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Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet & E-commerce Law, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, writes:

Is the CBC Moderating Online Forums to Stifle Criticism?

There is controversy brewing over CBC Radio One' s move toward playing more contemporary music in a new afternoon show that critics say sounds very similar to commercial radio. Kate Taylor of the Globe and Mail covers the issue in an article in Saturday' s paper.

What Taylor does not cover is an apparent attempt by CBC to reduce criticism of its programming on its online chat forums. A blog reader reports that CBC' s Two New Hours listserv was emerging as a source of discussion among those upset with the new programming choices. Submissions that routinely appeared (see discussion earlier this month) on the site are now vetted, with critical postings never seeing the light of day.

In support of its filtering approach, CBC has changed its terms of use for the site. An FAQ says it all:


"6. Is this a moderated list?

No. This list is unmoderated. Postings are not screened before being distributed. Postings are received by all members of the list, so discretion is needed. Consider your postings as published material."


"6. Is this a moderated list?

Yes, this list is moderated by the Two New Hours producers. Any submissions that are off topic will not be posted. The purpose of this list is to promote discussion of Two New Hours and new concert music."

CBC is of course free to make its own programming decisions and to choose how it wants to run its online discussion forums. However, shutting down online debate seems to run completely counter to the CBC' s promise as a publicly-funded open source of Canadian content and discussion. If it hopes to develop a large online community of interest, it should reconsider this recent move by recognizing that facilitating both supportive and critical views is a sign of strength, not weakness.

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