Unpublished CRTC Decision & Me

On 28 November 1995, I conducted a press conference with my legal counsel Christopher Leafloor and MP Dan McTeague in the Charles-Lynch Room on Parliament Hill.  At that time, we informed journalists that a complaint had been filed that same day to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, under the name Cable Watch Citizens’ Association. The complaint requested the refund of approximately $100 million to ordinary citizens from several powerful media companies.

The Cable Watch complaint made several allegations, including that the CRTC had acted unlawfully by enacting subsection 18(6.3) of the Cable Television Regulations, 1986, and that the statutory monopoly cable companies had acted unlawfully by collected the 18(6.3) fees from more than 6 million Canadians without notifying the ratepayers about 18(6.3), its beneficiaries, and the subordinate law’s monthly cost to them.

Rogers Communications Inc was the largest beneficiary of the 18(6.3) company subsidy scheme, a corporation that was under the control at that time of billionaire Ted Rogers (1933 – 2008); who was sometimes referred to as Canada’s Rupert Murdoch.

Unfortunately, Canadian media companies did not effectively inform the public of the 18(6.3) matter involving the financial interests of Canadian media companies and the legal, financial, and democratic rights of citizens.

Officials at the CRTC, which is a quasi-judicial regulatory tribunal acting at arms length from Parliament, decided not to resolve this matter in the public domain.  The officials, who had been appointed by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, opted not to notify the millions of 18(6.3) ratepayers about this issue or permit Canadians an opportunity to represent their interests in this matter.

The only public interest party permitted by the CRTC to participate was Cable Watch; which was basically me,  supported by pro bono legal service.

Sixteen years ago today, the CRTC confirmed in a letter to Mr Leafloor that it had determined that neither the corporations or the CRTC had acted unlawfully, and that consumers were not entitled to rate refunds.

In other words, the CRTC ruled that monopoly cable companies had the legal right to collect the 18(6.3) fees from Canadians, but Canadians were not entitled to notice from the corporations that they were paying the 18(6.3) fees.

Furthermore, the CRTC 18(6.3) decision was never published.  Consequently, the public remain unaware of the unpublished CRTC decision or its present implications respecting their legal, financial and democratic rights.

Given the dishonest and manipulative tactics that I had encountered by CRTC officials during this matter, I expected such an outcome. It had been my plan to challenge the CRTC decision in the Federal Court of Appeal.

However, 16 years ago today I was in no shape to take on Canada’s federal regulator and some of the country’s most powerful media proprietors in a legal battle.

My mental health significantly deteriorated in the months before the CRTC’s unpublished decision; while I was working with my legal counsel on both the Cable Watch submission to the CRTC, as well as preparing for the anticipated legal fight against the CRTC and media companies.  By May 1996, I was in a severe depression and was  diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  Everything seemed totally hopeless and I came extremely close to ending my life.

I tried to return to finish my campaign too soon and experienced a life-changing episode of psychosis. My life was shattered,  but I survived.

E.C. Warner’s short film for the 2006 Hope Awards documents my experience and intention to return to this ongoing Canadian scandal (The Naked Adocate).

Last year, I shared some parts of my story to an audience at The Canberra Theatre (Now Hear This).

After all of these years, and all of the ups and downs of life in that time, I still have the original unpublished CRTC decision in my possession.

A copy of the unpublished CRTC decision was included as Appendix A to my 2007 CRTC submission (Profiteering in the Name of Culture).

As a result, it is presently available for viewing on CRTC public file.


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Canadian Television Fund: A Convenient Deception

Here is an article of mine about the long-term case of systemic corruption at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that was published by Canada Free Press on 13 June 2008 (Canadian Television Fund: A Convenient Deception).

Since that time, the fund has been changed to the Canadian Media Fund.

Unfortunately, the CRTC has not changed; it is still corrupt.




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Mining, Media and Minds

I read with considerable interest today that the wealthiest Australian acquired a significant percentage of Fairfax Media shares last night.

Not surprisingly, the response to billionaire mining magnate Gina Rinehart’s purchase has resulted in fundamentally different responses from the left and right sides of Australian politics.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has stated that concentrated media ownership by individuals is unhealthy for democracy, while Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey said: “It arguably does not matter who owns the media company” (Rinehart’s Fairfax push ‘dangerous’).

