05 June 2007

Television, advertising and the CRTC

In an editorial in Monday's Globe and Mail, the writer suggests the CRTC, who he or she (will editorial writers hide forever behind anonymity?) refers to condescendingly as “a bunch of civil servants,” should not be setting the advertising limits for television. Rather, he (or she) insists, viewers should do this via the magic of the remote control.

The writer is being disingenuous. He (or she) knows perfectly well if the viewing public could choose the amount of advertising on TV, they would choose none. This, the broadcasters, who are instruments of advertisers, could not abide. They will thus dismiss the viewers most meaningful choice and offer them only those options amenable to their own narrow interests. Such is often the working of the “free” market.

A good example is the BBC,
a service the market could never provide. A truly meaningful alternative to the sameness of commercial broadcasting, the BBC not only operates without advertising, it is probably the finest broadcaster in the English-speaking world.

If the CRTC doesn’t set the limits on TV advertising, network executives will. I fail to see how giving this right to “a bunch of corporate servants” is better for the public interest than leaving it to “a bunch of civil servants.” Not surprising the editorial writer would think so, though; after all, Globe editors are corporate servants themselves.

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