Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Quebec Radio: "Trash Radio" Criticized After Mosque Shooting

They call it "radio poubelle," or trash radio. Quebec City has developed the dubious reputation as Canada's capital of shock jocks, online radio hosts who love to provoke with their outrageous talk about women, homosexuals and Muslims, reports the Brisbane Times.

As this city of 800,000 deals with the emotional aftermath of Sunday's shooting at a local mosque that left six worshippers dead and several injured, the role of trash radio in spreading xenophobic attitudes is getting new attention. A 27-year-old local university student and follower of far-right causes was charged with murder and attempted murder in connection with the massacre.

While there is no indication that the alleged shooter, Alexandre Bissonnette, was particularly influenced by trash radio, members of the Muslim community were quick to complain about the corrosive impact of the anti-immigrant rhetoric heard on the city's airwaves.

Even Quebec City's popular mayor, Regis Labeaume, appeared to criticize the radio stations. Speaking at an outdoor vigil in memory of the victims on Monday evening, he denounced those who "get rich from peddling hatred".

Some say that radio stations like local CJMF FM93 and CHOI 98.1 FM Radio X -- which are respectively the region's second and third-most listened to in the region, with a combined 30 percent market share -- simply reflect their audience's views.

But others say the shows stoke dangerous beliefs.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard acknowledged on Tuesday that the province has "its demons" and that "xenophobia, racism and exclusion are present here." But he told reporters that Quebec society is generally open and tolerant.

"Whenever you happen to listen to this trash radio, you hear clearly xenophobic language," said Mohammed Ali Saidane, a member of the Muslim community who has lived in Quebec for 30 years. "What I reproach with these media is that they import problems from elsewhere, especially France. We don't live in ghettos here. It's not the same as France," he told the Journal de Quebec.

"The real danger of this kind of radio is that they play with the line between news, opinion and demagoguery," said Louis-Philippe Lampron, who teaches human rights law at Laval University.

Lampron said four or five talk-show hosts dominate the market. They move between a handful of stations and constantly compete for listeners with their outrageous talk, which is often right-wing and populist in tone. "It's very insidious and aggressive," he told The Washington Post.

"It's like reality TV," said Guillaume Verret, a 21-year-old college student and part-time barista as he sat with friends at a Starbucks in suburban Sainte-Foy. "It's completely stupid and easy. They don't give you facts. They just give you opinions that provoke people."

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