Clearly both politicians cannot be correct on this issue and my money is on Senator Ludlam.

As the modified saying goes, there are three things that are certain in life: death, taxes and the fact that Gina Rinehart is not purchasing shares in a media company to reduce her influence in Australian affairs.

In any event, who owns the media matters.

According to Harvard’s Maria Petrova: “Mass media, being the most important source of information on public affairs for the majority of population, provides a convenient means for manipulating public opinion” (Inequality and Media Capture).

Clearly, information reported by the media plays an important role in shaping public attitudes about political parties and policies like taxation, welfare, education, health and the environment.

And the interests of ultra-wealthy members of a nation often are at odds with the interests of the majority of other citizens, such as Australia’s resource super profits tax; which is why the issue of who owns the media is such a critical issue for democracy.

Two decades ago, Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky developed the ‘propaganda model‘  to explain US media behaviour.  This analytical framework is not popular in media circles because it is the contention of this model that the media produces systematic propaganda in order to “serve the ends of a dominant elite” (Manufacturing Consent).

In short, it is the position of Herman and Chomsky, both highly accomplished scholars, that mainstream media serves an anti-democratic function in society.

Since policies of right-wing political parties also serve to protect the interests of this same dominant elite, it is entirely predictable that the Joe Hockeys of the world do not consider concentrated media ownership to be a problem; neo-liberalism ideology and concentrated corporate media basically serve the same masters.

And I know a few things about media  serving the interests of the dominant elite that I didn’t learn from reading.

I was formerly employed by corporations in the Canadian broadcasting industry for my specialist knowledge of the cable-television industry and its regulation by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

The CRTC is a quasi-judicial regulatory tribunal that operates at arm’s length to Parliament and has been granted extensive statutory authority to regulate broadcasting and telecommunications in Canada.  This federal regulator is under the control of commissioners who are appointed by the prime minister of the day, and these individuals wield significant power,  including deciding which citizens are legally permitted to own broadcasting companies.

Professor Matthew Fraser is an expert on Canadian media and the CRTC and he has publicly alleged that the federal regulator  was totally captured by industry interests by the late 1980’s and is cursed by institutionalized corruption (The Man Who Won’t Do Lunch).

Unfortunately, Fraser’s damning assessment that the CRTC is plagued by institutionalized corruption is correct and the problem has ignored by politicians and journalists; to the benefit of influential company owners in broadcasting and telecommunications.

Furthermore, before I immigrated to Australia in 2001, I campaigned for an investigation into a scheme adopted by CRTC commissioners to unjustly enrich influential Canadian media companies by hundreds of millions of dollars, without highly influential corporations being required to do anything for the money.

Ted Rogers, a billionaire described by some as Canada’s Rupert Murdoch, was the single largest beneficiary of the unprecedented corporate welfare scheme; one which redistributed wealth from millions of ordinary Canadians to ultra-wealthy citizens at the same time that the federal government was undertaking major spending cuts to social programs.

Five years ago, Toronto Star journalist Antonia Zerbisias wrote that I had made a name for myself in the mid-90’s fighting for citizen and consumer rights against media companies and the CRTC; and she offered her opinion that I never stood a chance against the powerful corporations and their government allies (TV fund money really belongs to us).

According to the late social scientist Kurt Lewin: “If you want truly to understand something, try to change it.”

It is a matter of record that I’ve tried to change the CRTC, as documented in the correspondence of 31 May 2010 from my legal counsel Paul Armarego to Prime Minister Stephen Harper (copy).

As a result, it is fair to say that I truly understand the CRTC and how several Canadian media magnates have managed to financially exploit millions of citizens for more than 17 years without any degree of accountability, acting far above the democratic process.

Sure, dishonest politicians and bureaucrats played a major role in the sordid affair, but the main reason for its longevity is the media itself.

In fact, Toronto’s NOW magazine listed my campaign as one of the top under-reported stories by the media in 1995.

