CRTC CBC License Renewal: “equity-seeking communities” requirements

Of interest and thanks to Sarkonak for noticing this change and The Line for bringing it to wider attention.,

Significant change from softer encouragement to hard targets, one that suggests the government may adapt a similar approach to employment equity in the public service and possibly federally-regulated sectors (e.g., bank, communications and transport), even if the original policy based on self-declaration and annual reporting has resulted in a much more diverse public service.

I also think their caution that such overt political goals run the risk of undermining the perceived independence of the CRTC and the CBC, one that a future government may use for its own political priorities:

We at The Line have a confession: we don’t slavishly follow every item coming and going out of the CRTC — although it is becoming increasingly clear that we ought to. So we admit that we missed, in June, the decision that came from this regulatory body that renewed CBC’s broadcasting license for another five years. 

Because, frankly, this is usually pretty rubber stamp stuff. 

So credit where it is due, we must tip the hat to Jamie Sarkonak for noticing some pretty significant changes in this renewal notice. 

Jamie Sarkonak @sarkonakjThe CRTC @CRTCeng just imposed DEI requirements onto CBC programming. CBC must dedicate 30% of its independent programming budget to the following identity categories: Indigenous, language minorities, visible minorities, disabled, and LGBTQ. #cdnpoli…


We read through the renewal notice ourselves and, yeah, she is correct. The CBC has a vague public mandate to inform and entertain Canadians for the purpose of creating a kind of shared national identity. Implicit in this mandate is the notion that the public broadcaster ought to broadly reflect and represent the Canadians who pay its bills. To that end, although previously the CBC could certainly choose to devote resources to “Canada’s equity-seeking communities” (and it certainly has!) never before to our knowledge has it been required to devote specific expenditure requirements to those communities as part of its license renewal. 

From the ruling: 

“As such, the Commission is imposing on the CBC the following requirements to ensure that equity-seeking communities are not only reflected in the public broadcaster’s programming, but that the programming is relevant to them.”

The CRTC is demanding a “fixed portion of independent programming expenditures directed to official language minority communities (OLMC), racialized Canadians, Canadians with disabilities, and Canadians who self-identify as LGBTQ2.” Additionally, it will grant a: “‘woman intersectionality credit’ to incentivize expenditures on productions produced by Indigenous Peoples, racialized persons, persons with disabilities, and persons who self-identify as LGBTQ2, who also self-identify as women.”

There are additional requirements for French language programming, of course. 

This line also caught our attention from the notice: 

“The Commission supports the Government of Canada’s commitment to renewing the relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. On a broader level, the Commission also recognizes that Call to Action 84 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) tie into some of the objectives of the Broadcasting Act in that they refer to the reflection of Indigenous Peoples in the programming broadcast by the CBC.” 

The CRTC is demanding changes to the election of the CBC ombudsman to ensure he or she is “sensitive to issues surrounding Indigenous people, racialized Canadians and other equity-seeking communities.” 

It is also setting out “new expectations regarding the CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices to help ensure that journalists can provide relevant feedback and equity-seeking communities are consulted in any future review of the JSP.” 

(The JSP is basically the bible of CBC journalism and guides its employees in how it approaches reporting, analysis and opinion. The JSP has come under particular scrutiny in recent years when it was alleged that the expectation of “objective” journalism would distort how the outlet approaches racism. Attentive readers will note the obvious allusion to “moral clarity” here.)

Whether or not you agree with the outcomes being sought, what is clear is that the CRTC (which is appointed by the governor general, on advice of the privy council) is having explicitly political goals written into its license renewals. 

Now, don’t misread us, here. The CBC ought to be free to pursue equity goals in programming, or reviews of its JSP, or whatever it feels necessary to meet its mandate according to its own discretion. We happen think these outcomes are best exercised by trusted leaders and experienced producers who have the latitude to use editorial discretion, rather than by rigid quota or expenditure goals. 

To have these demands placed on it by an external regulator in order to fulfil the political goals of that regulator and, ultimately, its political masters, is playing with fire in the worst kind of way. 

For starters, one of the first pieces we ran here at The Line was from a documentary filmmaker who noted the ways in which diversity quotas shifted incentives in filmmaking. Just as students write to the test, quotas of this sort shift the focus in content production, forcing creators to produce content that checks a box, rather than fulfil a real audience desire. This creates a CBC that is dooming itself to be less relevant to the general public even as its relevance is growing more crucial thanks to the economic collapse of private media. The system is all the more insulting considering there is, in fact, a real audience desire for different voices and perspectives in our media landscape. 

(The Line can think of two such examples of CBC shows that were compelling and worth watching regardless of their diversity requirements: check out Sort Of and Trickster if you haven’t already. Unfortunately, the latter was cancelled when it was revealed that director Michelle Latimer was not as Indigenous as previously stated.) 

The second most obvious problem with all of this falls under the maxim “Do not give your enemies the weapons they will use to kill you.” In other words, having established this norm, do you not think that Prime Minister Pierre Poilievre, having done his damndest to stack the CRTC, will not do the same thing in turn? What is the CBC going to do when its license renewal is subject not to fulfilling the requirements of UNDRIP, but rather to concepts like “viewpoint diversity” and “journalistic objectivity,” as defined by Poilievre’s crew? The pendulum always swings back, friends, and it usually swings back harder when pushed. 

