It comes full circle
July 15, 2004 12:49 PM   Subscribe

Al-Jazeera, best known in the West for reporting on the Taliban and US-Iraq war, has, today, been approved to broadcast in Canada, amidst complaints from Jewish groups, such as the B'nai Brith, who are worried the content may be anti-semetic. What makes this interesting? Al-Jazeera will be one of the few news stations in Canada specifically warned by the Canadian government that it must censor itself for content.
posted by shepd (38 comments total)
 
anti-semetic?
posted by anser at 12:59 PM on July 15, 2004


Ahh, the spelling snark: mainstay of the Internet. Where would we be without them?
posted by aramaic at 1:03 PM on July 15, 2004


Spelling error comments are funny when they're coming from someone who likely gets a 'w' added to their name by every phone operator in North America. :-D

Shepd feels your pain (Check my last name and tell me if you usually spell it like that. Then check the dictionary!)
posted by shepd at 1:08 PM on July 15, 2004


I just don't understand why it is apparently impossible to write an FPP without misspelling the key concepts you're writing about. Must be something in the water.
posted by anser at 1:11 PM on July 15, 2004


Well, anser, I'd put it down to the fact that... the key concept isn't the anti-semitic complaint from the B'nai Brith, it's that Canada censors TV. Heck, I couldn't care less if the complaint was about the colour of their logo, as long as it ends up being censored. Then I'd have a problem.

I was almost not even going to mention that, but then I realised I might be sparking up pointless Arabic vs. Jewish flame wars that I couldn't care less about if I didn't put it in there (in retrospect, I don't think it'll make any difference... oh well).
posted by shepd at 1:18 PM on July 15, 2004


It never ceases to amaze me the number of so called free societies which lack basic freedoms such as freedom of the press. We take if for granted here in the US, but in many parts of the world it is not truly free as shown by this wackiness.
posted by caddis at 1:19 PM on July 15, 2004


I'm guessing that by "anti-semitic" they probably mean "not thinking that Israel can do whatever it wants to those subhuman bastard Palestinians".

Unless Al-Jazeera regularly broadcasts anti-Jew (rather than anti-Israel) material, and I'm just unaware of it?

shepd: I always remember it by what they do: "sheep-herds herd sheep" -- and then, uh, you know, I just knock one of the 'e's out. I don't ever get it wrong, anyway.
posted by reklaw at 1:23 PM on July 15, 2004


It depends on what they're being asked to censor. Hate speech is censored all the time in free countries--you don't have people on the street corner handing out hate pamphlets and screaming about deaths to the blacks or the jews or the arabs for this very reason (I'm sure there'd be some there if it wasn't against the law). If Al-Jazeera was on the air saying "kill the dirty jews" then I think it would be perfectly acceptable to have it censored, because it's inciteful and contains not a shred of integrity.

And I sincerely doubt that what reklaw said ("I'm guessing that by "anti-semitic" they probably mean 'not thinking that Israel can do whatever it wants to those subhuman bastard Palestinians'") would be the case, but I excuse him since he's not Canadian. CBC, our national broadcasting company, is often acused of being pro-Palestinian, because it presents a fairly liberal point of view. It wouldn't be anything so innocuous as you're suggesting that would be censored.
posted by The God Complex at 1:48 PM on July 15, 2004


"accused", I should say.
posted by The God Complex at 1:48 PM on July 15, 2004


Speaking of CBC, they also have a writeup on this topic, which I point out only because shepd linked to one of the more right-wing media organizations in this country.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 1:53 PM on July 15, 2004


>Hate speech is censored all the time in free countries

Oddly enough, it isn't. In very few countries first world would you go to jail for hading out such flyers. I could go to the US and do it right now, if I wanted to.

Of course, in a lot of third world countries, I'd go to jail just for saying I didn't like the president.

Canada seems to be right inbetween. I guess that makes it a second world country? :-D

Dr. John... Canadian Press is right wing? YIKES! (Next time I'll link the Sun and be called a libertarian! Woohoo!)
posted by shepd at 2:07 PM on July 15, 2004


reklaw: I agree with you that there is a difference between being anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, but much Arabic press is both of them. When you have people suggesting that every Jew should be run into the Mediterranean, that's Anti-Jew, not anti-Israel.

