The Tom Leykis Fiasco and the Canadian Free Speech Fallacy
By Rachel Marsden
A fiasco of epic proportions is currently unfolding in the Canadian radio world--all because a controversial American talk-show was unceremoniously yanked from the airwaves this week.
The media figure in the eye of the storm is Tom Leykis--an oft-described "shock jock" who broadcasts out of Los Angeles. Leykis serves up tailor-made entertainment for the money demographic of males 25-54 years of age. His Leykis 101 curriculum teaches men how to navigate an increasingly feminized society--or as Leykis himself might say, "how to keep their balls out of their wives/girlfriends purses." In helping men to get more banging for their buck, he advocates spending no more than 40 dollars on a date, and dumping a woman if she doesn't put out by the third time out.
Leykis hit the mainstream Vancouver press when he offered to donate $100,000 American from his personal bank account to a local TV newscaster's charity of choice--if only she would come to a Leykis listener party and allow him to autograph her bare breasts. In fronting the offer, Leykis--a master of self-promotion--single-handedly landed prominently-placed free advertising for his show's Vancouver affiliate. The news anchor never responded to the offer, but the live remote broadcast overflowed with 1,000 Leykis fans--at 3 o'clock in the afternoon! It was a clear testament to Leykis' phenomenal popularity. I seriously doubt that any other media figure broadcasting anywhere else in the country could garner such a response. It's hard to imagine Peter Mansbridge, Kevin Newman or Tony Parsons fans being whipped into a frenzy.
Some Leykis listeners take what he says as gospel, while others view it purely as entertainment by someone who is clearly gifted with quick-wit and armed with razor-sharp comebacks. Either way, Leykis undeniably dominates his target demographic, and is as hugely popular in the Vancouver, BC market as he is anywhere else that his show has aired. In a single ratings book, the program shot from a 0.2 share to a 17 share for its target demographic, making it one of the top-rated shows in the market after only half a year. It almost instantaneously became the flagship show for Mojo Radio, and was arguably the only reason anyone ever tuned in at all to the otherwise lame station.
In response to the show's phenomenal success, Mojo Radio management pulled the plug on its number one money-maker. In doing so, it pulled off what must be one of the most jaw-dropping, downright idiotic business decisions in the history of radio.
In response to the overwhelming number of listener complaints, Mojo Program Director Tom Plasteras issued the following statement:
"We know that Tom Leykis has a loyal following of listeners and his show has helped establish MOJO Radio in the Vancouver market," added Plasteras. "However, we have an obligation to abide by the broadcasting standards and codes in Canada and the amount of editing required to make the Leykis show conform to these standards made it impossible to continue broadcasting."
In other words, "We know what you--the listeners--want, but we really don't care because we have an obligation to the uptight suits breathing down our necks." Station management knew exactly what Leykis' show was all about long before it brought him on-board. The show hasn't changed at all since then, but now all of a sudden management is acting as though it was somehow blindsided by the nature of the program. And are we really supposed to buy the idea that, for all the money Leykis brings into the station, it couldn't afford to hire a guy who's capable of doing an acceptable editing job on-the-fly? Sounds like a cop-out to me.
It appears that Leykis has offended some overly-sensitive Canadians who are hell-bent on imposing political correctness on the rest of the country at the expense of freedom of speech--whether we like it or not. Apparently, these people also lack hands--thereby preventing them from simply turning the dial on their radio to some mind-numbingly benign "beautiful music" station if they object so much to Leykis' show.
These people have an all-too-willing ally in their quest to rid the airwaves of anything that hurts their feelings: the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Council, or CRTC. It's the Canadian equivalent of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Complaints submitted to the CRTC are investigated by a branch of the organization: The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. The Council recognizes that "every person has a right to full and equal recognition and to enjoy certain fundamental rights and freedoms, broadcasters shall endeavour to ensure, to the best of their ability, that their programming contains no abusive or discriminatory material or comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, [sexual orientation], marital status or physical or mental handicap."
Apparently, Leykis is accused of "sexual stereotyping." In other words, he's on the radio making generalizations about women and being censored for it--while an "all-female" station in the market (CFUN 1410 AM) exists for the primary purpose of whining and complaining about men, 24/7, ad nauseum. Somehow that station's shows manage to stay on the air, despite abysmal ratings that are rapidly pulling it down into oblivion.
Although some may find Leykis' brand of entertainment objectionable or offensive, there is a far more important issue at stake. Canadians are under the illusion that we have the right to freedom of speech and _expression in the same way that Americans do. The Leykis situation is particularly alarming in that it proves, once and for all, that we don't. Free-speech is deeply enshrined in the US Constitution, but no such guarantee exists in Canada.
The free-market in Vancouver has voted overwhelmingly in favor of The Tom Leykis Show; however, the majority decision has been overruled by a small, government-appointed elite few, obsessed with political-correctness. If this move isn't symbolic of a fascist state, then I don't know what is. Perhaps George W. Bush and friends should focus less on regime change in the Middle-East and, instead, invade Canada and liberate Canadians from the iron grip of this group that feels it has the right to act as "Mommy and Daddy" to an entire nation, and tell both grown adults and their children what they can or can't listen to. I'd venture to guess that the US-occupied Iraq has more of a right to freedom of speech and _expression at the moment than Canadians do.
Sure, there are some American groups (such as the American Family Association) that have problems with programming such as The Tom Leykis Show and the Howard Stern Show; but the bottom-line is that in America, EVERYONE (Bible-thumpers and shock-jocks alike) has the right to be heard. And this is a good thing. It's the cornerstone of a democracy. Censorship is a mighty slippery slope. People who want the views and opinions of others censored (however strong and/or offensive they may be), could very well wake up one day to find that someone in power deems their own views objectionable. In this sense, freedom of speech trumps everything--including political leanings and personal or widely-held views.
It has taken an American talk-show host and the controversy that surrounds him to make Canadians wake-up and realize that free-speech is something that the government controls and takes away at whim. This is a defining moment for our country. Will we stand up and fight for our right to live in a true democracy in which people of all views and walks of life are free to speak their minds? Or are we going to all-too-willingly launch ourselves right down that slippery slope and, one day, wake-up to find that we're no different than the government-oppressed automatons of Communist China or the Middle East?
I urge all Canadians to take a stand and email the CRTC and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council via their websites at www.crtc.gc.ca and www.cbsc.ca respectively. Visit the Mojo Radio website at www.mojoradio.ca and that of Corus--Mojo's parent company--at www.corusent.com. Tell them that the people have spoken, and that like Tom Leykis, we all have a right to be heard.