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Monday, January 29, 2007

Will the Conservative attack ads ever run on TV?

Ezra Levant, working with the research of Stephen Taylor, has written a brilliant piece that makes me wonder if those devastating Conservative Party ads targeting Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion will ever make it to television.

If not, what can we do to help?

From the Calgary Sun, Ezra Levant writes about Telecaster, giving well-deserved credit to Stephen Taylor:

Ask a thousand Canadians what a "telecaster" is, and 999 would probably think it was a 1950s word for a newfangled TV set. But Telecaster is actually the name of the agency that screens TV ads.

Instead of advertisers having to get approval from every single TV station in the country, Telecaster is their one-stop shop. Canadian TV stations outsource their judgment to Telecaster, which is in charge of basic standards -- no profanity, for example.

Telecaster approves political ads, too. And so, what is a rubber stamp when it comes to toothpaste and shampoo ads becomes a powerful political censor when it comes election campaigns.

The problem is that Telecaster is run by a Liberal partisan, James Patterson:

Over the last three years, according to Elections Canada data dug up by blogger Stephen Taylor, Patterson made a whopping 17 donations to the Liberal Party, totalling more than $4,300.

That's more than most MPs give to their own parties. That's an extreme partisan.

One of the donations was even made in January 2006, just days before the last election. That's important, because Patterson was in charge of censoring TV ads that very moment. And censor he did.

The evidence suggests that Patterson is unable to separate his political views from his work with Telecaster, and that he's applying different rules to make advertising difficult for the Conservatives:

That was when the Liberals rolled out their attack ads, claiming Stephen Harper was going to put "soldiers in our streets". It was absurd, and it backfired.

The point is Telecaster, run by Jim Patterson, didn't censor them, even though they used images of Stephen Harper without his permission.

But when the Conservatives produced a response to those attack ads -- showing video clips of Liberal MPs admitting their own attack ads had gone too far -- Telecaster censored the ads. Telecaster ordered the Conservative ads off the air.

And of course, this double standard is going to apply to these ads just rolled out by the Conservatives:

All this came out in the open last week when Telecaster refused to allow the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association to run a TV ad briefly showing Harper's own image -- even though the CRFA owned the footage themselves. Telecaster told the CRFA that they couldn't show a picture of Harper without his permission -- a ridiculous requirement that Harper does not want.

We know where this is going.

Patterson, the big Liberal donor, is getting ready to block Tory ads in the upcoming campaign. He knows thin-skinned Stephane Dion, the new Liberal leader, won't grant permission to the Tories to use footage of him saying foolish things.

And saying foolish things is a Stephane Dion trademark.

So what can we do about this? I'm going to assume that Patterson is secure in his position. In any case, a wholesale cultural change at an institution so infected with bias towards the Liberal Party is going to take a long time. Finding people who are actually apolitical is tough, since in Canada someone who doesn't support any party is typically labeled a Conservative -- I suppose that's what you get for calling the Liberal Party Canada's natural governing party.

So the trick might be to bypass Telecaster altogether if Telecaster throws up roadblocks. News programs can show the ads as part of a story without any interference from Telecaster. So get on to your local news people and tell them this is an interesting story. And, of course, there is the internet. If you have a website, link to the ads or to any of the bloggers who have embedded the videos. Put links up on forums and message boards. Email your like-minded friends. Email your Liberal friends. Get the word -- and the URLs -- out there.

If we're lucky, Telecaster simply won't amount to much.

Thanks to reader Selma for the heads up on Ezra's article.

[Cross-posted from Angry in the Great White North]

Posted by Steve Janke on January 29, 2007 | Permalink


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I have seen no indication that Telecaster/Patterson are trying to block ads. What do you base this on? In any event, wouldn't Dion trying to block the ads now actually make him look even worse?

Posted by: Shamrock | 2007-01-29 11:11:25 AM

My understanding is that they will run, but I wouldn't be too comfortable in assuming that this will remain the case.

Posted by: Steve Janke | 2007-01-29 11:20:09 AM

As one who is sick of paying taxes to the CBC who just run liberal ads in the veil of news programs, and comdy programs. I feel its time for the constervative party to embrace new media. Let their ads be blocked on main stream tv. Instead put there ads on youtube and other web sharing sites.

Posted by: freedomisnotfree | 2007-01-29 11:23:26 AM

Since the CBC is state owned and funded from the public purse, there should not need be approval from a telecaster. Otherwise we have again the tail wagging the dog.

Posted by: Alain | 2007-01-29 12:31:17 PM

Since we the taxpayers own the cbc, shouldn't all their footage be in the public domain. If the cbc says it is theirs only, they should not receive any public money. Maybe that is the tactic we should start complaining about. How about a box to tick on our tax returns, do you want to support the cbc with taxmoney.

Posted by: maryT | 2007-01-29 2:07:39 PM

Ezra isn't talking about the current anti-Liberal attack ads. Read the column. He's talking about Conservative ads from the last election.

Posted by: john | 2007-01-29 2:10:45 PM

No. The ads are running. I saw a couple tonight during Heroes.

