Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

« Iranians Love America | Main | Tal Bachman appearing in Toronto Tuesday night »

Monday, January 22, 2007

TV censorship in Canada

When I ran for office in 2002, I discovered a niggling little agency called the Television Bureau of Canada, or "Telecaster". Before I aired my campaign's TV ads, I had to courier them to Telecaster for its approval. I can understand the purpose -- TV stations voluntarily outsource their editorial approval for TV ads to one central organization.

My ads were okayed, but what if an ad were vetoed for political reasons?

That's what has happened to our friends at the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association -- the ethanol association that wants to start running ads pressing Prime Minister Stephen Harper to follow through on his campaign promise to increase use of ethanol as fuel in Canada.

It was a statement made publicly by Harper, and the CRFA wants to hold him to it. But Telecaster has banned the ad, saying the CRFA needs to get Harper's personal permission before using a TV clip of him.

You can see the banned ad here.

Whatever you think of Harper or ethanol, banning that ad is absurd. But it's more than absurd -- it's political censorship, and it sets a terrible precedent in terms of chilling public discourse. Since when do political figures have a veto over the media's use of their publicly-made statements on the campaign trail? And since when does Telecaster enforce that veto?

Here is the CRFA's letter  to Telecaster. If you think that unelected, unaccountable censors should stop meddling in political ads like this, send a note to Telecaster's Jim Patterson here

Posted by Ezra Levant on January 22, 2007 | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference TV censorship in Canada:



Do you have access to Telecaster's response to CRFA? If so, would you please provide a link? Thank you.

Posted by: Brent Weston | 2007-01-22 7:31:12 AM

Is it CRTC mandated to belong to Telecasters?

One has to wonder if FOX News had a Canadian Bureau would it have to also refer to Telecaster?

Posted by: Joe Molnar | 2007-01-22 7:41:09 AM

Bourque News Watch Is Featuring A Lot Of Comment On
This Situation Today - CRTC is strictly speaking a Patronage Bastion - Liberal Lawyers in Halifax NS
lobbied to become members during the Chretien
Years. I wonder why? Anything a politician says in public at any time is in the Public Domain. Great Journalist and Newspaperman Joseph (Joe) Howe NS
activist and publisher was the first major advocate of Freedom of the Press in British North America.
He would have had a fit after reading this stuff - MacLeod

Posted by: Jack MacLeod | 2007-01-22 7:52:02 AM

Given that political ads aired on TV during election campaigns take alot more liberty with facts and quotes than in this commercial, I find this decision from the Telecasters odd and inconsistent.

Posted by: ALIO | 2007-01-22 9:20:58 AM

Have been inudated with alternative energy ideas and concepts for years, everything from Tidal Power
-Ocean Energy Thermal Conversion, Wind Power,
Sun Power, the list goes on. Ethanol is another
scheme which will eat up scarce public resources and accomplish nothing of consequence. Energy alternatives have one thing in common bird brained engineering. Germany developed oil from coal slurry
in World WarII by immersion of coal slurry in vast amounts of hydrogen peroxide. The huge SASOL Plant
in South Africa used the technology when SA was cut off international petroleum access. Plant is still in Production. Waste Treatment resources
designed and built in Canada (sub surface aeration). The "NS Tidal Power Plant receives most of it's revenue from visiting American and European Tourists - MacLeod

Posted by: Jack MacLeod | 2007-01-22 9:36:57 AM


I do not believe it is as simple as you state it to be.

For one, if someone wanted to use my photo in an ad for something, let us say, so-called "freedom fighting" in you-know-where, well I would definately say no to that. I would not want my face on their ads no matter how much I am in favour of peace in you-know-where.

And if someone else wanted to use my face for selling anything, even something as benign as you can think of, but at a profit, well I would insist that I had the right to be consulted first.

In relation to something that is political and corporate, I would also say that I would appreciate very much being consulted with, as having my face there also looks like an endorsment. And an endorsement from the PM of Canada would be worth a pretty penny.

If I get you right, if you said you were in support of something, could I use your photo without consulting you?

I believe it is very much about being polite as well as considerate more than sensoring.

Besides, there are a few more interesting things happenning, such as the recent statement by one of the hamas terrorists, that Canada risks being labelled as enemy of the Palestinians.

Posted by: Lady | 2007-01-22 9:50:51 AM

Lady: with all due respect, you are arguing a different point. They want to use Harper's actual speech(through video) of what he said. They are not trying to get his endorsement of a product. He said it, so why shouldn't they use it to hold him to his word ?