That being said, I disagree with censorship of the press or anyone, and thing Al-Jazeera should be allowed to broadcast whatever they like wherever they like.
posted by Inkoate at 2:48 PM on July 15, 2004


Unless I'm mistaken, the Aljazeera Television network's official website is aljazeera.net.

Aljazeera.com is London-based Aljazeera Publishing's website.
posted by techgnollogic at 2:55 PM on July 15, 2004


I was very suprised to see Al-Jazeera TV when I was flicking through the millions (only a slight exaggeration) of channels UK Sky TV offers me.
posted by metaxa at 3:28 PM on July 15, 2004


Long but interesting: the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission's ruling.

The only thing that bothers me about the decision is the bits which allow distributors to "alter or curtail"/"alter or delete". Point is that if Al Jazeera broadcasts something hateful or whatnot, the Canadian company broadcasting them has the option of altering or blanking out the hateful bit of the broadcast. Normally broadcasters aren't allowed to tamper in this way as it interferes with free speech. Deletion seems like a good solution if clearly hateful/racist speech which contravened Canada's hate speech laws would otherwise be broadcast ... but altering seems to leave a bit too much room for content to be manipulated in ways the viewers are never aware of. I think it will be a moot point - it's more effort for broadcasters to alter Al Jazeera broadcasts than i think they'll ever put into it.
posted by louigi at 3:36 PM on July 15, 2004


>Jewish groups, such as the B'nai Brith, who are worried the content may be anti-semetic

Heaven forbid westerners get a dose of whats really going on in Israel regarding the I/P conflict. If you have Directv you can already watch various Arab news outlets on Mosaic. It might be a shock at first to see dead Palestinians as opposed to just dead Israelis with US and Israeli talking heads framing the issue for you.

The anti-semantic charge is wearing thin. I'm sick of it being applied to anyone or anything that might criticize Israel or the US's cozy relationship with Israel. Its quickly becoming the boy who cried wolf and the Jewish groups only have themselves to blame.

>there is a difference between being anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, but much Arabic press is both of them

As someone who does watch Mosaic on occasion, it might surprise you that there is professionalism in Arab journalism. At least the stuff thats exported out via TV. A lot of the vile you'd expect just isnt there, but expect to hear "aparthied wall" and "jewish entity" now and again. Which isn't that controversial. What countries doesn't the US recognize? The aparthied charge comes from all over the world, not just the Arabs.
posted by skallas at 3:55 PM on July 15, 2004


louigi, thanks for linking that! The CRTC considers DishNetwork "grey market" still?

AFAIK, it has been ruled in Canada that receiving most of Dishnetwork's programming is flat out illegal in Canada.

The CRTC sure has come a long from stealing C-Banders dishes now way to say "grey market" indeed!
posted by shepd at 4:23 PM on July 15, 2004


I've heard that the restrictions make it unlikely that any providers would actually carry the channel.
posted by Krrrlson at 10:39 PM on July 15, 2004


There are definitely unreasonable restrictions on freedom of speech and the press in Canada, but let's not pretend America is much better. Unless I'm just imagining people being fined by the FCC for saying the word "fuck" or showing nipples on broadcast TV. Considering the number of people who say "fuck" > the number of people who distribute hate literature, it seems obvious to me which one intrudes on a greater number of people's personal liberties.

That said, the CRTC can go fuck itself.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 11:16 PM on July 15, 2004


Indeed.

Trailer Park Boys is filled with vulgar language and illegal activities, This Hour Has 22 Minutes has been absolutely savage to both federal and provincial politicians and policies, and our national CBC Television is never afraid to show a little full-frontal nudity.

Meanwhile, CBC Radio's As It Happens consistently plays journalist hardball with issues of the day, with a take-no-prisoners attitude that is often shocking, and ugly ol' Rex Murphy of Cross Canada Checkup pokes anthills with sticks.

Canada seldom uses censorship, and when it does it is usually in the name of protection from hate-mongering.

