34. Name: Felix Nii Lantei Title: Regulating Free Speech in the Public Interest: The CRTC and Al Jazeera Institution: Ryerson University Country: Canada Date: 2008 Language: English Abstract: The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s decision to approve the Canadian distribution of Al Jazeera provoked debate to the extent that it was claimed, based on findings of the potential for abusive speech on the channel, that the decision had the effect of constraining freedom of expression and smacking censorship. The CRTC appears to have adopted a more nuanced perspective towards the matter. This study argues that understanding the decision and CRTC’s enforcement of abusive speech regulations requires an understanding of public policy as a governmental concept, and of regulation as a device for achieving desired socio-political policy outcomes. It also requires a comprehension of key Canadian broadcasting policy ideas. The study draws on the concepts of imagined communities and the right to communicate as perspectives for conceptualizing these policy ideas. Using an approach informed by the discourse analysis, the researcher interrogates the discursive regulatory conversations that characterized Al Jazeera’s proceeding that consequently impacted the CRTC’s decision. The findings show that the CRTC’s decision to approve the distribution of Al Jazeera balances freedom of expression against the underlying values of Canadian multicultural democracy.
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