Language and News. Doing Nothing Does Not Solve Anything

di Joe Volpe del 29 August 2019

TORONTO - It would appear that the Government of Canada is happy with the CRTC decision (Decision) to allow Rogers Media Inc. complete authority to determine the nature and the quality of news and current aミairs available to the over 7.2 million Canadians defined as “multilingual” or “ethnic” who rely on a third language for their access to the Canadian reality.

Those communities cannot do it themselves, apparently. Rogers, while enjoying the benefit of subsidies and privileges to enhance its telecom and broadcasting interests, has a history of reneging on commitments to the ethnocultural and multilingual communities under the Broadcasting Act and the Multiculturalism Act; yet, it has somehow convinced the Government and the CRTC that it alone can provide that service.

Four Applicants to the Call for proposals (the Call), two years earlier, begged to differ and filed an Appeal (Petitions to Cabinet) … “in writing requesting that the decision be set aside or sent back to the [CRTC] for reconsideration and hearing.” A fruitless endeavour, as it turns out.

The Government’s response, posted on the website of the Privy Council (PCO), dated 2019.08.17, on the matter reads as follows: “the Governor in Council, having considered the petitions, is satisfied that the decision does not derogate from the attainment of the objectives of the broadcasting policy for Canada set out in subsection 3(1) of the Broadcasting Act …”. No reasons for being “satisfied”. Convenient.

By the way, failed applicants received “a courtesy call” on 2019.08.21 that the response would be negative.

The CRTC, in the Call, had demanded a national news and current affairs channel offering exceptional and unique programming from a Canadian perspective in the language of the intended audience. In brief, a multi-lingual news and current affairs station.

The urgent need for one, identified by the CRTC in the Call, won’t vanish anytime soon. Within three years, another one million Allophones will be added to the 7.2 million identified in StatsCan 2017. The Decision is no longer even remotely national in scope, other than that Rogers Media Inc. will carry the programs of its regional affiliates and partners.

Why the CRTC decided to swallow itself whole and change its mind after the Call had closed is not known. One suspects that it will contain the substance of a short documentary and book. That Decision now rests on the shoulders of the Governor in Council and its Ministers to bear.

Some thought that the plaintiffs would have had a receptive and sympathetic hearing from the Minister for Canadian Heritage. They would have been wrong.

Here’s the rest of the post: “…on the recommendation of the Minister of Canadian Heritage, pursuant to section 28 of the Broadcasting Act, [the government] declines to set aside or refer back to the Commission for reconsideration and hearing the decision”.

Minister Rodriguez, an immigrant whose family fled a repressive regime in Argentina, is responsible for the Multiculturalism Act. It would be wrong, though convenient, to suggest that he cares not a wink about the value or need of accessing Canadian news, generated by Canadians in their own language. So, reader, please resist the temptation to punish him at the polls. No one has heard what others think on the matter.

When it issued the Call, the CRTC had been convinced that a multilingual news and current aミairs station would be an overdue asset to Canada’s integration process. Maybe the Department has yet to be convinced.

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