Posted by: Markalta | 2007-01-22 10:02:08 AM

I agree Mark - of course. Canadian Media feature the nerd like features of that idiot Peter MacKay in a wholly political sense, or the for now Premier of Nova Scotia, Rodney The Fiddler almost daily here in the middlke of nowhere Atlantic Canada. Politicians no matter how you "might cut it" are in the public domain. But in the case of the Honorable Belinda Stronch PC, MP, the Liberal biased media have gone beyond good taste - and good taste should be the
cornerstone of journalism in Canada, if for instance one can stand the CBC or CTV for more than five minutes - MacLeod

Posted by: Jack Macleod | 2007-01-22 10:40:10 AM

I think it depends on the context of the speech Mr. Harper gave. As this is a obviously bias ad, they should make sure the ad is framed in the correct context. Suppose that they cut and paste a completely new argument from various Mr. Harper speeches, should they be allowed to play it? At what point do we draw the line. Mr. Harper should be held accountable for his promises, and as such, he should be given a certain amount of time to either approve or disapprove of his being used in the commercial. If he does not respond, then approval should be assumed.

Posted by: Sean Whelan | 2007-01-22 12:18:42 PM


My point was not whether they should not use it.

My point was also NOT whether they should never use it.

We are not talking about the average person, we are talking about the PM of Canada, and I do believe that he has earned the right to say whether or not something that is taking a quote out of something he said, is actually being used in the manner to which he intended it to in the first place.

It is totally appropriate to ask him, if that is part of the process so endorsed by the committee.

But, if you took something and aired it on youtube, that would be different. It would be clear that no endorsement of Canada or the PM had been acquired.

Furthermore, it is also not about free speach. You show me an advertisement, and say it is only about free speach, and I will say you are wrong. Advertisement is NOT free speach. It is furthermore, about promoting a position linked to a product or human resources or political partisanship or a product, and not about you, me, or the pm saying whatever they want in a free world.


And lastly, I believe that if the advertisement does the subject and the PM justice, and is presenting him respectfully, and the subject respectfully, then by all means, the ad should not be witheld. It seems to me to be a rather simple part of process with which a committee that does a job, sees when they do not have the authority to go beyond, and have taken the respectful route.

If in fact they got in the way of freedom of speach, then that will come out, of course.

We see our PM being quoted every single day. And we also see him being quoted if at times what is coming about, is not in line with what he said before. You know what those issues are, and these are different matters in comparison to newsworthiness, or market access.

You know the difference?

Posted by: Lady | 2007-01-22 12:40:49 PM

Yes Sean, I agree with you.

It is all about PROMISES MADE




But it is also about treating our PM in the manner to which he ought to be, which ensures that his words are not twisted and manipulated into something of which he did not actually say.

Posted by: Lady | 2007-01-22 12:44:46 PM


From Stephen Taylor's article about this:

"My pal Kory Teneycke, executive director of the CRFA wrote to the Conservative Party to inquire about such a request [needing Harper's permission] and passed on the party's response to me:"

"I understand that the statement in your ad was made by Mr. Harper at a public event with unrestricted media access while he was publicly campaigning in his capacity as Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. I am not aware how the Party, or Mr. Harper for that matter, has anything to say- permitting, refusing, or otherwise- about the broadcast of a clip from a public event of the Leader. So far as I know, we have never been asked for such a thing before. I am frankly at a loss to understand why or what we are being asked at all."

So, apparently Mr. Harper doesn't need to be consulted.


Posted by: Keith | 2007-01-22 1:47:46 PM


So what is you are saying in regards to the banning of the ad?

Posted by: Lady | 2007-01-22 3:20:16 PM

Who would have thought that Canadians' pathological aversion to holding strong opinions, let alone expressing them with any conviction, would have come to this?

Since when has "a hot topic" made a subject "an opinion"? Let's face it, anything can become "a hot topic," and you never quite know which conflation of factors might make something a hot topic.

So, this hot topic, in the lexicon of the Television Bureau of Canada, now comes under the heading of "OPINION" and therefore needs their approval if someone wants to make an ad about it?

Whew. Only in Canada.


I think we need to snap out of it and stand up and be counted at every turn. Every Canadian should become opinionated and be prepared to defend their opinions all the time. If we did, the toadies' heads would be spinning at the Television Bureau of Canada, and we might be able to put an end to all of this nonsense.

Posted by: gogetem | 2007-01-22 3:30:25 PM

I despise *all kinds* of censorship; as such, I would support the motion by sending an email to the president of TVB.

