Letters from Green Island

Dec 30 2007

CBC 'non-partisan'?? Let's define some terms...

Mr Cruickshank,
Re: CBC News responds to Conservative fundraiser

(original story also copied at the end of this letter)

In response to your response to the accusations of CBC bias from the 'conservative' party fundraising letter:

You use your bully pulpit of the CBC to 'set the record straight'. I have but a very tiny pulpit, but I will use it to do a bit of setting straight myself.

You say, "As a public broadcaster we take our responsibilities to all Canadian shareholders very seriously.... The CBC is non-partisan..."

I would agree with your assertion that in terms of the two major political parties of Canada the CBC is impartial, the constant accusations of the Canadian rightwing that the CBC has a 'leftwing' bias is risible indeed, but serves a function for them - but since both of these parties are run from the same Bay St offices, presenting little more than a 'good cop - bad cop' drama to Canadians, that is in the end a small achievement. In the much larger arena of realpolitik, wherein we see the Canadian elite running the country, and the Canadian people essentially powerless in 'their own country' (the 'democracy' scam) - well, neither 'responsible to the Canadian people' nor 'non-partisan' would be anywhere near the truth.

Examples are endless and ongoing - a couple of recent ones, a couple of enduring ones:

** The Afghanistan coverage has been blatant government propaganda from the beginning - perhaps 20% of Canadians actually support this 'mission' (that is to say, strongly support, as opposed to 'well, ok, I suppose...'), but your coverage is a constant barrage of 'look at the great things our soldiers are doing', and then when available 'look at our brave dead/wounded soldiers, home from a brave war in a far distant country!' - very obvious, barely-below-the-surface message of 'all good Canadians would be supporting our troops and this important, heroic mission!!'. There are very important things to be talked about here, not the least of which is what Canadian troops are doing carrying out American-instigated 'regime change' operations half ways around the world, and how the very important and serious decision to enter this conflict was a pretty direct slap in the face to anything we might call 'democratic decision making' in Canada, but the CBC barely touches any of them - compare, for instance, your mentions of Rick Hillier with your mentions of Richard Sanders, or any of many others able to speak eloquently about why we should not be in Afghanistan. A full and impartial presentation of information the people of Canada need to make intelligent decisions in THEIR country? Or boosterism in support of government policy (which was not arrived at through public debate, and most people do not agree with)? Pretty obvious when you think about it. And hardly the behaviour of a 'responsible' media. Not, at any rate, responsible to 'we the people' - if your true responsibility lies elsewhere - well, perhaps you are indeed doing the job you are supposed to be doing.

** The recent Ontario election had a referendum on changing the election system to a form of PR. The coverage once again was highly biased, and shameful, really, if you make a claim to 'responsibility' and 'informing the public of what they need to know'. It is true that, as was oft noted, apparently many Ontarians were not very well aware of what was being proposed - and whose job is it to inform them about important public policy things, if not the media's? A media actually interested in informing Canadians about things they needed to know - which is surely central to their job in a democracy - would have made a point of featuring a series of clear explanations of what the Ontario Citizen's Council had discussed, and had representatives from the Council on various of your shows talking about it. Opinion afterwards would be fine, you need to give time to those who oppose the idea of course - but simply having a couple of confrontational meetings between supporters and opposers with the attitude of 'ok, make up your own mind!', is NOT 'informing' the voters. (nor is having your commentators feign ignorance - I heard both Anna Marie Tremonti and Michael Enright saying things like 'Golly, that new system they propose is just too complicated for poor lil ol me to understand!' - which, given its essential simplicity, had to be either outright ignorance speaking, or simply lies in the service of those who wished to propagate this lie - anyone who could tie their own shoelaces could understand what was being proposed, with a few minutes of trying...)

