Quebec City announced on Monday it will no longer purchase advertising on local radio station CHOI Radio X, saying it was “a danger to public health,” a move that prompted several other major advertisers to follow suit.
The city accuses the talk radio station of stoking opposition to public health measures. In recent weeks, the station invited conspiracy theorists like Alexis Cossette-Trudel and Lucie Laurier for on-air interviews.
“The owners of this radio station put into danger the health and potentially the lives of the citizens of Quebec City and elsewhere,” the city’s statement read.
The move comes the same day the provincial government announced the Quebec City region would move into a “red zone” or maximum alert level because of a substantial increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.
Last week, Radio X refused to broadcast an advertisement from the Quebec government that asked listeners to be sceptical of “charlatans” who propagate false information. The station denounced the ad’s “caricatural” treatment of its listeners and rejected any link to conspiracy theorists.
Mercedes-Benz said it was a question of “values” and not wanting to have “ambiguity” for clients.
The SAQ said it acted in response to Radio X’s refusal to broadcast government public health messages.
Radio X defended itself on Monday. Morning show host Dany Houle said on the air that he does not associate with conspiracy theorists.
“We incite people to not follow the rules? What hogwash!” he said before playing an ad where station personalities encourage the use of masks.
On Monday evening, station owner RNC Media issued a statement saying the station will continue to inform its listeners while keeping a critical eye on the news.
“RNC Media cannot, however, accept any tendentious and fallacious association with the conspiracy movement and the calls for boycott that are not based on any statement made on air by its hosts,” read the statement from president Robert Ranger. “The company is also considering all options available to it to defend its reputation.”
The city did not say how much it spends advertising on the station, only that the two ad campaigns currently in progress cost it $9,000.
Sol Zanetti, the Québec solidaire MNA for the Quebec City riding of Jean-Lesage, quickly hailed the city’s move.
“It’s a very responsible decision,” Zanetti said in a statement. “Taxpayer money should never finance companies that obstruct public health.”
On Monday afternoon, several companies, including Mercedes-Benz Quebec, Uniprix, Desjardins, Hydro-Québec and the Société des alcools du Québec said they were pulling their ads on the station.
“Uniprix has ceased its advertising activities with CHOI Radio X,” said Uniprix spokesperson Darius Kuras. “This is because one of our online advertisements … appeared … next to a segment on Radio X … that contained disturbing comments concerning the use of masks.”