The Gazette reported today that a private members bill in the federal parliament tabled by the secessionist Bloc Québécois party would transfer jurisdiction over the airwaves to the Quebec government. This would give provincial authorities the power to, say, block foreign television stations that threatened the predominance of the French language in Quebec.
Translation: Say adieu to ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox.
But, you say, the Quebec government wouldn't do something so rash as that!
These same reactions were heard in mid-1970s, when the Quebec Liberal Party and the Parti Québécois enacted a series of laws limiting a "foreign language" (read: English) in schools and on store signs, billboards, ads in public transit areas, and mass mailings to homes (like the Publisac). People protested. Intellectuals signed newspaper ads. But 30 years later, the new intellectuals claim banning English from public view has brought us "social peace", a euphemism for less violence and graffiti by Quebec secessionists who would prefer to go much further in the quest for linguistic purity.
Banning American television would have a profound effect on Quebec. American television is what allows the English-speaking community to escape every night. It also gives the French-speaking Quebecers who watch a place to learn English (given that English classes are also limited in French-language schools). English may be verboten in many public places, but at least we can recharge ourselves with this airlift of English brought to us every evening.
It is unlikely the feds would ever give up control over the airwaves in Quebec. It is a federal power enshrined in the Constitution Act 1867. But if they did, some future Quebec government would eventually extend censorship in Quebec to the airwaves. It is entirely consistent with the Quebec nationalist aim of promoting the French language by hobbling the influence of the English language in Quebec by whatever means necessary.
Of course, by the time Quebec gets around to censoring the airwaves, the some hybrid of the Internet/cable will the means of distributing television shows on demand. Of course, the Quebec government has shown a willingness to legislate the Internet too. What a place.