Networks shouldn’t censor political ads

In November 1988, the Liberal Party of Canada went to court to force CBC and CTV to carry their attack ads against Brian Mulroney and his Progressive Conservatives. The ads used footage of Opposition leader John Turner taking on Mulroney over the issue of free trade during the televised leaders debates.

The networks claimed they owned the video footage in question and said the Liberal Party’s use of it infringed on their copyright. The networks lost and were forced to run the ads; they were also turned down on appeal by the Supreme Court.

“It’s a victory for Canadians, for broadcasters and for the political parties. And I mean broadcasters, because they should be relieved to be out of the position of having to censor advertisements of political parties,” Allan Lutfy, chief counsel for the Liberals, is quoted as saying in the Nov. 16, 1988 Montreal Gazette.

Today the networks are trying to stop the use of their footage in attack ads once again and the Liberals are their handmaids. They claim this is about journalistic independence but really it’s about censorship and stifling free speech.