Sun Media attack on CBC linked to PM

At a recent conference of the Canadian Media Lawyers Association, a colleague asked the very good question: "What would it take for Canadians to care about freedom of expression?"

No one could give him a good answer. Freedom of expression is a right we too often take for granted, unless of course you're a right-wing ideologue who is obsessed with the belief that it's under threat from immigrants, Muslims and the politically correct.

I believe Canadians should care about the current bitter dispute between Quebecor Inc. and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Why? Because it has the fingerprints of Stephen Harper's Conservatives all over it, and they seem to be acting to further a political agenda that may have serious implications for freedom of expression.

In case you missed it, Conservative-friendly organizations like Quebecor-owned Sun Media and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation have filed hundreds of requests for details about CBC spending through the Access to Information Act. Some of what they received was censored, in accordance with the law. The CBC has exemptions under the law that allow it to protect records related to its journalistic, creative and programming activities. Sun Media demanded that everything it wanted should be made public, but the CBC refused to do so.

In retaliation Sun Media's chain of newspapers, its QMI news service and its Sun News Network television channel mounted an editorial campaign against the secrecy of what they call "Canada's state broadcaster" and attacked the unfairness of taxpayers subsidizing a television network to the tune of more than $1 billion a year. The CBC responded by taking the case to the Federal Court of Canada, claiming that a judge should decide the issue and that the only reason Sun Media wants the information is that it is a competitor.

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