People can complain to the CRTC about the Krista Erickson interview with Margie Gillis
If you have a problem with a doctor, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. won't tell you that it's too busy to accept your complaint.
The Law Society of B.C. doesn't post statements on its website telling the public not to complain about an individual lawyer.
Self-regulatory bodies in B.C. have the power to govern their members because the government has passed legislation granting this authority. Under the law, these bodies must act in the public interest.
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, on the other hand, has announced that it will no longer respond individually to complaints about Sun News host Krista Erickson's irritating interview with dance icon Margie Gillis. The council posted a statement on its website saying it has enough complaints, already, because the number "exceeds the council's resources".
If I have any new evidence to raise—such as proof that her boss ordered her to perform this hatchet job on one of Canada's dance icons—the broadcast-standards regulator doesn't appear to have enough staff to deal with it.
So where does the federal broadcast-standards regulator get the authority to tell the public to take a hike, unlike self-regulating provincial licensing bodies?
The answer lies in how the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council came into existence.
In 1986, an industry lobby group called the Canadian Association of Broadcasters asked the federal broadcast licencing body if it could regulate broadcast standards.
Until that time, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which is a government-appointed quasijudicial regulator, supervised broadcasters. Keep in mind that the private broadcasters get their messages across and generate their advertising revenue from the publicly owned airwaves.
The CRTC oversaw broadcasting standards as outlined in a regulation pursuant to the Broadcasting Act.
Around that time, the industry body, the CAB, decided to develop three codes—one dealing with ethics, a second dealing with violence, and a third dealing with sex roles. These could then be used by a new industry-funded council to oversee broadcasters' conduct.
It would take the power over broadcast standards away from the government regulator and put it into the hands of the industry.
The CAB also encouraged private broadcasters to become members of the new council. In addition, the association created a manual for the members, and proposed regional and national panels to regulate standards.
And in 1991, the CRTC endorsed the private broadcasters' process and granted it authority to address complaints from the public.
"The Commission is satisfied that the complaints process that has been established is a useful mechanism for resolving public concerns about the programming broadcast by private Canadian radio and television stations," the CRTC stated in its notice. "As a means of demonstrating its confidence in the Council, the CRTC hereby advises that it intends to refer complaints from members of the public about programming matters that are within the Council's mandate to the CBSC for its consideration and resolution. The Council is committed to make every effort to resolve complaints at the level of the local broadcaster."
This is how we've gotten into a situation where the self-regulating broadcast-standards regulator can tell complainants to get lost.
But there's a catch. The CRTC's notice in 1991 indicated that members of the public can still bring their their concerns to the CRTC.
"Nevertheless, the Commission reiterates that the statement made in Public Notice CRTC 1988-159, that 'Any interested party may, at any time, choose to approach the Commission directly', continues to apply," the CRTC stated at the time.
This opens the door for people who disliked the Erickson interview with Gillis to complain directly to the CRTC.
It can be done by mail at the following address: Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N2. Or people can send faxes to 1-819-994-0218.
If enough people do this, maybe the CRTC will send a message to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council that it wasn't created to discourage complaints from coming forward.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.