Saturday, September 03, 2005

Silencing CHOI

Kevin Libin, over on the Shotgun, posts about the Court of Appeals ruling that the CRTC is well within their rights to censor CHOI-FM. CHOI, the French-language radio station that had its licence renewal refused by the CRTC on the grounds that what host Jeff Fillion on CHOI's wildly successful morning program said here and there was offensive.

I wrote about this in an article entitled "Big broadcasters get behind CHOI's censorship." At the time, CHOI's competitor radio stations were supportive of the CRTC's decision to keep CHOI's mouths shut. I suppose I should have anticipated just such a reaction when I called them. After all, with CHOI out of the way, the competitors can get a bigger slice of the economic pie. I'm afraid that in this case, as in the case of hot dog regulations in Toronto (story to come shortly... just as soon as the Western Standard website hosts it, I'll post it), I was painfully naive. When drawing up a list of people to contact for interviews and to scower the public record for opinions, I assumed that other broadcasters would be on CHOI's side.

A CRTC powerful enough to stop CHOI is powerful enough to stop anyone. But no one was on side.

Jeff Fillion explained it to me in a conversation (WAV file) I had with him that was the basis of this Western Standard Question Period. The gist? With Fillion out of the way, the other broadcasters get a bigger audience and more advertising revenue. Why support free speech when a CRTC can be part of your market strategy?

This issue has a deeper significance that, I'm afraid, few public commentators seem to recognize. The typical divide is between government and business, between politicians and capitalists. The former, in each case, is seen as the 'check' or 'balance' on the latter. In plenty of cases, however, the latter groups (corporations and capitalists) tend to harness the power of the state to block competition, encourage licence laws and regulations that make start-up costs prohibitively expensive for most of us (and thereby artificially restricts entrants into a market). If you can't compete on the basis of quality products and lower prices, increase costs for the other guys by getting the government to regulate, licence, and tax the activity.

This is a bad outcome for the rest of us.

I often find myself surprised by the number of libertarians or conservatives who have a preference for defending corporations. This is fine, I suppose, especially since the attacks on big corps takes the form of being an attack on the market. And insofar as we defend the market, this is fine. But we should be hesitant to defend corps in general. In case after case, it is corporations and capitalists calling for more state involvement, more laws, more regulations, higher taxes. The case of CHOI is just one example.

And not just calling for these things, they are effective at getting them. They fund political parties, pay for campaigns, and otherwise make getting elected or re-elected more likely. What, exactly, does your local PIRG accomplish? Other than being a silly nuisance and draining your student dollar through mandatory fees for their out-to-lunch campaigns for veganism, or their embarrassing sit-ins or ludicrous deregulation and lying-down-in-the-street tuition protests? Yup, little to nothing.


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