In a Broadcasting Notice of Consultation issued on January 10, the CRTC indicated that it is seeking comments for the amendment of several regulations to allow for more leeway in broadcasting false or misleading news. According to the CRTC, it is considering these amendments because of the Parliament’s Standing Joint Committee’s concern that the existing prohibitions on broadcasting false or misleading news is too broad and vague. Fearing that it would not withstand a Charter challenge, the CRTC was urged by the Committee to revise the language of the regulations.
Currently the regulations prohibit the broadcasting of “any false or misleading news” whereas if the proposed language to the amendments were accepted, it would lower the standard to "any news that the licensee knows is false or misleading and that endangers or is likely to endanger the lives, health or safety of the public." In other words, a broadcaster would be permitted to air news that it knows is false or misleading as long as it does not endanger the lives, health or safety of the public.
University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist finds the proposition for amendment to be ironic in light of the American news media being blamed for the recent shooting deaths in Arizona. He remarked that the same fears over low broadcast standards exist in Canada and the amendments would only give a freer license to provide misleading information to Canadians. If passed, the revised regulations would come into affect September 1 of this year. CRTC’s proposed change is currently open for comment until February 9th, 2011.