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The Power of Language

I’ve been paying closer attention to the stories coming out of the wire services lately. We’ve been monitoring the wires in my Radio Broadcast Journalism course; I’ve found it fascinating to see the speed at which stories are pushed through.

Of course, what I’ve found even more interesting is how many news outlets use the wires to provide breadth and depth of coverage, while really just republishing. CTV.ca is one of those outlets. I don’t actually object to this; that’s what outlets like AP and Canadian Press are for. CTVglobemedia can hardly be cited for not writing their own news through The Globe and Mail and the various CTV broadcast outlets. 

Anyway, my issue comes with how THIS Canadian Press story:

CRTC to review hands-off approach to unregulated internet

was republished by CTV as this:

CRTC mulls hands-off approach to Internet, cellphones

The stories are identical, but note the difference in headlines.

It may seem like semantics, but here is my problem. The CRTC is reconsidering a 1999 decision to esentially “leave the Internet alone” and to exempt it from things like the Canadian Content rules that apply to more traditional broadcast outlets.

CTV’s choice of the word “mull” changes the meaning of the headline. It gives the impression that the CRTC is not reconsidering an original decision, as the article actually states. Instead the headline gives more weight to the possibility of leaving the Internet unregulated. To replace the term “review” takes away the connotation that the previous decision may be changed, or that there was an error in the previous decision. It’s like me saying “I think I might do this” instead of “I decided to not do this, and now I’m changing my mind” — mulls vs review have completely different meanings there.

CTV is but one drop in the bucket of CTVglobemedia (aka CTV, a thwack of cable stations, The Globe and Mail, some radio stations…). It’s not unreasonable to think that in the future, a much larger proportion of our video and audio entertainment will be delivered through “new media” and some form of Internet connectivity. CTV has a huge vested interest in how these hearings go. If the CRTC maintains “status quo” with no content regulations on what Canadian broadcasters put online, CTV could be looking at a future where they don’t have to bother with what I’m sure they consider to be a frustrating burden.

Hence I find their altering of the headline to have suspect motivation. Given that the article came out of the wire service with a different headline, someone had to actively choose to alter it at CTV. The alteration distincly changes the connotation of the headline. It downplays the potential to interpret the past “unregulation” of the Internet as a mistake, which is clearly in CTV’s financial interests.

I suppose Chomsky would label this as an example of the “Ownership” filter… but getting into that sort of theory is a whole other blog post.

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