CJFE calls on CRTC to review its decision

Monday, July 19, 2004

Chairperson Charles Dalfen
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada, K1A 0N2

Dear Charles Dalfen,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

It has come to our attention that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has denied the application of Genex Communications Inc. for the renewal of the broadcasting licence for the French-language commercial radio station CHOI FM Qu├ębec. CJFE believes that the space for free expression has been diminished by the CRTC's decision, a decision which affects not only the radio station's 380,000 listeners in the Quebec City region, but also sets a dangerous precedent for the censoring of other broadcasters.

In the CRTC Decision, it is obvious that the CRTC is extremely concerned about possible issues of hate speech. CJFE believes that hate speech cases should be referred to the existing and comprehensive federal legislation, and assessed with full legal rigour. The CRTC should not itself become an arbiter of hate speech. This is a precedent-setting decision for the CRTC which has not previously denied a licence because of offensive comments made on the air. It is also important to remember that Canadians have access to a broad range of broadcast material, and those who do not wish to listen to CHOI FM are free not to tune in.

It is recognised in Canadian broadcasting, where bandwidth is limited and therefore a public domain, that there is an appropriate role for the CRTC to set out and monitor standards of conduct. However, CJFE is concerned that in choosing the harshest penalty available, the CRTC has exceeded its mandate.

CJFE urges the CRTC to revisit its decision and to endeavour to use every option available before enacting this extreme, silencing measure.

I look forward to your response. Should you require further information, please do not hesitate to contact CJFE at (416) 515-9622 x. 226.

Yours truly,

Arnold Amber

Case file number: PL-O419