Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lying on the television news

A famous 1986 column in The New Republic by Michael Kinsley noted that "Worthwhile Canadian initiative" was perhaps the world's most boring headline imaginable (it was a real headline, from a New York Times column). Boring, in part, because Canada keeps putting forward worthwhile initiatives, again and again. Indeed, Kinsley wrote a column of his own titled "Worthwhile Canadian initiative" on the Atlantic wire just last summer.

The past few weeks, on the other hand, have brought us the worthwhile Canadian initiative-stopper. As RFK Jr. points out in a Huffington Post column, Canadian regulators decided to reject attempts to repeal a law that forbids lying on broadcast news. The country's "Radio Act" forbids the broadcasting of "false or misleading news"; the country's right-wing Prime Minister, among others, wanted this changed, to make possible a Fox News-style channel, as well as right-wing talk radio of the kind that is so popular in the United States.

Ironically, the vice president of the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada — a union representing more than 20,000 journalists — is Peter Murdoch. Murdoch called the proposal to repeal the law "totally bizarre". I think it is safe to conclude he is not related to Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch. :-)

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