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.

Comments (8) Add New Comment
Miranda Nelson
I complained to the CRTC about this issue earlier in the month and this was the response I received on June 9:

"The broadcasting industry has its own self-regulating organization, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC), which administers codes of industry standards and mediates complaints from members of the public. Sun TV is a member of the CBSC.

Given the concerns you have raised, I have asked the CBSC to pursue this matter with Sun TV on your behalf.

Should you wish to contact the CBSC directly, you may do so by emailing info@cbsc.ca or by writing to P.O. Box 3265, Station D, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 6H8."

I don't know what the CRTC will do with other complaints since the CBSC is not longer accepting them, however.
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cosmicsync
The CBSC has not said they will not accept your complaint, as you assert.

What the statement you linked to actually says is:

" ... the CBSC will be unable to respond individually to each and every complaint received on this topic, as it customarily does ... May we also request that those of you who have not yet filed a complaint refrain from doing so?"

So they are not refusing to accept your complaint, they are simply saying they have been overwhelmed by the volume of complaints they have received to date on this issue and do not have the resources to respond to each one individually as is their normal practice.

They have also *requested* that those who have not yet filed a complaint about this particular issue refrain from doing so.

If you feel you have information not present in the 4300-plus complaints they have already received go ahead and submit it. Just don't expect a unique response to your individual complaint.

Also, you misspelled hypothetically.
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Nick
Who is Krista Erickson>
Who is Margie Gillis?
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Charlie Smith
cosmicsync,
Thanks for your feedback. I know how to spell hypothetically. I adjusted the post to reflect your point that the council has asked people not to complain, rather than stated explicitly that it will refuse to hear complaints. However, the council acknowledged that it doesn't have sufficient resources to deal with more complaints, so it's hard to see how that doesn't equate to a refusal to hear complaints.

It's not as if the private broadcasters--including Quebecor, Shaw, CTV, Corus, Rogers, etc.--don't have sufficient funds to hire more people, if necessary.

Charlie Smith
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cosmicsync
Charlie,

Thank you for your reply to my comment, and for clarifying your post. It was not my intention to be pedantic (well, other than pointing out your spelling error). I just feel that it's important to be very clear on the facts of the matter, as any extrapolation will be seized upon by people with opposing viewpoints and used to dismiss your argument in its entirety.

We've seen this in the HST debates, and I can certainly imagine supporters of Ms. Erickson rallying around minor flaws in the earlier version of your post, and using them to discredit the greater substance of what you wrote.

I don't doubt the conclusion you've reached - that the CBSC has effectively stopped considering new complaints; they just didn't explicitly write the words you attributed to them.
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Birdy
You guys have been spamming the CBSC demanding that some unknown neocon pundit on a channel no one watches be censored or even fired because she made fun of state sponsored interpretive dancing?

... and you wonder why they're not taking complaints anymore?

Maybe you could start an Interpretative Dancers Rights Tribunal.
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Tweet
Where's the "Like" button on Birdy's comment?
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Martin Dunphy
Tweet:

You should see an "Agree" box to click at the bottom of Birdy's comment if you wait a few seconds to load. The "Like" button is at the bottom of the article.
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