April 23, 2008
Presentation by: Dr. Rose A. Dyson, Ed.D.,
To: Public Hearing April 23, 2008
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
Conference Centre, Portage IV, Outaouais Room,
Re: the Review of regulatory frameworks for broadcasting distribution undertakings and discretionary programming services
Last year, it was announced that the CRTC had made a decision to deregulate advertising on Canadian television networks. As one of countless Canadians objecting to this decision, on July 16th , 2007, I received a letter from the former Minister of Heritage, the Hon. Bev Oda. She advised me that, on May 17, 2007 , the CRTC determined it will gradually increase the allowable number of minutes of advertising per hour until September, 2009 , when time restrictions on advertising will be eliminated entirely. She also advised me that most parties consulted had no objection to deregulating non-traditional forms of advertising such as product placement and "virtual advertising" or the digital alteration of images, but were divided on whether the 12 minutes per hour limit on traditional advertising should be eliminated. That is why I am here before you today.
My response to Bev Oda was followed up by a second letter dated October 17th from Craig Carson, Senior Policy Advisor to her successor, the Honourable Josee Verner, Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages. It was suggested that I share my concerns with you, as well.
It appears that neither teachers, health professionals, peace activists, cultural and natural environmentalists nor media scholars concerned about increasing financial and commercial encroachment into the lives of us all, but especially children who are the most vulnerable members of society, were even included in the initial consultation process that led to this decision. Furthermore, history has shown that deregulation and/or media self-regulation simply does not work. Canada's approach to maintaining high standards in advertising based on industry self-regulation, as emphasized by Mr. Carson in his letter to me dated October 17th, is nothing more than a smokescreen to give both the advertising and broadcasting industries carte blanche to do whatever they want with the public air waves.
As a researcher, consultant in media education, and an activist for the past 20 years I am aware that Canadian parents and teachers are extremely concerned about increasing violence on television and the commercial exploitation of children. Findings released by Jacques Deguire and his colleagues at Laval University in 2004 indicated that in 10 years, violence on Canadian networks increased 286 percent. This occurred after the CRTC decided in the early 1990s to allow the Canadian Association of Broadcasters to regulate themselves by establishing the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC).
In his letter, Carson made several references to the Broadcast Code for Advertising to Children. He pointed out that, originally, adherence on the part of the broadcasters was voluntary but that since 1974, it has been a condition of licence. Who monitors this adherence? Experience has shown that lack of adherence to standards developed by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, for themselves, is the norm. In January, 2007, Bloc members introduced Bill C-327 to amend the Broadcast Act introduced to ensure that the public could expect greater accountability from broadcasters who violate their own code . This Bill was defeated by both Conservative and Liberal members. Despite evidence of escalating violence in program content they were persuaded by spokesmen such as Ron Cohen, chairman of the CBSC, that industry self regulation is the answer. In other words, they concluded that Canadians should be content to let the fox guard the henhouse. Mr. Cohen article in The Toronto Star on January 29, 2008, on behalf of the Council, was followed up by my own letter to the editor on February 6th protesting this misleading and arrogant assumption.
We see the same scenario unfolding in the debate over Bill, C-10, now before the Senate. Drafted to close a loophole in the INCOME TAX ACT Minister of Heritage, Josee Verner has emphasized in her own remarks before the Senate Banking Committee, as have those of us in support of the bill, that there is material that is potentially illegal under The Criminal Code, such as indecent material, hate propaganda and child pornography but no provisions in the Act that exclude such material from public funding through tax credits. It has also been emphasized by the Minister and others, including myself, that contrary to objections from spokespersons on behalf of the aggressive entertainment industry lobby mounted in opposition to the bill, that it has been part of the tax credit landscape since its inception in 1995, through Income Tax Regulations. Most Canadians object to their tax dollars being squandered on harmful cultural products. It was pointed out to the Senate Committee on April 16th that a recent Compass poll on public opinion and customer research indicates that 81 percent of Canadians do not think that pornographic films should receive funding from the public purse.
