Wednesday, September 26, 2007

How far can an editorial go?

According to the Province, the CRTC has received 268 complaints so far about Bruce Allen's recent show on CKNW that railed against "special interest groups" (ie: immigrants) who ask for special treatment. The outspoken manager of some of Canada's hottest musical acts told the imagined subjects of his rant, "we don't need you here" and "shut up and fit in."

Arguing his editorial was racist and just plain uninformed, activists and politicians have called for him to be fired or resign from CKNW and his position in the planning of the 2010 Olympic games.

Allen's since "clarified" himself on Christy Clark's radio show and in the form of a rebuttal released today. His programmer has defended him, and now it looks like VANOC will too.

Since I reported on the controversy, I've received several emails in support of Allen, to the tune of "thank god someone's saying what I'm thinking." But last I checked, the Facebook group calling for Allen's firing boasted 4,484 members, while groups supporting him barely approached 1000 members in total.

I'm not comfortable in either camp. But I hope those taking a side are thinking through the consequences of their positions, and have at least listened to the pieces in question.

Arguing Allen's not fit to represent us at the Olympics is one thing. Trying to muzzle a man who neither libeled nor advocated violence is a whole other ballgame.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Censorship at the Emmys

Since the Janet Jackson Superbowl incident, media broadcasters have been granted the ability -- backed by a degree of public approval -- to censor live shows.

Unlike the controversial "nipple" incident, however, Sunday's Emmy censorships were invoked for political and religious reasons.

Sally Field was censored during her acceptance speech for decrying the war in Iraq.

She said: "If mothers ruled the world, there would be no Goddamn war in Iraq," but the television audience heard only: "If mothers ruled the world, there would be no God..." before she was cut off- which significantly misconstrued the crux of her speech and left the audience in awe of what she could have possibly said.

And comedian Kathy Griffin was censored on the Fox network during a speech in which she declared "Suck it Jesus. This award is my God now."

If we enter an era in which broadcasters decide what to air in the name of good taste we are treading a dangerous new ground toward limiting free speech, further blurring the already artificial line between reality and what the media depicts as reality.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Reporting under censorship

In a recent piece on the online independent newspaper The Tyee, Claude Adams argues for the hypocrisy of former Toronto Star publisher John Honderich's denunciation of press freedom in Rwanda, only after having left the country.

Adams reports that, while in Rwanda, Honderich was well aware of the censorship -- both self- and government-imposed -- routinely restricting journalists.

The bigger questions brought up in his piece concern all journalists.

"To what degree should the fear of offending a host government prompt volunteers to soft-pedal professional and ethical standards in the course of their work? When is it okay to bite your tongue for the "good of the project," and when do you stand on principle, even at the risk of being shut down?" Adams asks.

His questions spring from his experience in the Canadian Rwanda Initiative, which he worries isn't teaching aspiring reporters to stand up to Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

He goes on to relate how some of the Rwandan journalism students he met aimed to switch to PR or NGO work because of the frustrations of reporting in their country.

That sentiment isn't unheard of in my own school, but reading Adams' analysis of the plight of Rwandan media sure puts Canada's imperfections in perspective.