Radio-Canada apologized Wednesday for using the “n-word” during one of its radio shows in 2020, but considers the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) “exceeded its powers with respect to the independence of the public broadcaster” and intends to appeal the decision.
In a statement, the Crown corporation acknowledges that the “n-word” is a racist and hurtful slur and that “on the rare occasion that this word is used by a media organization, it must be put into context in order to try to minimize the harm that its use could cause”.
“In 2020, the repeated use of this word during a Radio-Canada radio program was hurtful to some listeners and employees, although it was done in a journalistic context. Some of our reporters have expressed their opinion that this is purely a matter of freedom of expression, but we know that words can hurt and should be used with care,” reads a statement. statement.
“That is why we will apologize to the person who filed a complaint. The use of this word is hurtful to many within our audiences and our teams, and we are deeply sorry,” said the public broadcaster.
“The right thing to do »
Radio-Canada added that from now on, a warning to the program for its webcast will be added “so that listeners are warned of what they could hear”. In addition, an internal review of its policies and standards relating to language that can be hurtful is planned.
On Wednesday, Radio-Canada said it issued an apology, because “we think it's the right thing to do”, not “because the CRTC told us to”.
Recall that at the end of June, the CRTC ordered Radio-Canada to provide a public apology because of a chronicle of the program “Le 15-18” in which the title of the book “Nègres blancs d'Amérique” by Pierre Vallières , was pronounced four times, on August 17, 2020.
In the wake of the CRTC's decision, several voices from journalistic, political and cultural circles have been raised to urge the state-owned company to challenge the CRTC's decision. Three letters were thus sent to the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Radio-Canada, Michael Goldbloom, asking the Crown corporation to contest this decision.
“The objective we had, which was to appeal the CRTC's decision, has been achieved,” said Alain Saulnier, former director general of information for Radio-Canada, in an interview with the QMI Agency on Wednesday. Because the CRTC had assumed a right of scrutiny over the editorial policy of Radio-Canada and it is absolutely necessary to curb this kind of vision that it is in the process of defining through this decision. Now, as for the apologies, we feel that Radio-Canada, while appealing the decision, does not want to offend the CRTC either, because it is accountable to it. We have to be careful not to give too much scope to these excuses.”
Quebec Premier François Legault reacted at the beginning of July, saying that “it is the CRTC that should s 'excuse'.
The federal body also asked Radio-Canada to “specify how it intends to mitigate the impact of the” n-word “in this segment of the program” by July 29 at the latest. Radio-Canada must also produce before September 27 a report “of internal measures and best practices in programming that it will put in place to ensure that it better deals with a similar subject in the future.
The Crown corporation also believes that the independent regulatory body has exceeded its powers with respect to the independence of the public broadcaster.
Radio Canada considers this decision to be “a threat because the Council tries to give itself the power to compromise journalistic independence. As dissenting voices within the CRTC itself have pointed out, it had neither the authority nor the jurisdiction to make this decision and, in exercising its discretionary power, ignored the freedom of the press guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Broadcasting Act”.
“This is a serious mistake, insists Radio-Canada. We simply cannot accept this interference by the CRTC in journalistic work in the country”, can we read.
Radio-Canada will appeal the jurisdictional right of the CRTC to make decisions “which should report to our news chiefs”.
“Risks” to working conditions
The Union of Radio-Canada Workers (STTRC) believes that these members need “a minimum of editorial freedom to be able to exercise their profession”, in particular to be able to respect the Journalistic Standards and Practices (NPJ).
This policy asks journalists to “serve the public interest”, “contribute to the understanding of issues of public interest”, “defend freedom of expression and freedom of the press”.
“The first principle of the NPJ that we must respect is that of accuracy, which implies presenting the contents in a clear way. It seems obvious to us that this means that we must be able to name what we are talking about. The challenge of clarity is particularly marked for those who work in radio, since the audience must understand at all times what is being discussed, without being able to go back, unlike in writing, and without the visual elements that support the about television”, can we read in a statement from the union.
For the Professional Federation of Journalists of Quebec (FPJQ), the decision of Radio-Canada to challenge the decision of the CRTC on appeal was “the thing to do”.
“The FPJQ was of the opinion that the CRTC should not replace Radio-Canada's news editors and impose an editorial line on them that falls within the journalistic freedom. The FPJQ will follow the file closely, and is ready to act as an intervenor, if necessary, to recall the fundamental principles which guide the practice of our profession,” declared the president of the FPJQ, Michaël Nguyen.
Katrine Johns has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Gal Post, Katrine Johns worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my firstname.lastname@example.org 1-800-268-7128