I would argue, as I did before the Senate Banking Committee, myself on April 9th, 2008, that the need to eliminate sources of public funding for film and television productions deemed to be contrary to public interest was first recommended in a Report released in 1977 from the Royal Commission on Violence in the Communications Industry, chaired by the late Judy La Marsh, a lawyer and broadcaster who served in the Liberal administration of Lester B. Pearson. I renewed the call in my doctoral dissertation completed at OISE/UT in 1995, in my book, MIND ADUSE Media Violence in an Information Age, published in 2000 and distributed by UT Press, and numerous other peer reviewed articles, papers and co-authored books since. I am leaving a copy of MIND ABUSE with you, for your information, as well as a copy of the latest issue of THE LEARNING EDGE, a periodical I edit for the Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education in which I have an article entitled, "Shifting the paradigm toward a Greener Earth in media, business and community". It can be accessed online by logging onto
Indeed, Bill C-10 is a logical extension of the work began by the CRTC under the leadership of Chairman Keith Spicer. As Minister Verner has pointed out, the transparent approach to the development of guidelines to ensure that what is illegal under the Criminal Code as well as other types of content, such as extreme and gratuitous violence in films and video games, for which public support is clearly unacceptable she is recommending a model that has been used before. In the early 1990s, the CRTC, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, the Canadian Teachers Federation, Canadians Concerned About V iolence In Entertainment, child psychologists and others, collaborated to develop the Code on Violence. It continues to inform the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council in handling viewer complaints about content on television. But as I've already pointed out, this initiative has not gone far enough. The CBSC is still reactive as opposed to proactive and, as I've already argued, it has not been strictly adhered to by the very members of the Broadcast industry that set up and fund it in the first place. Indeed, it was always intended that the criteria for programming developed, would be applied within the industry, beyond the members of the CAB, itself. To great international fanfare, both Keith Spicer and Ron Cohen participated in the International Broadcast Standards Summit, convened in St. Louis, Missouri in 1996, prior to the Founding Convention for the Cultural Environment Movement at Webster University which C-CAVE co-sponsored. Since then, not much has happened. We urge the CRTC to reclaim its leadership role, instead of moving Canada in the opposite direction, on media issues of increasing concern to growing numbers of people around the world.
Capitulation on the part of both politicians and regulators, in response to fear mongering from special interests in the media industries who purport to act on behalf of the public interest when in fact, they are bent on retaining corporate freedom to manipulate our media diets to conform with their own greed for profits, is not an option. It was reported in the February, 2008 issue of Today's Parent: Special Issue on Kids and Food by Lisa Murphy that we now have 1.6 million children in Canada diagnosed as suffering from obesity. So far, the CRTC has chosen to ignore growing alarm across the country about rising levels of obesity with numerous other health related problems such as diabetes and heart disease surfacing in children. This is occurring both from advertising of junk food and as a result of the sedentary nature of more and more time spent on electronic entertainment. These problems are adding to the already, well known concerns about the ways in which violence in popular culture fuels aggression, desensitization, learning difficulties, fear, insecurity, the glamorization of guns and their use and a tendency to resort to violence as a conflict resolution strategy. There is also the obvious need to teach children values that are less consumer driven if we are to become more pro-active in changing lifestyles to reduce, re-use and recycle goods in the process of preparing ourselves and our children for a sustainable future.
Most countries in the Western world are responding to public concerns about the commercial exploitation of children by adopting legislation such as that which already exists in the province of Quebec. Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, Malta and other parts of Europe banned advertising directed to children on the basis of research showing harmful effects years ago in response to concerns about violence in the media and sexual exploitation. The U.K., Switzerland and Italy joined the list earlier this year. Two weeks ago, on April 7, 2008, a bill was brought before the Ontario legislature by NDP member, Rosario Marchese, to amend the Consumer Protection Act to prohibit commercial television advertising for food or drink that is directed at children under the age of 13. We believe this is an excellent initiative but that it should also prohibit advertising of any kind to children of this age, on the basis of harmful effects. We know, from our work with the Harvard Medical School based Coalition for a Commercial Free childhood,
Regulation of media is becoming even more urgent in a digital age. We are seeing increasing encroachment of both cable companies and broadcasters into the production and distribution of content. Advertising is being inserted directly into programming, bids are being made on the part of broadcasters to charge cable companies for their content and cable companies are looking for new ways to expand their sources of ad revenue in the competition for greater share of a shrinking market as more and more viewers turn to the Internet. Such unimpeded trends leaves the best interests of the consuming public out of the equation entirely.
