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We should fear the federal censor far more than trash-talking radio hosts Print E-mail
Written by Link Byfield   
Monday, 19 July 2004

One of the most irritating developments of the last decade or so is the rise of Rude Radio.

I mean big-city broadcast hosts who think it’s always clever to be abusive, and brave to flaunt their ignorance, bad manners, bad judgment and bad language.

The worst offenders in Canada, apparently, are Jeff Fillion and Andre Arthur of Quebec City’s French-language CHOI-FM.

They’re so vile that last week the federal broadcast authority, the CRTC, refused to renew CHOI’s licence effective August 31, and put the city’s most popular FM frequency up for bids.

The CRTC has this power, but has never used it before.

CHOI-FM certainly asked for a smack in the head. Fillion made personal sexual comments about a weather lady, and once advocated that a troublesome psychiatric patient be euthanized. Arthur described African students at Laval University as the spoiled sons of dictatorial “plunderers and cannibals,” and conducted a smear campaign against a rival broadcaster convicted of sex with an under-aged prostitute.

The CRTC needed a better reason than just CHOI’s bad taste to shut it down, so it accused the station of “spreading hate.”

“The broadcast of remarks that could expose individuals or groups to hatred or contempt,” says the CRTC ruling, “can attract individuals to its cause, and in the process create serious discord between various groups in Canadian society.”

This “undermines the cultural, political, and social fabric of Canada” and its “multicultural and multiracial nature.”

Notice that because such offensive remarks “could” expose undefined “individuals and groups” to undefined “hatred and contempt”, and because this “can” attract unnamed and unknown individuals to its “cause” (whatever the alleged cause may be), the CRTC concludes it might create “serious discord” in society. And based on this long chain of maybes, CHOI is definitely undermining the entire social, political, multicultural and multiracial foundation of the country.

This is all pure speculation, if not paranoia. All we know for sure is that CHOI’s misbehavior challenges the incredible assumption that the Canadian government “protects society” from “hate.”

In a new book, DEMOCRACY OFF BALANCE, Ontario lawyer Stefan Braun demolishes this whole idea.

The first problem, says Braun, is that no clear line differentiates “hate” from mere criticism. Everyone’s tolerances are different and the rules keep changing, so nobody knows what’s allowed and what isn’t.

Second, says Braun, even though the CRIMINAL law defines “hatred and contempt” very strictly, no such care is exercised by civil tribunals and commissions (like the CRTC), professional discipline bodies, and interest groups.

As a result, people are hauled before human rights commissions and teacher certification boards for saying things that made someone in a protected group feel bad. Soon everyone in society is afraid to say anything critical of members of groups with an inside political track.

This isn’t something that WILL happen. It already has. And it’s getting worse.

Finally, says Braun, hate laws aim less at punishing the perpetrator than at preventing the public from hearing and possibly accepting an idea the government disapproves of. That is, the public are assumed to be too gullible to see through it, or too prejudiced to try.

If this is true, we should ditch democracy. People who can’t be trusted to choose what to read and hear can’t be trusted to elect governments.

And if this isn’t true, we should ditch hate laws, because they aren’t “protecting” us from anything.

- Link Byfield

Link Byfield is chairman of the Edmonton-based Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy, and an Alberta senator-elect.
"Just Between Us" is a feature service of the Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy. The purpose of the Citizens Centre is to enhance freedom and democracy by enabling ordinary citizens to become active and effective on important issues outside the normal processes of party politics.

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