On Monday, January 7th, the British Columbia Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on whether or not Adbusters’ lawsuit against Global Television, the CBC, and the CRTC, should go forward. If the Adbusters lawsuit clears this hurdle, media rights advocates will celebrate an important victory in the battle against censorship.
For more than a decade, Adbusters, a magazine and media foundation, has been trying to pay major commercial broadcasters to air its public-service TV spots, but these attempts have been routinely blocked by network executives, often with little or no explanation. In 2004, Adbusters finally turned to the courts. It filed a lawsuit against the government of Canada and some of the country’s biggest media barons, arguing that the public has a constitutionally protected freedom of expression over the public airwaves.
At issue is the right of all Canadian citizens to have (as stipulated by the Canadian Broadcasting Act) “a reasonable opportunity…to be exposed to the expression of differing views on matters of public concern.”
“This case will decide if Canadians have the right to walk into their local TV stations and buy thirty seconds of airtime for a message they want to air,” says Kalle Lasn, editor-in-chief of Adbusters.
Ryan Dalziel of Bull, Housser & Tupper LLP, who is representing Adbusters, explains the special nature of this suit.
“This is not,” he says, “a bare-knuckle family law dispute, nor is it a Bay Street-style war of attrition between commercial entities. It is public interest litigation, brought by a not-for-profit organization with no chance of any monetary return.”
Adbusters is hoping Canadians will pay close attention to a landmark case that pits ordinary citizens and consumers against powerful special interests. The outcome will determine the future role of television in Canada.