Source: The Line Dispatch 13 August

The Line: Latest US mass shooting

One of the better and most realistic, sadly so, commentaries on the Uvalde etc shootings:

Your Line editors have, between them, many decades of journalism experience. More than we honestly like to admit. And one of the types of stories that we have covered or in some way responded to more than any other is a catastrophic mass-casualty shooting in the United States.

We won’t bother recapping the details of the disaster in Texas this week, or the one in Buffalo just days before that. What point would it serve? They’re all basically the same. We really don’t have anything left to say that we haven’t said already. Worse, we’ve said it all many times. The towns, the pictures of the victims, the powerful statements by survivors … they’ve all blurred together. They blurred together years ago. 

Honestly, folks, we’re just plain out of helpful suggestions or novel insights or calls to action we think would have the slightest chance of actually working.  America’s problem with guns is not actually a gun-control problem. Now before you think we’re about to go on some NRA-inspired discussion about mental health or video games or a broken society or anything like that, you should know that we agree that the American status quo on guns is appalling. And your Line editors like guns a lot more than the average Canadian.

It’s not that guns aren’t a problem in the U.S. The access-to-firearms differential between the U.S. and everyone else is the only meaningful outlier, so yes, it’s clearly the guns. But the focus on gun control is misplaced not because the status quo is good, but because the gun dysfunction is a symptom of the actual problem: America’s political culture and systems are broken. 

Americans like their guns. A lot. Millions of them support the gun lobby for that reason. There’s no denying that, and probably no changing it. But the American policy status on guns is way, way to the right of where even the pro-gun, Second Amendment-loving population of the good ole U.S. of A want it to be.

This is often overlooked. A supermajority of Americans would support many reasonable limits on access to firearms. Just this week, for example, a poll found 88-per-cent national support for mandatory background checks before the sale of a firearm in the U.S. They’re not going to become Canada or Japan overnight, but again, an overwhelming majority of Americans would support at least some basic gun control measures that have absolutely zero chance of being enacted into law because the Republican party is captured by one of the more extreme factions of its base. 

This is an easy enough problem to identify. Doing anything about it is the hard part. The gun lobby in the United States has become something of a self-sustaining machine, and it is more than powerful enough to keep one of the two parties in a two-party system bent to its will.

Any conversation about how to prevent the next gun massacre in the United States that does not start from a position of understanding that this is fundamentally a problem within the Republican Party is a nonstarter. We don’t care about your memes comparing gun violence in America to gun violence in the rest of the Western world. Do not tell us about Britain after Dunblane or Australia after Port Arthur. Don’t inform us that all we need to do is get rid of the AR-15s. Withhold your video clips of Jacinda Ardern. All of these things are quite literally as useful as noting that we could zero out gun violence in America overnight if we just got Americans to be nice and stop shooting each other, because they all exist in a make-believe world where the GOP was not, 1. Powerful enough to impede meaningful change, and, 2. In the pocket of the gun lobby. The Brits, Aussies and Kiwis aren’t the United States, do not have the United States’ problems and specifically did not have the GOP blocking what a huge majority of Americans would want, at least in terms of basic things like background checks. If your bright idea doesn’t account for that, it ain’t that bright.

Your Line editors are worried about the United States, and our worry comes from a place of love. We love America, we love Americans. We are regular visitors there and have many friends and family in that country. We are admirers of its culture and especially its history. But it is a very sick place right now. And it is really hard to see how it is going to be able to begin to fix its problems without some kind of catastrophic system reset. We are not hoping for one (because we think it would have to be really catastrophic). Far from it. But we honestly don’t know what else would work.

Barring that, our friends to the south, whom we truly do care about deeply, are going to continue converting happy children full of all the potential of life into unrecognizable lumps of state evidence at an alarming rate, and it doesn’t matter how horrified anyone is by this or how earnestly you tweet about it, because until the Americans crack the political problem, it’s not that they won’t change, it’s that they can’t

We have different problems up here. In the aftermath of the San Antonio debacle, coming so quickly as it did on the heels of the Buffalo massacre, Justin Trudeau has said his Liberal party will be bringing out another round of gun control proposals shortly.

Because of course they are.

Friends, we don’t expect you to be experts in the various regulatory policies that, in combination, make up our gun-control regime. It’s really complicated stuff that the average person simply does not have any reason to know. But your Lineeditors do know it. Very well. And we can tell you, with all honesty and certainty, that most of what the Liberals have proposed in recent years, always in the aftermath of a high-profile tragedy, is entirely theatrical. Utterly and epically for show. A lot of what they announce is just re-announcing stuff they’ve already said they will do, or in some cases actually already exists. The rest is stuff that won’t actually address the factors that are the overwhelming contributor to firearms homicides in Canada (mainly mostly, smuggling of guns into Canada from the U.S.)…

Source: The Line Dispatch: Uvalde and other shootings