A couple of disturbing stories have come to light recently about Quebec television broadcasters’ attempts to censor things that might affect their bottom line.
The first was the revelation from La Presse’s Hugo Dumas that producers of dramatic programming for TVA were being asked to not show characters using iPhones. This, apparently, because Quebecor owns both TVA and Videotron and Videotron doesn’t offer the iPhone to wireless customers.
That prompted a reply from Quebecor VP Serge Sasseville that actually admitted Dumas’s story was true, but said that this was simply a case of a sponsor (Videotron) wanting its products depicted in the programming it sponsors. He offers the example of Ford sponsoring Radio-Canada’s series 19-2, and seeing Ford vehicles being driven in the show.
Dumas in turn replied to the reply, saying the argument seemed to suggest that Videotron sponsors all of TVA’s programming, and calling that reasoning preposterous.
Interference from a broadcaster into dramatic programming for business reasons is bad enough. But as Sasseville’s comparison points out, we’re well past that point already.
The second story is the decision of RDS to refuse to show a commercial from comedian Mike Ward that makes fun of the Canadiens. To be precise, they refused to show the ad during Canadiens games.
Their argument, and it’s a really stupid one, is that RDS is the official broadcaster of the Canadiens, and it’s unacceptable that an ad that runs during Canadiens games makes fun of them.
Some have noted that RDS is now owned by Bell, which is a stakeholder in the Canadiens and owns the naming rights to the Bell Centre, among many commercial deals between the telecom giant and the hockey team.
Both of these moves are ridiculous, and both reek of giant media empires abusing their ownership powers to mold programming in one area so it matches the business interests of another.
It’s not that many steps from this to each media giant having its own imaginary universe, each with its own set of maybe-true facts.