However, I looked at their web site, and found nothing indicating, that they have any mandate to decide, who can advertise what. It states

"TVB is a Resource Centre for its members"

I can not comolain about a decision of TVB (namely to ask Harper about the ad), until I have not seen it.

Btw, what is the legal framework giving TVB this power?

Posted by: Cato | 2007-01-22 4:10:13 PM

Cato: Go over to Stephen Taylor's blog where he's got the two ads in question. You can link to them above.

BTW, their asking the folks who've made the ad for PMSH's permission to show him in the ad and quote him, given that what they're showing is footage taken of a public speech he gave, is totally unnecessary.

They found this out after they wrote to the CPC to get said approval from the CPC.

Tooooo much regulation, and it gets really bad when the employees of the regulatory body don't know what they're doing. This is happening with more frequency and I don't like it: people in positions of regulating others who don't know what the Hell they're doing.

I smell danger.

Posted by: gogetem | 2007-01-22 4:54:34 PM

The problem is not, that the employees of the regulatory body don't know, what they are doing.

The problem is the *existence of the regulatory body*.

Posted by: Cato | 2007-01-22 5:04:31 PM

The Television Bureau of Canada - http://www.tvb.ca/ - is a private organization, not associated with the state; their Telecaster service is apparently voluntarily used by some members of the organization to obtain commercial clearance on proposed advertisements. We are not talking about a state regulatory body, and the ads haven't been banned, TVB has just told the station that they don't think they should broadcast the ad without a legal release, and the station has agreed to take that advice.

This is not censorship any more that it would be censorship if the Western Standard refused to run some item because their lawyers had some problem with it. Whether or not the lawyers or other commercial approval folks would be correct can be argued, but I don't see dragging the state into this matter. We are not talking about the CRTC here.

Unless I'm wrong, of course.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2007-01-22 6:02:13 PM


Thanks for that explanation; that clears things up if you are correct. I had meant to ask Ezra for the original Telecaster correspondence but I see by my original post that my request was a little vague. It would be good to get a look at the original correspondence if someone has that. Thanks.

Posted by: Brent Weston | 2007-01-22 6:31:06 PM

As Keith mentioned above, Brent, some of the correspondence can be see at Stephen Taylor's: http://www.stephentaylor.ca/archives/000774.html

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2007-01-22 6:40:00 PM


Thank you. I was also interested in the mandate of TBC. Your summary is good but their website (although stating that membership is voluntary) also suggests their guidlines are influenced by their understanding of regulatory bodies' parameters and decisions. It is, of course, possible that an overzealous or severely inexperienced employee made an independent decision in this matter but that comment about regulatory bodies in the 2nd following paragraph caught my eye.

From http://www.tvb.ca/Buton1.htm

The Telecaster Committee of Canada (now known as Telecaster services of TVB) was formed in 1973 by private broadcasters as a voluntary, self-governing, commercial, infomercial and public service announcement (PSA) clearance committee. The Committee has grown steadily in membership since that time, proving to be an organization which inspires responsibility and trust. In 1995, the Telecaster Committee began clearing infomercials for its member channels. In 1998, Telecaster member channels implemented a policy to deal with the issue of late copy.

If Telecaster services did not exist, it is likely you would have to send your commercials for clearance to at least 45 different stations and networks who would each have their own rules and regulations, as well as submitting to the necessary regulatory bodies. Rarely is a commercial, infomercial or psa cleared by Telecaster removed from the air. However, the Telecaster guidelines are voluntary, and a member may or may not wish to telecast a commercial in order to comply with the individual station or network policy.

Posted by: Brent Weston | 2007-01-22 7:22:39 PM

A commenter at Kate's has posted the following mail from TVB on this matter - http://tinyurl.com/2o42e2

"TVB, through our Telecaster Clearance procedures, acts to ensure that news media footage is used appropriately in television commercials within copyright law. We have never intended to have this pre-clearance requirement extend to personalities included in the footage.

An error was made within our Telecaster Clearance group, by an individual analyst, in asking for copyright compliance beyond our stated mandate. This error was corrected, and the commercials in question were approved Monday afternoon after some required revisions (not affecting copyright) were made.

It is never our intention to impede the ability of advertisers to reach interested Canadians with the full communications power of the television medium.

Jim Patterson
President & CEO
Television Bureau of Canada"

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2007-01-23 5:15:45 AM

There is also a CP story on the http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/MediaNews/2007/01/22/3430514-cp.html page which says the ad has been approved. Neither Stephen Taylor nor Ezra got an honourable mention!