Back in the ol' "Free" USA, though, a slip of the tit ends up causing such panic that television episodes are cancelled or re-worked so as to not cause offense, Bono's use of "fuck" nearly causes a war against Ireland, and the so-called free press plays tiddlywinks at Presidential press conferences out of fear of being dismissed by He Who Must Be Obeyed.

Thanks, but I'll take our Canadian-style anti-hate-speech censorship over the unthinking panicky idiocy of America's FCC and frenzied presidential cock-sucking media any day of the week.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:12 AM on July 16, 2004


Oh, and, yes, the CRTC can go fuck itself. I sincerely doubt Al Jazeera is choc-a-bloc full of hate speech.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:13 AM on July 16, 2004


let's not pretend America is much better. Unless I'm just imagining people being fined by the FCC for saying the word "fuck" or showing nipples on broadcast TV.

But that's broadcast tv, and this is a cable channel. Cable channels are (for now) essentially unregulated for content in the US. If it's not going out over the airwaves, you can say whatever you please and show whatever you feel like.

I'd prefer it if broadcast tv were also basically unregulated, but the presence of a sector that's more-or-less free (and the fact that people flock to it in huge numbers, leaving the broadcast networks to the grandparents) is a comfort to me.

The idea of the government regulating not just what goes out over nominally-public airwaves, but also entirely private wires into entirely private homes, is as weird to me as having the state pay for Catholic schools. Actually doing that regulation on the basis of the political opinions being expressed by a network, instead of on the basis of apolitical content like boobs and cursing, doubly weird.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:38 AM on July 16, 2004


So we all agree that FOX news should get a license in Canada too, correct?
posted by Krrrlson at 4:53 AM on July 16, 2004


Shepd: I have to admit that I didn't see the CP tagline in the article; I just saw that it was a canada.com subsite, which is run by CanWest, which does the National Rah-Harper-Rah Post. In any case, other writeups didn't pay as much attention to the "well, we couldn't absolutely ban it" stance, taking what seemed to be more of an objective view. But that's just my opinion of objectivity.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 6:08 AM on July 16, 2004


I was told that FoxNews has been banz0r3d from the Canadian Airwaves. Is this true?
posted by Fupped Duck at 6:10 AM on July 16, 2004


So we all agree that FOX news should get a license in Canada too, correct?

Why not?
posted by caddis at 6:46 AM on July 16, 2004



So we all agree that FOX news should get a license in Canada too, correct?


Separate issue that has nothing to do with content. Nice non-sequitur though.
posted by The God Complex at 7:55 AM on July 16, 2004


Krrlson>Yes it should. So what?

ROU> And Canucks, if they buy satellite TV, can pick up Al Jazeera from international carriers. People with money to throw around can always circumvent laws. But, broadcast TV in Canada is less restricted in its actual content than in America.

I'm not defending Canada's hate speech laws, but the idea that censoring out swear words and human sexuality is "apolitical" is mildly ridiculous too. It's being done in the name of enforcing a puritanical morality idealised (though not practiced) by the powerful members of society. It's done "for the children" and to "protect the family" and similar such ridiculous reasons.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 8:52 AM on July 16, 2004


I was told that FoxNews has been banz0r3d from the Canadian Airwaves. Is this true?

FOX has not been banned in Canada. FOX submitted their application later than Videotron/CCTA submitted theirs for Al-Jazeera Licensing. The CRTC has a mandatory fixed delay between application and approval/rejection. Thus, FOX, which will almost surely be approved with less restrictions than Al-Jazeera, will nonetheless have to wait a while.

In light of this, it's kind of funny that FOX made a stink about the fact that Al-Jazeera was approved before them

I've heard that the restrictions make it unlikely that any providers would actually carry the channel.

This is what the president of the CCTA, one of the groups that applied for permission to distribute Al-Jazeera, claimed. I think it's a bit of hyperbole, though. The first restriction is that they have to keep a one-month backup of the broadcasts. All *Canadian* channels are already
required to do this. Because the CRTC can't legislate Al Jazeera directly,their enforcement has to be shifted one level, so to speak. The idea is that in the case of a controversial broadcast, it should be possible to review it. Most distributors already are required to keep these because they originate Canadian programming. A minimal amount of extra work, if any.