It was announced in The Globe and Mail on November 7th, 2007 that Google has decided to give Canada its own YouTube because tailored websites give the company more options to entice advertisers and more opportunities to target advertising. According to Info-Tech Research Group analyst George Goodall, "In the history of the Web, pretty much any content play inevitably involves some sort of regionalization aspect to it". By corollary, surely that means we are faced with an increasing urgency for regulation of how advertising is allowed, at all, in Canada. For any kind of advertising, be it product placement, virtual, digitally modified images or more traditional forms,
to become a seamless component to any and all programming, regardless of its nature or whom it is targeting is to throw all viewers and consumers at the mercy of the market. Clearly this is not acceptable. It amounts to unbridled commercial exploitation of children, in particular, and is at odds with any policy trends that might point us in the direction of a sustainable future and away from consumer driven lifestyles. As a society, we cannot ignore the mounting health risks and distorted educational opportunities of the youngest and most vulnerable among us through relentless commercial exploitation with children. This is quite simply, diametrically opposed to the mandate of the CRTC vested with the authority to regulate and supervise all aspects of the Canadian boradcasting system, as well as to regulate telecommunications common carriers and service providers that fall under federal jurisdiction. Deriving its authority from the Broadcasting Act, in Section 3, subsection (d) it is stated that "the Canadian broadcasting system should:
(i) serve to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada,
(iii Through its programming and the employment opportunities arising out of its operations, serve the needs and interests, and reflect the circumstances and aspirations, of Canadian men, women and children...
The current direction being taken by the CRTC does neither of the above. There are other reasons why deregulation of media is not in the public interest as well . On July 26th, 2007 it was reported by Mark Brennae on behalf of CanWest News Service that a new detection system used by MySpace to track and expel 29,000 American- registered sex offenders from the online social network site was unworkable in Canada because Ottawa's information laws are preventing detection verification companies from tracking Canadian offenders. According to John Cardillo, CEO of Sentinel Tech, sexual predators are more free to use Canadian social networking sites to lure young victims. He said, "We can't even work with any private companies or law-enforcement agencies because we simply can't get hold of the data". As a result, Myspace, with an estimated 180 million profiles, which has initiated new measures to partner with Sentinel Tech to build technology to remove registered sex offenders from its site will not include Canada due to lack of access to required data. This example illustrates that protecting children from either sexual or commercial predators on the Internet is no longer a technical challenge but a political challenge.
References Duncan, Kate. Ed. (1999) Liberating Alternatives: The Founding Convention of the Cultural Environment Movement. Hampton Press, New Jersey. ISBN: 1-57273-199-0
Dyson Rose A. (2008) Eds. Rose A. Dyson and Bill McQueen. "Shifting the paradigm toward a Greener Earth in media, business, and community" and "A New Strategic Plan for a Screen Based Industry in Hollywood North" in The Learning Edge/La Fine pointe. CASAE
Dyson Rose A. (2007) "The Culture Environment: Implications for Public Health, Human Rights and Ecological Sustainability". In Sustaining Life on Earth Environmental and Human Health Through Global Governance. Ed. Colin L. Soskolne. ISBN 13:978-0-7391-1730-9
Dyson Rose A. (2007) "Are Video games harmful? Teaching Children that Killing is Fun". In Communications in Question: Competing Perspectives on Controversial Issues in Communications Studies. Eds. Josh Greenberg and Charlene Elliot. ISBN-13:978-0-17-610422-1 Thomson/Nelson, Canada.
Dyson Rose A. (2003) "Ed. David Demers. "Missing Discourse on Global Media and Terrorism" in Terrorism, Globalization & Mass Communications. Spokane, Washington. ISBN 0-922993-04-1 Marquette Books.
Dyson Rose A. (2001) Eds. Yahya R. Kamalipour and Kuldip R. Rampal. "North America's Cult of Sex and Violence" in Media, Sex, Violence, and Drugs in the Global Village. ISBN 0-7425-0061-6. Rowman and Littlefield, NY.
Dyson Rose A. (2000). MIND ABUSE Media Violence In An Information Age (2000)
Dyson, Rose A. (1995). The Treatment of Media Violence in Canada Since Publication of the La Marsh Commission Report in 1977. Doctoral Thesis. OISE/UT Library, Toronto. National Library, Ottawa.
Moll, Marita and Leslie Regan Shade. Eds. (2008) For Sale: to the highest bidder: Telecom Policy in Canada. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Ottawa.
Morgan, Michael. Ed. (2002) Against the Mainstream: The Selected Works of George Gerbner. ISBN: 0-8204-4163-5 Peter Lang, NY.********************************************************************** Rose Anne Dyson, Ed.D.
Chair: C-CAVE and the Media Working Group - Science for Peace (University of Toronto)
Editor- The Learning Edge
Author of MIND ABUSE: Media Violence In An Information Age
Co-author of MEDIA, SEX, VIOLENCE and DRUGS in the GLOBAL VILLAGE and Terrorism, Globalization & Mass Communication