Michael Geist, that content, not ownership, preserves Canadian culture. The overturning of this decision, while well-founded, undercut the CRTC’s ability to make a second ruling — as they so often have done, given the fullness of time and understanding of the public and experts’ opinion in such matters — with the overturning coming so shortly after the original decision. The problem with this is the impression left of the CRTC as an impotent body that cannot make regulations that under any circumstances contradict what the ruling party happens to believe.

Make no mistake, the howls of indignation would erupt from Conservative quarters should a Liberal or (despite the low likelihood of such circumstances ever presenting themselves) NDP government make such a move. The problem, for me, is not that particular overturning. Nor is it the further overturning of the CRTC’s ruling on smaller ISPs’ right to offer unlimited plans. Since the CRTC had previously allowed ISPs to impose usage-based billing to make up for the emergence of video as a primary driver of internet traffic, and since the smaller ISPs are forced to use the lines installed by the larger ISPs, the CRTC’s ruling to disallow unlimited plans was an attempt at preserving the hegemony of ISP dominance. Again, this was a ruling well worth overturning for its wrongheadedness — but then, allowing ISPs to impose metered billing to begin with was also a wrongheaded money-grab by these ISPs, who increasingly are proving incapable of providing and maintaining technology that countries like South Korea can now take for granted.

Indeed, the same day that the Federal Court ruled against the government’s overturning in the Globalive case, thus establishing that the Tories were not allowed to merely overturn any decision that doesn’t suit them, Harper appointed an inexperienced and unqualified candidate as chair to the CRTC, evidently out of blatant cronyism. Well, blatant cronyism and a little bit of conspiracy.

You see, shortly thereafter, a proposal was to come down the pipes to lift the ban on “fake news” in the media, in an attempt to pave the way for Sun TV, a station Harper and Rupert Murdoch are conjointly attempting to bring to market. The timing is less than coincidental that Murdoch, owner of Fox News and now a virtual monopoly of the media in the United Kingdom, should commiserate with our Prime Minister shortly before the potentiality of an election that may hand Harper his desired majority so that he may run roughshod over our country unopposed. Do not underestimate the appeal to those undermined by reality, to be desirous of the ability to blatantly lie to the country’s populace to gain their favour even when such favour is contraindicated by said populace’s best interests. When Reagan abolished the Fairness Doctrine, right-wing radio stations sprang up like weeds through the whole of America, and Fox News broke ground on its operations in 1996, unshackled by any necessity to tell the truth. They are legally allowed to lie, and there is no legal recourse against it.

Harper wants that. He knows and understands that his policies of tax breaks for the rich while eliminating programs that benefit the lower classes, is fundamental to the Conservative ideal of small government and big business, and knows and understands that the people of Canada would not swallow such nonsense without some propaganda arm turning the business of selling people their doom into a profitable enterprise. He sees the business model of Fox News, catering to the already-sold, and dragging the political Overton window from the civil discourse America once had into the cynical, bitter, hate-filled and hate-fuelled nonsense it has become. And he wants that.

Though, since he cannot have that quite yet, he will overturn the CRTC ruling about ISPs to collect some political capital, because he saw how much that ruling engendered populist outrage. That will buy him some goodwill going into the election that he hopes will give him a “mandate” to do what he will.

The question, at this point, is that now that the CRTC has decided against the “fake news” bid, will Harper and his government have the temerity to overturn that ruling as well, given the likelihood that it will be an admission of guilt in the present investigation underway related to the proposal’s being proffered?

What say you, my fine readers?

3 comments

  1. 1
    George W.

    Harper would never overturn the CRTC judgement on the fake news bid. He is far too clever. His game is to take the public capital he gained over pay-for-use ISP’s and the continued nationalism of our cell phone market and use it to turn the handover of the CRTC into a defensible election issue. “The liberals want to force you to overpay for internet to help their big-business donors”, “The NDP-Liberal coalition wants to hand over the cellular market to big-business south of the border, kiss Rogers, Telus, and Bell good-bye”
    The faux-news channel is a non-issue, or at least that’s what he will say if the Liberals or NDP bring it up. Those parties just want to screw the little guy.
    FauxNews isn’t coming to Canada- It’s already here….they just want to give it a louder voice.

  2. 2
    Jason Thibeault

    Heh, the “hand the cellular market to big business” canard would backfire on them, because the CRTC judged against Globalive, the Tories overturned it allowing them into the market, then the Federal Court said “you can’t do that”. Now Globalive is disallowed from setting up shop again.

    So, yes, your other comments stand. But their hands are not clean on that unless they decide to try to spin it completely the other way: “The Liberal/NDP Coalition are stifling competition and handing a monopoly to Bell, Telus, Rogers and Eastlink”.

    Reality is nothing. Spin is everything.

  3. 3
    George W.

    My bad….
    They take your tack on that one. I was unawares of this judgment, though knew about the rest. I did think it seemed out of step with The Harper Agenda.
    Now that you clarify, it makes perfect sense.

    Harper is a master of making you beg him to bend you over. I got the same impression from Harris when he ran his first successful campaign in Ontario.

    I think that the difference between the two is that Harris got a huge majority (and then proceeded to change his course to turning the middle class against the unions/welfare crowd) and Harper has elegantly balanced a minority, unable to really do more than play up the populist slant of his decidedly un-populist agenda.
    I think that the comparison is instructive as to what he might do if we untether the keys to the kingdom….

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