On Tuesday, the Canadian-based international culture-jamming magazine Adbusters appeared in the British Columbia Supreme Court to preserve their claim against major broadcasters in Canada. For more than 10 years, Adbusters has been denied the right to purchase advertising time from Canada's major broadcasters. The ads offer clever and artistically produced messages challenging status quo thinking on consumption, economics, and culture. CanWest Global Television has applied to have the claim thrown out.
What is at stake is whether or not the airwaves are public property. Should broadcasters be allowed to pick and choose who can buy airtime from them based on political preferences? Or is there a public good that media serves within the Canadian democracy that should outweigh a broadcaster's right to program whatever it wants?
Despite the posturing of major broadcasters, the Canadian broadcasting system is not a free-for-all. All participants in the Canadian broadcast system are subject to a myriad of restrictions because of their special role in Canadian society. For example, under existing legislation (s.3 of the Broadcasting Act), the broadcast system should (i) serve to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada,(ii) encourage the development of Canadian expression by providing a wide range of programming that reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity, and (iii) serve the needs and interests, and reflect the circumstances and aspirations, of Canadian men, women and children. And, among other things, it should be varied and comprehensive, providing a balance of information, enlightenment and entertainment for men, women and children of all ages, interests and tastes, and provide a reasonable opportunity for the public to be exposed to the expression of differing views on matters of public concern.
Whether or not airing advertisements that challenge some of the the fundamental precepts of a consumer society fits within these safeguards remains to be seen.
More news as it comes available.
Here are some of the ads:
Buy Nothing Day