Canadian Media Guild at CBC turns off Facebook comments but is that free expression in a democracy?

By Stephen Pate – After Prime Minister Stephen Harper was quoted saying “Radio-Canada employees hate conservative values” the Canadian Media Guild, CBC’s employee union, posted the story with comments closed.

Two days before, the CMG Facebook page accused the Prime Minister of being against public debate in a democracy.

What the Conservatives don’t understand is that democracy is not about voting,” said CMG supporter Angus Ferguson in a comment. “It is about open public debate. A public broadcaster is central to that.”

Closing public comment seems like the sort of anti-democratic actions CMG members accused the Prime Minister of only days before. In a post critical of Heritage Minister James Moore titled “Commitment’ and Cuts at CBC / Radio-Canada” 90 CBC/CMG favourable comments outnumbered unfavourable comments 10:1.

1 billion a year of tax payers money For what??” said Brian Ivany.

CUT all funding to CBC, let them swim on their own. They are Biased, one-sided, worthless, they don’t report the full stories. they support Anti-oil protesters because their GOD Suzuki, they bleed billions of taxpayers dollars every week,” said Terry Innes.

Earl Brown wrote “Moore is an asshole.”

Off with his (Moore’s) head!” said Jack Alfred Johnson.

Sociopaths, psychopaths, used car salesmen and Conservative politicians. Look at that smile,” said John Howitt

Urging self-sufficiency, Charleen Gordey “Support yourself CBC every other business has to support itself so should you!

Most of the CBC-negative comments were met with vitriolic responses. Ritchie Simpson said “How can funding without responsibility be good management, 2 members on the board does not constitute “interference” with journalistic principles. CBC has become a whore for whomever promises to give them more money and they want it for free, no limit no rules..”

To which Gregory Tutko replied “Harpistas, they all lie.”

The ad hominem remarks about Prime Minister Harper and James Moore show that Canadians are not shrinking violets when it comes to attacking politicians. The level of animus directed at pro-government comments is typical troll flaming for the internet but rare on Facebook where people keep up a convivial discussion.

Members only

Most of the 90 comments from the earlier post on the CMG Facebook page were not identified as union members. However, it now appears the union is restricting discussion to its members only.

In the Facebook page, that means they are taking the page private. But that is not what is happening because the CMG is using Facebook to broadcast albeit without allowing comments.

We asked someone in the CMG to comment on their no-comments policy.

“Can you explain why comments have been turned off on the CMG Facebook page?

“Does the CMG believe that free expression of opinion on the topics it posts is not in the public good?”

We did not get a response before publication but will update the story when they reply.

Follow me on Twitter at @sdpate or on Facebook at NJN Network, and OyeTimes.