Fighting For Air

As Adbusters heads back to court, we give an update and some background about our fight for commercial airspace.

Long-time readers of Adbusters may have noticed that we've been a little quiet about our ongoing legal battle to break the corporate monopoly on Canada's broadcast media. It hasn't been for lack of activity – in fact, some recent and welcome developments suggest that the case is about to pop back up onto the radar.

For those of you not quite up to speed, here's the gist: After over a decade of having our consumer-awareness TV spots rejected by just about every major commercial broadcaster in North America (often with little or no explanation from the network reps who issued the refusals), we resolved to take our fight to the courts. In 2004, we filed a lawsuit against the government of Canada and some of the country's biggest media barons, arguing that the public has a constitutionally protected right to expression over the public airwaves.

Following a series of false starts and the inevitable legal complications, the suit was whittled down to two main defendants: the government and CanWest Global Communications, Canada's largest international media corporation. The case is currently awaiting the resolution of two preliminary motions: one by Adbusters to add the CBC, Canada's publicly funded national broadcaster, as an additional defendant; the other by CanWest to strike the case before it even proceeds to trial.

Currently heading up Adbusters' case is attorney Ryan Dalziel, a specialist in commercial litigation with the Vancouver-based firm Bull, Housser & Tupper LLP. As Dalziel explains, "The main issue in those motions is whether it is so plain and obvious that CanWest and the CBC are not covered by [the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms] that the claims against them should be dismissed without a trial."

"This case is of public importance to Canadians," he adds, "and so we say it should be permitted to proceed to trial."

Canada's media regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Tele