The second requirement more or less quotes verbatim from Canada's Broadcasting Distribution Regulations, which says:


"No licensee shall distribute a programming service that the licensee originates and that contains any abusive comment or abusive pictorial representation that, when taken in context, tends to or is likely to expose an individual or group or class of individuals to hatred or contempt on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age or mental or physical disability..."


What they're requiring is that this apply in a case where the licensee doesn't originate the channel but just distributes it. In theory, Videotron or whoever else could self-impose a large administrative burden based on this, because the CRTC has given Videotron the right to "alter or curtail" Al Jazeera programming (which, however, the CRTC requests they only do "sparingly" and doesn't actually *require* it at all). In practice, as I suggested above, they probably won't bother. They'll let Al-Jazeera broadcast uncensored, and if there's a challenge to the content by the Canadian Jewish Congress, Bnai Brith or some other group, they'll deal with it at the time.
posted by louigi at 9:14 AM on July 16, 2004


If your news media refuses to take advantage of its free speech rights and do hard-as-nails investigative journalism out of fear of punishment from its corporate and political masters...

...is it truly free to speak?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:16 AM on July 16, 2004


AJ is shit, and it should be free to be put on display as such. And not only does Canada has shitty healthcare, it also has a shitty Constitution.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:20 AM on July 16, 2004


I saw Control Room this past weekend. It's a movie about Al-Jazeera's coverage of the Iraq war. It was fascinating to hear a viewpoint of Al-Jazeera other than the one from the American media and goverment officials who tell us that AJ is nothing but freedom-hating, pro-terrorist propaganda. I would recommend it to anyone who want to know more about AJ.
posted by marsha56 at 10:49 AM on July 16, 2004


I'm not defending Canada's hate speech laws, but the idea that censoring out swear words and human sexuality is "apolitical" is mildly ridiculous too. It's being done in the name of enforcing a puritanical morality idealised (though not practiced) by the powerful members of society.

I don't disagree about bowdlerising TV being stupid, but:

You can still express whatever opinion it pleases your dark little heart to express, so long as you express it with clothes on and without cursing.

Whereas Canada's scheme seems to assert that some opinions must not be expressed, even if you express them with clothes on and without cursing.

I didn't mean it as some half-assed pissing contest. It's not a big deal either way. It's not like either the US or Canada is an inch away from totalitarian censorship or anything; both countries have free-expression penises that dangle to the floor. It's just one of those things y'all do that seems really weird to me, like public financing of Catholic schools.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:08 PM on July 16, 2004


Er, no. We allow the free expression of opinion.

We do not allow the incitement of hatred.

You are perfectly free to state that you believe all MeFi users are the devil-spawn of the dark lord mathowie.

You are not free to encourage people to pick up their pitchforks and start tossing the dead bodies of MeFi users onto a bonfire.

There's a crucial difference there.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:22 PM on July 16, 2004


We allow the free expression of opinion

Unless you want to express whatever opinions it is that Al-Jazeera is not allowed to / must not express in Canada. From the decision, this seems to include simply airing offensive stereotypes of Jews, or describing Jews with offensive stereotypes.

You should be free to encourage whatever you please, even to throw the MeFis onto a bonfire, and punished only if somebody really does then throw a user onto a bonfire with some reasonable causal link to your speech.

The vast majority of the time, there's exactly zero danger of anyone actually being thrown onto the bonfire and all you're doing is suppressing the expression of an unpopular opinion, even if in this case it's rightfully and thankfully unpopular.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:13 PM on July 16, 2004


Well, atleast Canada doesn't have to put up with jack chick garbage.
posted by Iax at 7:47 PM on July 16, 2004


ROU_Xenophobe: the CRTC didn't actually rule that anything Al-Jazeera had previously broadcast would contravene Canada's hate-speech laws. They simply decided, on the basis of third-part submissions, that there was sufficient concern that *future* submissions might to warrant the sort of monitoring they required.

In particular, they pointed out that no third-party submissions provided sufficient context for the (admittedly racist) remarks they were objecting to, to decide whether they actually constituted an incitement to hatred.
posted by louigi at 8:59 AM on July 17, 2004


I've seen Chick pamphlets in Edmonton, Calgary, and I think Vancouver.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:07 AM on July 17, 2004


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