Posted by: john | 2007-01-29 8:36:59 PM

When I think of telecaster I think of this:


Posted by: Gord Tulk | 2007-01-29 10:08:02 PM


A long diatribe about how biased Telecaster is refuted by the simple fact that the ads were not blocked. (For more sightings, see Paul Wells' blog.) But they DID try to block the ads that criticized Harper. Does this mean that Telecaster is actually doing the Conservative's dirty work? Should we be worried about the obvious pattern of PRO-Conservative bias? I don't know, but I DO know that we won't hear about it from the WS. It does not fit with their general propaganda mission.

Posted by: Mark Logan | 2007-01-30 6:36:32 AM

I don't watch enough Canadian Television or any Television to care actually. Chretien will be getting a big laugh about how the Conservative Brain
Trust have focused on that little fart Dion rather than him. The actual Conservative Strategy will be to link Dion into the more or less corrupt Chretien Years and the inept Martin Debacle. But as I have said earlier Dion's biggest problem is not Harper
it is veteran Liberals who are planning his demise
right now, today. I stuck the title "Pinocchio" on Dion with letters across a wide spectrum of International media, where it counts. MacLeod

Posted by: Jack MacLeod | 2007-01-30 10:35:38 AM

Mark L
Let me see if I get this straight, bias toward Liberals by Telecaster is normal and acceptable, while anything favourable toward the Conservatives and Harper is not. You have missed a point set out somewhere that the sanctions placed on the Renewable Fuels add were on the grounds that permission to use Harper's image and statement had not been cleared with Harper. As far as we know he was never asked and we hear that he would have no objection as what he said was on the public record. The point was that this objection, ostensibly made to protect Harper, was in fact made as a precedent so that Telecaster could use it to refuse the Conservative ads that attack Dion. Steve Janke's attack on Jim Patterson's credibility surely stopped him from ruling to deny the said ads.

Posted by: BobWood | 2007-01-30 12:09:07 PM

I am absolutely shocked senseless!


Because Marc, who normally has his mouth open so wide, that he unglues himself, has said nothing about how this telecaster relates to that which is aired in the populations of the "pure laine" de la Belle Province.

No, not really.

Fact is, telecaster is suppossed to be "neutral".

Reality is, it is as neutral and as Professional as the despotes who run the Ombudsman office of the CBC, and so called yellow journalists, who report on the middle east, on money also paid out of taxpayer's pockets.

I see a correlationnnnnnn!!!!

Leave it to Patterson, and we will be handing over great gobs of our hard earned tax dollars, to line the shallow pockets of liberal advertising agencies, so they can go oui-oui-oui, all the way to the Iggy-bank.

Posted by: Lady | 2007-01-30 12:51:26 PM

ps. I would have called it a Dion-bank, but it sounded better coming out of the mouth of his adversary who said "We didn't het it done!"

Posted by: Lady | 2007-01-30 12:54:37 PM

ps. I would have called it a Dion-bank, but it sounded better coming out of the mouth of his adversary who said "We didn't get it done!"

Posted by: Lady | 2007-01-30 12:54:59 PM

Latest is the ads break copyright and will be pulled before the Super Bowl. Give em a good excuse to get the ads off the air as they appear to be backfiring.

Posted by: bigcitylib | 2007-01-30 1:28:22 PM

Latest is the ads break copyright and will be pulled before the Super Bowl. Give em a good excuse to get the ads off the air as they appear to be backfiring.

..says BCL..

well..they do huh? What great proof of that do you have, besides the great echo chamber of progressive liberal thought?

I showed one spot this morning to a friend of mine who is a dyed in the wool liberal..and even he had to admit that Dion looked like an incompetent, bumbling whiner and appears to typecast himself in these so called "attack ads"

..more like public service messages if you ask me..

Posted by: kursk | 2007-01-30 2:02:41 PM

What da hell are you talking about ?

Posted by: Marc | 2007-01-30 3:13:56 PM


Sorry, it does not translate very well.

Please look and you will see that I wrote, "No, not really".

It was written in the same vein of humour as that old French joke,

"HA.., un fois"

"Ha.., deux fois"

"Ha.., trois fois".

On a bien rire n'est pas?

OK, so my poor attempt at humour, has fallen as flat as it ever has....

Note to self: keep the day job....

Posted by: Lady | 2007-01-30 4:30:20 PM

here's a "froggie style" attempt for humour. I'm sure you wont like this...but I'm truly having a big smile sending you that.
Try to enjoy.

Posted by: Marc | 2007-01-31 3:01:19 PM



Oui, j'ai vue le filme Elvis Graton, c'est tres speciale!

The question is whether the readership views the behaviour on the utube link as typical.

Quebecois bad words are perhaps -- next to poutine -- that which really defines Quebec as different from its origins.

Posted by: Lady | 2007-01-31 3:42:02 PM

You're right.
This,...and that:
(From an American, who understand us much better that a whole bunch from the ROC...)

Posted by: Marc | 2007-01-31 3:59:46 PM

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