Adbusters Demands Access to Airwaves

On Monday, February 18, Adbusters lost its court battle against two of Canada's television networks that refused to sell airtime for its commercials.

Adbusters Demands Canwest, the CBC and the CRTC Stop Blocking Citizen-Produced Advertising

March 3, 2008

On Monday, February 18, Adbusters lost its court battle against two of Canada's television networks that refused to sell airtime for its commercials. Adbusters claimed the CBC and Canwest Global had violated its right to free speech under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by refusing to sell air time, but the court decided that the Charter does not apply to private corporations.

"It’s outrageous that the fast food, oil and automobile industries can buy as much TV time as they want in order to promote their agendas, but citizens are not allowed to talk back," said Adbusters Editor-in-Chief Kalle Lasn in response to the ruling. "Canadian democracy will not work properly until we the people have the same right to buy airtime as corporations do."

The rejected Adbusters ads pointed out that over 50 percent of the calories in a Big Mac come from fat; called for an end to the age of the automobile; and promoted Buy Nothing Day. While Court Justice William Ehrcke ruled that private broadcasters have the right to run whatever ads they like, Adbusters feels the case raises some troubling questions.

Firstly, why are Canwest and the CBC selling as much time as they possibly can to corporations, while fighting expensive legal actions to keep citizen-produced messages off the air? Why does the CBC call itself "Canada's Public Broadcaster" if they won't sell airtime to citizens?

Secondly, why is the CRTC not standing up for public access? When they grant licences to broadcasters, why is the right of Canadian citizens to access their own "public" airwaves not being guaranteed? Thirdly, why is our freedom of speech being suppressed? Why can corporations buy airtime while citizens cannot? Why doesn’t the Canadian Charter apply to the most powerful social communications medium of our age – television?

"This case goes to the very heart of what our democracy is all about," says Lasn. "A healthy society allows its citizens to walk into their local TV stations and buy airtime under the same rules and conditions that corporations do. Adbusters has been given 30 days to challenge the ruling. The fight for media democracy will go on."

MEDIA LIAISON: Lauren Bercovitch
TELEPHONE NUMBER: 604-736-9401
EMAIL: Lauren [at] adbusters [dot] org

EDITOR’S NOTES

For more information about Adbusters and the global media democracy movement visit www.mediacarta.org and http://www.adbusters.org

[1] Canadian Media facts:

Three corporations (CanWest, Quebecor and Torstar) control 70 per cent of the country’s daily newspaper circulation.

Five major media acquisitions in Canada have been approved by CRTC in the past year: CHUM was purchased by CTVglobemedia for $1.4 billion, which then sold five CityTV stations to Rogers Communications for $375 million; CanWest purchased Alliance Atlantis for $2.3 billion; Astral Media bought Standard Broadcasting for $1.2 billion; and Quebecor bought the Osprey Media newspaper chain for $414 million.

[2] Facts about Media Democracy:

More than 30,000 people have signed the Media Carta HYPERLINK "http://www.mediacarta.org" www.mediacarta.org, to voice their concerns about the way information is distributed in our society.

In the past year, a growing number of grassroots media activist groups have been formed in Canada to express a dissatisfaction with the continued consolidation of the country’s media:

  • DemocraticMedia.org
  • MediaReform.ca
  • MediaDemocracy.ca

/END