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Quebec’s ‘Trash Radio’ Host Fires Up Outrage, and Big Ratings

Their “verbal aggression” would not be tolerated in schools or workplaces, she added. (A former premier of Quebec whose party was widely attacked on the stations commissioned the report.)

Daniel Gagnon, 59, a retired electrician in Quebec City and an avid listener of Mr. Fillion, defended talk radio for speaking hard truths.

“Unlike politicians, they say what they think and speak for the common man,” he said, quickly adding, “Sometimes they are vulgar and go too far.” Other fans said talk radio’s trenchant humor and satire was misunderstood by smug, politically correct liberal elites.

Mr. Fillion, the son of teachers from Saguenay, in northern Quebec, entered Quebec City’s talk-radio landscape in the 1990s. Memorable one-liners, he said, had become even more crucial in the Twitter age. To get a break from his obsessive trawling of social media, he plays hockey and golf.

“Trash radio is a term used by the Left to attack anyone who doesn’t agree with them,” he said.

A figure so polarizing that even my meeting with him spurred a backlash, Mr. Fillion has become a folk hero for defenders of freedom of expression.

When the federal broadcasting authority tried to close CHOI-FM in 2004, citing abusive content, nearly 50,000 people took to the street in Quebec City, saying that the authorities were breaching freedom of speech. (The authority revoked the station’s license, but it never went off air and was bought by another company.)

And though Mr. Fillion has been fired twice from radio stations — and in 2007 Quebec Superior Court ordered him, his station and his co-hosts to pay $260,000 in damages in a defamation case after he commented on a television presenter’s bra size and intelligence — he has always bounced back.

“Twenty years ago, we could have a lot more fun,” he said, with more than a hint of nostalgia. “Today you get put on social media and portrayed as a sicko. You have to be very, very careful.”

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Quebec’s ‘Trash Radio’ Host Fires Up Outrage, and Big Ratings


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