The Russian invasion of Ukraine has sparked international condemnation and a race to levy sanctions and undo longstanding connections to the country. Responses have included demands that Russia Today, a television network backed by the Russian government, be removed from cable and satellite systems. Companies such as Bell, Rogers, Telus and Shaw have dropped the service, but the desire for a longer-term regulatory solution has brought the issue to the CRTC. Working with a strict two week deadline, last week the CRTC ruled that RT and RT France can no longer be distributed by Canadian television service providers. Monica Song is a partner with the law firm Dentons and one of Canada’s leading telecom and broadcast lawyers. She joins the Law Bytes podcast to unpack the case before the Commission and assess the broader implications around due process and content regulation.
The podcast can be downloaded here, accessed on YouTube, and is embedded below. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcast, Google Play, Spotify or the RSS feed. Updates on the podcast on Twitter at @Lawbytespod.
CRTC, RT and RT France can no longer be distributed by Canadian television service providers
I’ve lost respect for Senator Paula Simons. RT is propagandistic nonsense, but to try to ban it is a bad form of journalistic gatekeeping on her part. I assumed she was above using her power to deny speech entitlements to things she doesn’t like. I’m less hopeful now for the Senate rejection of Bill C-11. Trudeau meanwhile can’t resist the use of governmental power to score political points, as meagre as those points may be. It’s a major weakness of his as a leader, and he wields his power clumsily.
Banning RT, along with other recent measures, seem to be part of a larger attitude among people in power in Canada of committing to heavily interventionist uses of governmental power to solve problems that don’t require such force. Governmental cures in recent situations are often worse than the disease, and substantially erode institutional trust for insufficient reasons. Examples include the federal vaccine mandate, the use of the Emergencies Act, C-11, and banning RT. (I mention the federal vaccine mandate because I’m guessing many federal employees would vaccinate voluntarily.) To some extent, these acts validate ultimately overstated concerns of Canadian governmental tyranny. There seems to be an abandonment of the strategy to not impose measures that give oxygen to the hysterical conflagrations of the fringe. Notably the U.S. government, in a country with considerably more severe public trust issues, won’t go nearly as far as we will with governmental power.
People in power in Canada, senators included, are thinking too much in the present, and are too quick to override liberal principles because they think they know better. Trudeau especially is guilty of governing by poll results. Pernicious trust problems brought about by the above measures will continue long after Liberal voters who support these measures will have forgotten about them.
Ah….but I wasn’t calling on anyone to ban RT. There is a world of difference between banning a service and removing it from a cable package. I don’t believe in censorship. I also don’t believe we need to roll out the red carpet and provide preferential access to propaganda services in the midst of a shooting war.
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