CKLB radio host and council candidate Josh Campbell is stepping away from the mic until after the municipal election.
Campbell, who hosts the morning show Denendeh Sunrise, said he’s going off the air to comply with Canadian broadcasting regulations during a campaign.
According to Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) election period guidelines, broadcasters are expected to give all candidates and parties equitable coverage and air time to share their views with the public.
On-air personalities seeking elected office are supposed to go off the air during an election because they benefit from a measure of public exposure that their TV and radio stations cannot reasonably offer to other candidates.
In a statement on Monday, Campbell said he decided to sign off temporarily after talking with Rob Ouellette, CEO of the Native Communications Society of the Northwest Territories, which owns CKLB.
“After several discussions with my CEO at NCS (Native Communications Society) NWT, the parent company which owns CKLB Radio, and after consulting the CRTC, I will not be on the air until after the Oct. 15 municipal election,” stated Campbell. “With the approval of my employer, I am suspending my on-air duties effective immediately.”
The question of whether CKLB was breaking with CRTC guidelines by keeping Campbell on air came up during the candidate’s recent interview on Cabin Radio.
After the interview, Campbell took to Twitter to denounce Cabin Radio host Ollie Williams for “pulling the #crtc card” and for “#FoxNews style journalism.”
“Thanks for the interview but on a personal level … would you prefer I had no job, and lived at Bristol Pit or the warming shelter?” continued Campbell in the Sept. 27 tweet.
In response, Williams tweeted that “The CRTC election guidelines don’t require anyone to leave their job, they simply guard against broadcasters wielding undue influence when running for office, however well-meaningly.”
In an interview with Yellowknifer, Campbell said he lashed out at Williams because he felt it was being suggested that he was knowingly breaking CRTC rules.
Campbell said his interpretation of the regulations is that they apply only to on-air personalities running for provincial, territorial or federal office.
He said he advised CKLB management of his plans to run for city council before he filed nomination papers, and that he got the green light to stay on air.
On Twitter this weekend Campbell stated he would not seek permission from the CRTC.
“After receiving approval from my CEO and supervisor, and the chair of our NCS Board, I submitted my nomination. For the record my main base of support has been Indigenous people. I prefer not (to) seek permission from Ottawa,” Campbell tweeted on Sunday.
On Monday morning, prior to the release of Campbell’s statement, Ouellette said he had no intention of pulling Campbell from the morning show host’s chair.
“We’ve done some research on CRTC’s website and they speak quite distinctly about provincial and national elections, however the CRTC doesn’t make the same claim for municipal elections,” he said on Monday.
Ouellette added that the guidelines for on-air personalities-cum-candidates are written “terribly poorly.”
But by 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Campbell had officially changed his tune.
“I have always been an ethical and engaged citizen and reporter. In light of the new information from the CRTC, I am continuing to do so,” he wrote in the statement.
Campbell stated that he supports “freedom of the press and the practice of ethical journalism,” and that he is campaigning to increase and enhance communications at city hall.
In an emailed statement, the CRTC stated that the guidelines do apply to on-air personalities running in municipal elections.
A broadcaster that violates election guidelines will likely not feel repercussions right away unless someone complains about it, wrote CRTC spokesperson Sujata Raisinghani.
However, added Raisinghani, “depending on context and/or the station’s efforts to address the unfairness produced by having a candidate as an on-air personality, repercussions might attack further down the line, including consequences for the broadcaster’s licence, or fines.”