Public ignorance is an easy prey. And the illegal phone-hacking practice by numerous News Corporation journalists in the United Kingdom clearly demonstrates that the media is not perfect.

From my personal experience, journalism and media ownership definitely matters to democracy.


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15th Anniversary of Life-Altering Psychosis

On November 14th 1996, I experienced a life-altering episode of psychosis and ended up in a Toronto psychiatric hospital.

As I recently addressed to an audience at The Street Theatre in Canberra (ABC, 14 September 2011),  I experienced that particular episode of psychosis after waging a long campaign for an investigation into systemic corruption involving media companies and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

While my life has fundamentally changed in several ways since that point in time, the CRTC is still a corrupt instrument of powerful media tycoons, and Canadian politicians are still protecting the status quo (Letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, 31 May 2010).

One thing that hasn’t changed in my life over all these years is my belief that this unjust corporate enrichment scheme is an unprecedented case of systemic corruption in the G20; one which warrants an illuminating public inquiry.

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Ten Years Ago

Today is my 1oth anniversary of immigrating to Australia from Canada.

I know the feeling of being frozen by anxiety, tortured by depression and humiliated by psychosis.  Fortunately, change is a normal part of life.

Ten years ago, I was in a 3-year relationship with an Australian woman and it is safe to say that I wasn’t the best company in the world.  At that time, I did not think that I would ever be able to work again.  I dreaded the thought of being poor and all of its imagined consequences; and the future appeared daunting and hopeless from all angles.

In addition, I was ashamed of my uncharacteristic behaviour in Toronto in 1996 after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  And I was afraid that people would discover that I had a severe mental illness and learn about my past.  I was tormented and in a state of self-loathing related to the emotional suffering that had resulted to the people in my life as a consequence of my poor mental health. Moreover, I had lost my sense of identity, including that of being a social activist in Canada.

In short, a decade ago I thought that I would never enjoy life again.

But I was wrong.

Today, I am enjoying a more productive and satisfying life more than ever before.

I am qualified as a professional social worker; a member of the Australian Association of Social Workers; and employed full-time in community mental health by Woden Community Service in Canberra, helping other people with mental health problems to rebuild their lives.

A central part of the transformation is that I am no longer afraid of people finding out that I have been diagnosed with a severe mental illness.  In fact, I publicly share parts of my personal story to try to raise awareness of mental health recovery (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 14 September 2011).

Once again, I am a social activist. And as a result, I am developing a mental health community development initiative  Mentalympians.

However, I am no longer in a 3-year relationship with an Australia woman.  I am now in a 13-year relationship with the same person.

As addressed, change is a normal part of life.


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Mentalympians’ Press Release on World Mental Health Day 2009

PR Newswire: news distribution, targeting and monitoring

World-first mental health media initiative announces inaugural Advisory Group

CANBERRA, Australia, Oct. 10 /PRNewswire/ – Mentalympians(TM) announced today, on this World Mental Health Day, its inaugural Advisory Group, consisting of twelve advisors based in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Scotland and the United States of America. Profiles of the advisors are found on www.mentalympians.org.

Mentalympians has been created to develop an online community channel, to be operated through a network of mental health consumer groups. This world-first initiative will establish a 21st century peer support mechanism for raising awareness of recovery; inspiring hope; reducing self-stigma; and connecting individuals to local support groups and services. It is envisaged that Mentalympians will also foster the exchange of ideas and information between groups and individuals to create conditions favourable for social change.

“As President of the World Federation for Mental Health it gives me great pleasure to support Mentalympians as it is a very innovative project to promote both recovery globally and the reduction of discrimination for all people in the world experiencing mental illness,” said advisor Tony Fowke, a member of the Order of Australia.

The brainchild of Canberra-based mental health advocate and social worker Keith Mahar, the mental health initiative is itself a testament to recovery, as Mahar’s former Canadian broadcasting career was ended by severe mental illness.

“The collective knowledge possessed by members on this advisory group is both diverse and exceptional. However, this type of project cannot succeed without the involvement of a large number of people,” stated Mahar. “Help is required from members of the public to develop Mentalympians to its potential.”

The mental health community development project is currently recruiting online volunteers. Interested individuals are invited to visit www.mentalympians.org.

