International Media Dialogue on Cultures and Religions
Remarks by Ian Morrison - Spokesperson, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting
for the opportunity to participate in this International Media Dialogue! I
represent Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, a viewers' and listeners' watchdog
group supported by 100,000 Canadians. You can learn more about our work by
a contribution to this discussion about trends in reporting religions, I offer
a case study from my country. 
By law and regulation, the programming offered by the Canadian broadcasting
system must provide a reasonable opportunity for the public to be exposed to
the expression of differing views on matters of public concern. Until recently,
our broadcast regulator took the view that since a broadcaster dedicated
exclusively to the views of a particular religion, denomination or sect would,
by its very nature, be predisposed toward one particular point of view, it
would fail the test of satisfying the legal requirement to provide balance in
the first religious broadcasting service licensed for national television
distribution in Canada, "Vision TV", was a multi-faith religious service
dedicated to promoting tolerance and co-operation among different religious
groups. The religious broadcasting policy at the time favoured a national,
multi-faith model that, through its ownership and participation structure,
would foster balance and diversity among the different religious faiths in
contemporary Canadian society.
the 1990s, with an explosion of new channel capacity, the Canadian regulator
came to the conclusion that while Vision TV should be favoured over single
point-of-view religious broadcasters through a licensing status ensuring its
distribution to the largest possible number of Canadians, there should also be
room in the system for single point-of-view religious broadcasters.
the regulator began to license these single point-of-view religious
broadcasters in a way that ensured that viewers must make a clear, positive choice
to pay for and receive them. They had to be packaged and sold through cable and
satellite TV distributors in packages bundled with other Canadian religious
programming services, and could not be distributed in packages with foreign
policy was designed to ensure a pride of place for multi-faith broadcasters
while still enabling single point-of-view broadcasters to reach audiences who
were prepared to pay extra to receive them.
regulator also published a "code of ethics" for religious broadcasters and
required adherence in order to continue to access the Canadian airwaves. The
purpose of this code was to provide an effective guide to program development,
production, acquisition and scheduling, and to protect viewers and listeners
against intolerance and exploitation, particularly those viewers vulnerable to
guidelines recognize and support the freedom and rights of individuals and
groups to state their beliefs freely and clearly, and are intended to enable
individuals and groups to communicate those beliefs in an appropriate and
meaningful manner. The regulator made clear that it expected that programming
of a religious nature, like any other programming, must demonstrate tolerance,
integrity and responsibility.
are some provisions of this code of ethics: the wording and tone of any
solicitations for funds should not place an undue responsibility on the viewer
or listener to respond to the appeal, or be alarmist in suggesting that the
program might be discontinued in the absence of such a response, or predict
divine consequences of not responding, or exaggerate the positive results of
responding, or otherwise intimidate the viewer or listener in any way.
addition, the regulator required that licensees who broadcast religious
programs should observe the following practices:
No programs shall have the effect of abusing
or misrepresenting any individual or group.
No group shall be targeted for the purpose of
conversion or proselytism.
While groups and ministries are free to
express their views about activities that they deem to be "sinful", they shall
not call into question the human rights or dignity of any individual or group.
When programs are planned that deal with, or
comment on the beliefs, practices liturgy or behaviour of another religious
group, the broadcaster is required to ensure the accuracy and appropriate
context of such content.
the regulator insisted that any religious organization using the Canadian
broadcasting system to solicit funds should also be licensed as a charity
registered with the government under Canadian tax law to ensure transparency
and financial accountability to Canadian viewers and listeners.
on the matter of "balance" the regulator published some criteria:
The onus was placed on all religious
broadcasters to determine for themselves when an issue is important enough to
merit presenting a wide range of opinions.
In general, a broadcaster need not
necessarily give equal time to each point of view.
Rather, the regulator expects that a variety
of points of view would be made available in the programming offered by the
broadcaster to a reasonably consistent viewer or listener, over a reasonable
period of time.
current Canadian policy has been operating now for the better part of two
decades. In my view, it continues to work rather well.
of Canadian Broadcasting
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 This presentation draws from the 1993 "Religious Broadcasting
Policy" published by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications
Commission. This policy is available online at www.crtc.gc.ca. A number of statements in this presentation are paraphrased or
drawn word-for-word from this policy. In the interest of simplicity and the
needs of an international audience, I have elected not to further annotate this