The CRTC… Nazis?

The CRTC… Nazis?
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OK. Obviously they’re not murdering people in genocidal ovens but they are being anti-competitive bureaucrats. The title actually comes from a conversation I once overheard on the bus. Some old guy was talking about phone companies to a young family. He was very unapologetic in stating that the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) are, indeed, national socialists. Here are some highlights from their 45 year regime.

A couple entrepreneurs were denied their right to start a radio station called “Cariboo FM at 101.7 MHz with a format of new country and rock/pop music, as well as providing more than 20 hours per week of news, weather, sports and community events.”

Ignoring the fact that these guys needed to apply for their freedom of speech depot, the CRTC denied their request based on the reservations the CRTC have about competition. Perhaps I better let the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission explain in their own words:

The Commission notes that total revenues for CKBX have declined by approximately 10% since 2007 and that the station records modest profitability.

That’s the local AM station, obviously struggling to keep afloat.

The Commission considers that a new commercial FM station in the market would compete for listenership and advertising revenues with CKBX.

Oh no, we wouldn’t any competition would we? I mean, like, that would be capitalism! Isn’t that bad?!

In reality a new station would create incentives for the AM Station to pull together and offer better radio for their audience. Or maybe CKBX would go out of business, thus signifying that the public prefers the FM station. The best indicator for this would be the free, peaceful, voluntary market. Not the arbitrary decisions of bureaucrats who receive payment by coercion.

The Commission is of the view that the …. introduction of a new service in the 100 Mile House market at this time could result in a considerable negative impact on the viability of CKBX.

And a Burger King down the street from a McDonalds might negatively impact the viability of the McDonalds. Anyone want the government to come to the rescue? Of course not.

“This is a huge disappointment for the whole area,” says co-applicant Gerhard Loeffeler. “We had planned to have about 10 to 15 employment positions, which is now down the tubes.” He also added that the prospects for the FM station had large community support, with 100 support letters from residents and businesses being sent in along with the application.

And this is just one example.

The CRTC revoked the license of CKLN, the campus radio station for Ryerson University. According to the CRTC:

CKLN Radio Inc. lacked any significant quality-control mechanism for its programming and there was little involvement from the Ryerson University student body despite its status as a campus radio station. It was also unable to meet some of the basic requirements of all licence holders, which include the submission of audible on-air tapes, program log and other records, and complete annual returns.

Let’s break this down one by one.

First – quality-control. This is a University campus radio station, expect to hear Howard Stern-style humour and curse words. I don’t know if this was the case at Ryerson, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Second – little involvement from students. For the writers of the CRTC press release I recommend The Elements of Style. Never say student body. I also recommend Ryerson Student Union president Toby Whitfield: “in the last eight to 10 months, there’s definitely been an increase in opportunities for students to get involved in the station.” Why they didn’t might have to do with my third observation.

Third – The submission of on-air tapes, program logs, complete annual returns and other records? No wonder the costs of running a radio station are high. The CRTC is typical of all State regulators: they stifle innovation, slow down progress and destroy wealth and jobs.

One more example.

AUX-TV, a music channel that features a lot of independent Canadian artists currently can’t allow music videos to exceed 35% of their overall content. This is because of some regulatory nonsense. No problem, thought the owners of AUX-TV, we’ll just request that our license be amended. Here’s what the CRTC said:

The Commission denies an application to amend… the Commission considers that the deletion of AUX TV’s condition of licence limiting the amount of programming drawn from program category 8(b) could permit the service to become directly competitive with the Category A service MuchMusic.

That’s right. The CRTC said no because increasing the number of music videos on AUX-TV would have them in direct competition with MuchMusic. Heaven forbid two channels competing for viewers! Did I mention that both AUX-TV and MuchMusic are owned by the same conglomerate, CTV?

This ruling is made even dumber by the fact that the independent musicians featured on AUX-TV rarely get airtime on MuchMusic. The latter of which features more mainstream artists and American programming.

This comes three months after the CRTC denied MuchMusic’s request to downgrade their music video content from 50% to 25% of the broadcast week.

MuchMusic would like to stop showing so many music videos at a time when AUX-TV would love to show more music videos. It’s a win-win for both privately owned channels. So where exactly is the direct competition? The CRTC is meddling where it doesn’t belong.

But then again, the CRTC doesn’t belong anywhere. Of all State bureaucracies the communications bureau may be the worst. They decide where freedom of speech will be, how much of it will be permitted – and technically – what freedom of speech actually means. The CRTC umbrellas over the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, a regulatory body that attempted to ban a Dire Straits song.

There are many problems with Canada and the CRTC definitely fits into the top ten. What good is freedom of speech if you can’t say anything? Heaven forbid the day they step up their regulation of the internet.

  • Serge

    Bell, Rogers and so forth preside on CRTC board. Is not it funny! The customer is guilty just because they want to eat!

  • Ohhh Henry

    Something else funny that I noticed … recently I got some emails from two different people who had long complaints about the local cable company (and broadcasting and cell phone conglomerate). The complaints were about how incredibly rich and greedy they are and they went on about these traits in great length. The point that they completely miss is that, if they're being abused by the local cable company, this is entirely due to CRTC interference in the market. It has nothing to do with any personal faults of the company management, who are only human and therefore no more greedy and amoral on average than the average member of the public (including government employees). The amorality begins and ends with the enforcement through threat of violence of a monopolistic control of the market for telecommunications. Everything else from that point on is inevitable, from the giant profits of the beneficiaries of the monopoly to the unhappiness of the victims.

  • Ohhh Henry

    "Obviously they’re not murdering people"

    That's not entirely true. If anyone defied the CRTC by operating an unlicensed radio station, even if it did no harm to any person and did not interfere with anyone else's radio broadcasts, they would be grabbed by the police, handcuffed and thrown into a cage. If they resisted they would be assaulted with semi-lethal weapons such as clubs and tasers, and if they fought back they would be shot and killed. What's the difference therefore between the CRTC and the equivalent National Socialist government agencies? None. If any government decides that your radio station is not in the greater interests of "the people" then you will desist or you are dead.

    In theory the excesses or bad policies of the CRTC are amenable to being corrected through periodic free elections, but this is absurd since neither the specific nor the general policies of the CRTC have ever been a major issue in any election and there has never been and never will be a special referendum on the existence or the policies of the CRTC. It's just one of many hundreds of thousands of issues in which if the government decides that your harmless actions are against what they define to be the greater good, they will kill you.

    It reminds me of the Canadian government claiming to be outraged over the fact that the Syrian government is killing rebels (or "activists"). What do they think the Riel rebellion was all about? Anyone who is determined to resist any government will be killed by that government, whether it's run by Adolph Hitler, Barack Obama, Bashar El-Assad or Stephen Harper. Period!

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Caleb McMillan is a writer that lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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