CRTC to Hold Hearing on Licensing Foreign Broadcasters

CRTC to Hold Hearing on Licensing Foreign Broadcasters
The social media page of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on a cellphone in a file photo. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
Andrew Chen

Amid petitions to ban China Central Television and the Fox News Channel after Russia Today was blacklisted by Parliament, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) will hold a special hearing on the licensing of all foreign cable and satellite TV services available in Canada.

Vicky Eatrides, CRTO’s chair and chief executive officer, announced the decision during her testimony before the House of Commons heritage committee on Nov. 23, as first reported by Blacklock’s Reporter.

“We are going to hold a broader hearing—so that is forthcoming—on how we treat foreign services who are operating in Canada,” she said, without providing a specific hearing date.

Ms. Eatrides was responding to a question regarding a Nov. 22 explosion at the Rainbow Bridge, a Canada-U.S. border crossing connecting the cities of Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Niagara Falls, New York state.

The incident, which involved a speeding vehicle crashing into a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol booth, initially raised concerns of a terror attack, prompted by Fox News reporting speculations. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and the FBI later confirmed that the incident was not terror-related.

Referring to the Fox News reporting, NDP MP Peter Julian asked if the CRTC, which regulates broadcasting and telecommunications in Canada, has the capability to handle an application aimed at removing the U.S. media outlet from distribution in Canada.

The application had been submitted in April by Egale Canada, an LGBTQ rights advocacy organization, which called on the CRTC to launch consultations on the removal of Fox News from the list of non-Canadian programming authorized by distribution in Canada. The request came following a Fox News broadcast in March of a segment of the “Tucker Carlson Tonight” show that Egale described as “horrifically transphobic.”
The CRTC initiated online public consultations in May, and the regulator announced in September that it is postponing a decision until it completes a comprehensive review of its regulatory approach for overseeing foreign TV services.
In its reply to Egale Canada on Sept. 19, the CRTC said that many among the over 7,000 submissions it had received shared Egale’s concerns but that “others expressed opposing views.”

Ms. Eatrides reiterated this point in response to Mr. Julian’s question.

“People had very different perspectives on the complaint,” she said. “But what became very clear is that there was concern about issues around content and freedom of expression. So what we did was we took that record and we decided we are going to hold a broader hearing.”

During his show on March 28, Mr. Carlson had commented on the killing of several children and adults at a private Christian school in Nashville a day earlier by a shooter identifying as transgender.

“It was just last week that we noticed that parts of the transgender movement seemed to be getting militant and possibly dangerous,” Mr. Carlson said, adding that some transgender individuals “seem to be mad, specifically at traditional Christians.”

Media from China, Russia

The CRTC’s decision to hold public consultations on Egale’s request to ban Fox News was an uncommon step, given that the regulator had removed only one channel from the list of approved foreign broadcasters on Canadian cable television in recent years.
In March 2022, the CRTC removed RT, formerly known as Russia Today, from Canadian airwaves after the government issued an order-in-council instructing the regulator to do so in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Telecom providers had also suspended the Kremlin-funded English-language broadcaster after the House of Commons voted on Feb. 28, 2022, to blacklist the specialty service.
Meanwhile, the CRTC hasn’t imposed similar bans on China Global Television Network (CGTN) and China Central Television 4 (CCTV-4), both of which are under the direct control of the Chinese Communist Party.
Human rights groups including Spain-based NGO Safeguard Defenders have asked CRTC to block these Chinese state-controlled media for years, presenting the regulator with evidence of the networks airing forced confessions in China.
In a May 2023 report, the House of Commons Special Committee on the Canada-People’s Republic of China Relationship recommended banning CCTV as a specialty service in Canada. Among 34 recommendation provided in the report, titled “A Threat to Canadian Sovereignty,” MPs stated that “authoritarian state-controlled broadcasters” should not be allowed on the list of non-Canadian programming services and stations authorized for distribution in Canada.

The committee further suggested that regulators undertake efforts to identify “the ownership of media organizations related to the PRC [People’s Republic of China] in Canada and their activities in Canada, including but not limited to misinformation campaigns, censorship, and intimidation.”

“Witnesses voiced concern that the state of Canadian Mandarin and Cantonese-language media is being compromised by the PRC,” said the committee report.

A number of Beijing-controlled broadcasters, such as Beijing TV, China Yellow River Television Station, and Zhejiang International Channel, are currently approved for distribution in Canada, according to the CRTC’s list.
Conservative MP Michael Chong has also called on the federal government to issue an order-in-council asking the CRTC to ban CGTN in Canada. During a House Canada-China relations committee meeting on Feb. 6, Mr. Chong noted that “CGTN, China’s authoritarian, state-controlled broadcaster, is still operating here, spreading disinformation and propaganda, and violating international human rights laws.”
Isaac Teo and Peter Wilson contributed to this report