Friday, January 28, 2005

Are there minimal ethical news standards here in Canada?

It wasn't that long ago (just last fall, actually), that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
approved Fox News' application to broadcast the right-wing Fox News Channel here in Canada. It's not like there was any doubt it was going to happen and I didn't give it a whole lot of thought at the time or since.

Until now that is, when I followed a couple of links that led me to a story about Fox's 1998 broadcasting of a deliberately-biased story that got them in a heap of trouble, which I'd read about some time back but had forgotten all about. Read the whole story, but make sure you dwell slowly and lovingly on the best part, describing a guilty verdict against Fox which:

"was then overturned in 2003 when an appeals court accepted Fox's defense that since it is not technically against any law, rule, or regulation for a broadcaster to distort the news, the journalists were never entitled to employee protections as whistleblowers in the first place."

Yes, read that highlighted portion again: Fox's defense was that there was no law against broadcasting distorted or dishonest news.

Which got me to wondering, don't we have some sort of minimal ethical guidelines or codes of conduct for news media here in the Great White? Did anyone bother to point out the above before Fox's application was approved?

It's almost certainly too late to do anything about Fox's approval, but aren't there mechanisms in place to enforce a certain minimum standard for fairness in broadcasting? Perhaps someone who knows more about it than me would like to weigh in.

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