SOURCE Mentalympians

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Assistant Professor Amy C. Watson on Self Stigma and Mentalympians

Following is a clear and concise explanation of self stigma and its process by Assistant Professor Amy C. Watson, one of the leading researchers in the world on the subject.

As addressed, this expert suggests that Mentalympians,” is an exciting and innovative initiative that promotes awareness of stigma, discrimination and most importantly recovery along with fellowship, support, and empowerment at the global and local levels.”

July 22, 2009

Self Stigma and Mentalympians

Amy C Watson, PhD

Researchers are beginning to understand what many people with the lived experience of mental illness already know-mental illness stigma can wear away at a person’s sense of self and make him or her feel isolated and at times worthless and hopeless. Fortunately, we are also beginning to understand factors that help people buffer themselves and regain a sense of hope and worth. Below, I briefly describe the self stigma process, consequences, and factors that show promise for combating self stigma and promoting hope and recovery.

Prior to the onset and diagnosis of mental illness, most individuals are aware of and may even endorse cultural stereotypes about the group “the mentally ill.” Once diagnosed with a mental illness, these stereotypes become relevant to the self, as individuals anticipate and experience negative reactions from others. As a result, people may limit their social contacts and opportunities in order to shield themselves from stigma and discrimination. Unfortunately, this protective isolation may prevent people from accessing the support and opportunities important to recovery and full inclusion in the community. The impact of stigma on the self may not stop there. Individuals with mental illness may also self stigmatize (Corrigan & Watson, 2002). This occurs when they move beyond simply being aware of and actually apply the negative stereotypes they have learned about people with mental illness to themselves, feel they are different and less valuable than others and subsequently limit the social, occupational and other opportunities they allow themselves to pursue. In this case, they are not limiting the opportunities they pursue solely protect themselves from negative reactions from others but also because they feel unworthy or incapable. Obviously, this process further interferes with a person’s ability to pursue life goals and maintain his or her quality of life.

Research on self stigma confirms that it is associated with lower self esteem and self efficacy (Watson, Corrigan, Larson & Sells, 2007). The greatest distress appears to be related to the alienation (Ritscher and Phelan, 2004). Fortunately, this research also points to protective factors. Refuting the legitimacy of mental illness stigma and discrimination and seeing oneself in fellowship with the larger group of people with mental illness may interrupt the self stigma process and promote greater hope and empowerment (Lysaker et al., 2006; Watson, Corrigan, Larson & Sells, 2007). As Ritscher and Phelan (2004) suggest, “What is needed is an antidote to alienation: interpersonal engagement, such as that provided by the fellowship of self-help groups…. (p.264).”

Thus, research suggests that stigma awareness raising approaches and efforts to build self help and social support may be useful for addressing self stigma. Mentalympians.tv is an exciting and innovative initiative that promotes awareness of stigma, discrimination and most importantly recovery along with fellowship, support, and empowerment at the global and local levels.

Lysaker, P. H., Buck, K. D., Hammoud, K., Taylor, A. C., & Roe, D. (2006). Associations of symptoms, psychosocial function and hope with qualities of self-experience in schizophrenia: Comparisons of objective and subjective indicators of health. Schizophrenia research, 82(2-3), 241-249.

Ritsher, J. B., & Phelan, J. C. (2004). Internalized stigma predicts erosion of morale among psychiatric outpatients. Psychiatry Research, 129(3), 257–265

Watson, A. C., Corrigan, P. W., Larson, J. E., & Sells, M. (2007). Self stigma in people with mental illness. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 33(6), 1312-1318.

Amy C Watson, PhD is an Assistant Professor at the Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Watson is an active member and former Project Director of Chicago Consortium for Stigma Research (CCSR), an interdisciplinary group of researchers dedicated to studying mental illness stigma, its consequences, and strategies for attitude change. She has conducted research examining the attitudes of youth, police officers and the general public; self stigma; and stigma change strategies. Her current research focuses on the interface of the mental health and criminal justice systems and factors influencing how individuals with mental illness are processed by these systems. She was recently awarded the John M. Davis, MD Researcher of the Year Award from NAMI of Greater Chicago.

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