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The struggle for press self-regulation in contemporary South Africa: charting a - page 35 / 51





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publish annually a review of that performance with any comment and advice to newspapers or government that it deems appropriate" (ibid., p. 252).

Although few of the Royal Commission on Newspapers' recommendations were incorporated into legislation, a bill that would have enabled the federal government to create a federal council to hear complaints from provinces without press councils was introduced in Parliament by the Trudeau government. The message to newspaper publishers was clear: create voluntary press councils or face the possibility of government regulation.

The result was a resurgence of interest in press councils in the provinces that did not have them. Although the federal legislation never passed, by 1983 publishers had created press councils for British Columbia, Manitoba, and the Atlantic provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island). Saskatchewan publishers were considering proposals to affiliate with the Alberta Press Council when Brian Mulroney's Conservatives defeated the Liberals in the 1984 election. Press legislation was not on the Conservative agenda, and Saskatchewan's publishers decided not to take part in a press council (Fahey, 1985).

The Context of Media Accountability in Quebec

The Quebec and Canadian governments provide a variety of forums that can be used for disputing with the media. Among them are courts, especially for those who believe their reputations have been harmed or their privacy invaded (Trudel, 1984; Vallières, 1985; Martin & Adam, 1989); and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which handles complaints about the content of broadcast news (see, e.g., Comité d'enquête sur le service national de radiodiffusion, 1977). Various agencies of the Quebec government, including le Conseil du statut de la femme (complaints about media sex-role stereotyping) and l'Office de la protection du consommateur (complaints about misleading advertising) also accept complaints against the media. Leblanc (1984) has discussed Quebec agencies that act as mechanisms of media accountability; Salter and Anderson (1985) have provided a brief overview with respect to Canada as a whole.

News organizations themselves may also provide forums that claimants can use. Letters to the editor, a time-honoured tradition in North American newspapers, offer unhappy readers a forum for pleading their case against a newspaper. However, individuals and groups who anticipate future dealings with a news organization tend to be reluctant to criticize the organization in a public letter (Ericson, Baranek, & Chan, 1989). The effectiveness of letters to the editor as a mechanism of media accountability is also hindered by doubts about the willingness of newspapers to publish letters critical of press performance.

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