John M Reynolds

Posted by: jmrSudbury | 2007-01-23 11:40:51 AM

Telecaster should not exist. If a private network chose not to air the ad, that's not a problem. It shouldn't be up to Telecaster. Who is this Lady? And why doesn't she understand the basic concept of free speech. Of course advertising is a form of free speech and expression.

Well Ezra, you need to start your own TV network. Play the ad and challenge Telecaster all the way to the Supreme Court. I know, it's a bit pricey but I'll send you a cheque. We all will.

Posted by: Howard Roark | 2007-01-23 9:40:15 PM


You missed the part where it has been approved.

Free speach and advertising are two different things.

Put it this way, if a porno company wanted to advertise XXX videos at prime time after school, would you still be out there waving your ignorance that free speach trumps common sense?

How about if the videos were beyond XXX and had ugly old men like Picton having sex with pre-schoolers? Would you still defend their right to free speach?

And don't say it would never happen, because pedophiles are lining up together, lobbying government for the right to that material.

And I for one am glad there is a group of people who are there to ensure that kind of material stays away from all Canadian children, and normal people, regardless of whether their parents have TV control mechanisms.

Sure, you can say there are areas where it is silly. But it is one of those things that exist, not for the good folks who would never do something disgusting, but for the transgressors, who would love to do whatever they want at the social expense of everyone. So, if it exists in the best interests of Canadians, then it exists in the best interests of our nation and all people.

I cannot say the same for the long-gun registry.

I would ask you to give me a break, but then being a Lady means I already have one in the first place.

Posted by: Lady | 2007-01-24 11:15:36 AM

Not only do I understand the concept of free speech, I know how to spell "speech." Your arguments are absurd but I do not have the time to educate you. Besides, a comment on the Shotgun cannot possibly repair years (decades?) of educational failure. Start with "The Little Engine That Could" and work your way from there.

Posted by: Howard Roark | 2007-01-24 9:22:17 PM

"Telecaster should not exist"

Telecaster is not a government agency. It exists, because it's owners wanted it to exist. That's not the real problem.

"If a private network chose not to air the ad, that's not a problem. It shouldn't be up to Telecaster"

The (or some?) private networks decided to transfer their decision making to Telecaster. So, it is nothing but an "optimized" way to do, what the private networks did anyway, with the advantage, that they can hide behind Telecaster.

The real problem is in the basic approach.

Why should an ad (or a program - what is the difference?) be blocked from being broadcast? There are legal consequences of publishing certain material (libel, inciting hate, etc.). This should fall in the responsibility of those, who put the ad. The broadcasters should be responsible only for the most obvious transgessions. It is nonsense, that they could be held responsiböe for what they are airing in the name of their customers. However, this is the Canadian (in fact the North American) way.

Posted by: Cato | 2007-01-24 10:04:03 PM


"It is nonsense, that they could be held responsible for what they are airing in the name of their customers. However, this is the Canadian (in fact the North American) way."

"It is nonsense, that the Western Standard could be held responsible for publishing a copy of the Danish Cartoons in the interests of their customers. However, this is the Canadian (in fact the Human Rights Commission) way."

(Royalty privileges to Ice-water dog)

Posted by: Brent Weston | 2007-01-24 10:48:25 PM

There is no (ZERO) relation between these issues.

However, if we are at it: no, it is not "nonsense", it is a SHAME, plainly; a shame for Canada's society. The Human Rights Tribunals should be put out in a dinghy towards China.

I commend Western Standard for publishing the cartoons, even though most probably we have very different reason.

I too would have published them if I had had the platform for that, however not because of rabid anti-Arab attitude, rather because I was outraged at the reaction of Muslims about the publication in Denmark et al.

Anyway, I wonder what the position of the posters of these forums and especially of the now-complainant Ezra Levant had been in 1998, when Doug Collins had been dragged to the Human Rights Commission of BC by Harry Abrams, with B’nai Brith Canada as intervener, for a critique of "Schindler’s List" and alleged anti-Semitic writings published in the North Shore News. (I think Western Standard did not exist yet that time.)

Posted by: Cato | 2007-01-24 11:22:18 PM


"I commend Western Standard for publishing the cartoons, even though most probably we have very different reason.

I too would have published them if I had had the platform for that, however not because of rabid anti-Arab attitude, rather because I was outraged at the reaction of Muslims about the publication in Denmark et al."

I think most posters here would agree with you on that point, Cata, so it would not be a different reason. Speaking personally, I would not use the word "outrage" - but that is because I choose to use temperate language. In essence, we concur. I simply wanted the raw data. It is here:


Posted by: Brent Weston | 2007-01-25 6:00:17 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.