Ex-PQ premier Pauline Marois releases $25K report ripping into Quebec City’s ‘trash radio’

MONTREAL — When the was defeated in 2014 after just 18 months in power, there was plenty of blame to go around. Was it the recruitment of the stridently separatist Pierre Karl Péladeau that torpedoed hopes of re-election? How about the embrace of a discriminatory charter of Quebec values?

For defeated premier , however, there was another nagging question she wanted answered: what to do about Quebec City’s talk-radio stations and their hosts’ unrelenting criticism of the PQ?

Using $24,500 from the $200,000 annual budget granted to Quebec premiers for three years after they leave power, she commissioned a study from Dominique Payette, a defeated PQ candidate who is also a communications professor at Université Laval.

On Wednesday, her report was published online. To no one’s great surprise, it concluded Quebec City is a scourge on society.

Payette, whose previous media study in 2011 recommended legislation to restrict who could call themselves professional journalists, describes the popular radio stations as no different from schoolyard bullies.

“Personal insults, family names transformed into rude words, etc.,” she writes. “What we try to avoid in the schoolyard is tolerated without problem on the radio waves?”

She says the stations, dubbed “trash radio” by detractors, have created a “regime of fear” so powerful victims do not dare speak out. She interviewed people singled out by the hosts, but chose not to divulge their names.

“I concluded that the permanent threat that these verbal assaults bring upon their person and upon their actions creates a climate of fear that has no place in democracy,” she wrote.

It is not clear from the report how much time Payette spent listening to the radio stations. A content analysis of a week’s worth of broadcasting on three stations was done by her research assistant. It concluded during the week surveyed, the PQ received more negative commentary than the other provincial parties and no positive commentary.

The few direct quotes Payette provides of offensive comment come from media reports or investigations into public complaints.

Some of her examples of the stations’ nefarious influence are questionable. For example, to illustrate their political bias during the 2014 election campaign, she cites a newspaper report one host called on listeners to display Canadian flags and another urged parents to teach their children to change the PQ slogan from “Determined” to “Terminated.”

‘The permanent threat that these verbal assaults bring … creates a climate of fear that has no place in democracy’

She stopped short of blaming radio hosts for the PQ’s poor results in Quebec City — it lost eight of nine seats in the region — but said the “relationship between the two cannot be ignored.”

Payette writes that radio stirs up the capital’s “angry white men” to oppose such progressive causes as generous municipal worker pensions and reserved bus lanes. She also blames radio for the high rate of skepticism about climate change among residents.

Her proposed remedy includes legislation to fix standards for the media and impose hefty fines on organizations that fail to meet the standards.

“There is no doubt in my mind that we must call into question (the radio stations’) overly absolute, arbitrary and authoritarian power, as we do with any autocratic structure in a democracy,” Payette writes.

In an interview Monday on Radio- — she steered clear of Quebec City commercial radio — Marois defended Payette’s 50-page report.

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She denied as a recent PQ candidate the author was in a conflict of interest. “This is research that can be called objective,” she said.

The radio hosts targeted by the report were not chastened in the least, according to comments collected by the Journal de Québec.

“The problem is that Payette and her gang use $25,000 of our money to lecture us and show contempt for the people of Quebec City,” said Eric Duhaime of FM 93.

“Payette shows us what the PQ has become in 2015,” said Jeff Fillion of NRJ.  “Morons who want to close the shop of people who don’t share the communist discourse of these old, out-of-touch cranks. A $24,500 fraud.”

National Post

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About Graeme Hamilton