** Your coverage of 'business' and 'economics' is truly egregious, to one who understands what is happening in Canada and the world. It is again blatantly biased, in favor of capitalism and the corporate elite who actually run Canada, very much for their benefit and very much to the detriment of most Canadians. You have regular 'business' features - and nothing for 'working people'. Do you suppose there are more 'businessmen' or 'working people' in Canada? You treat the bouncing value of the Canadian dollar as akin to the weather - interesting, sometimes scary and of unknown consequences, but completely out of our control, darn it! - but nothing could be further from the truth - there are many good ways to regulate money, and many more stable things than the current system. Most Canadians have no idea where money even comes from - why do you suppose they are so ignorant of such a fundamentally important thing? First their basic 'education', of course, but then they learn absolutely nothing about this most important thing in their lives from the media, who, like you, simply tell Canadians to sit back in their seats and enjoy the ride! (or not - if the ride goes bad, that's a shame, but there's nothing you citizens can do about it!) - blatant, blatant shilling for the banks and capitalist elite of Canada. The current monetary policies are insanity for We the People, but about as good as it gets for the banks and others wealthy enough to gamble with national currencies in the global casino - and they could very easily be changed, if the people had any idea what was really going on, which they don't, in large part because the media is very directly involved in a big scam to keep them ignorant of such things. Very much in contrast to your duty to inform people of things they need to know. You personally may think the Afghanistan invasion is wonderful, or the global currency casino is great - but is it your job to gatekeep in favor of your own views, or to give Canadians a full spectrum of information and let them make up their own minds about things?

Oh well, enough - it's doubtful you've even read this far. If you want a longer list of how the Canadian media is NOT fulfilling their obligations to the Canadian voting public, I have some ongoing commentary at my current website, On Green Island. There's some fairly serious stuff here, in terms of deliberate propaganda and gatekeeping - not the rather sad 'limited hangout' stuff that you folks usually 'admit' to - there's nothing currently on the CBC site, but an example is in today's Star , the other faux-lefty Cdn media the righties froth about, telling us how 'accountable' they are because they fess up to spelling mistakes and incorrect dates and things like that (also the staple of a new 'media watch site!!!!' called Regret the Error that the Canadian mainstream media has been pushing as a 'sign of their accountability' - I really can't understand if you folks are so simple-minded that you really believe that Canadians are losing faith in their media because of spelling mistakes or poor color coordination - if you are, you're way off base - the things I talk about in this letter, and On Green Island, are why you are losing everyone. I think you at the upper echelons know exactly what I'm talking about, but for very obvious reasons can't admit to it, so it's off to fantasyland we go - as we all know, the tv-trained 21st-century Cdn public will accept almost anything you tell them anymore...).

The outside-the-box observer puts things like this (and many, many others) together, and a pattern emerges. The Canadian media is not really giving the public the information it needs to make decisions about the direction of its country, quite the contrary, it is withholding a lot of very important information, and putting some very false spin on many other things. In reality, as the reference above shows quite clearly, the Canadian public has essentially zero voice in such decisions, all theory of 'democracy' aside. What the media is really doing is presenting a narrative to Canadians, so they think they understand what is happening in their country and world, but a largely airbrushed narrative, in which first they receive a considerably less than true version of what is happening in the world, and secondly in which it is made clear, without actually saying so, that they are almost completely spectators to the big events in their country and world rather than participants (again, as democratic theory pretends). It is a narrative that tells Canadians, for instance, McGuinty won 'a great majority!!' a couple of months ago - while never mentioning that in reality he got the votes of about 10% of Ontarians (15% of eligible voters). It is a narrative that tells Canadians they must work harder and harder, and expect less and less from their governments, but never tells them about how the wealth they create as Canadians is being stolen through various high-level scams, such as allowing banks to create most of the nation's money supply, and charge interest for doing so, and the national debt scam. It is a narrative that tells them that 'their' government makes decisions about such things as invading Afghanistan as part of the US force, or how banks are regulated (or not), and there is really nothing they can do about it, aside from 'voting' for tweedledum or tweedledee every few years, and then going back to their tvs to watch the unfolding show.

The media is front and center for the governing oligarchy with endless boosterism of ideas that might be unpopular with the public, but that the ruling powers desire, such as the Afghanistan invasion, and in concealing the truth about the very undemocratic nature of 'democracy' in Canada or where their money comes from. And then, on the other hand, again in service to powers other than the Canadian people as a whole, the media en masse are quick to do their best to stomp out any unwanted ideas such as PR that popular movements force into the news.

The odd thing is that sometimes I actually believe most people such as yourself, at least at the better media places like the CBC and the Star, are actually honest, and not really aware of what you are doing - you have been brought up in the box, served your careers in the box, and quite honestly do not really understand there is a box within which you work, and whose masters you unwittingly serve.

But then there are times, more frequently, when I think that you cannot do what you do, without being fully aware of the propaganda role you play in our society.

I suppose, since nothing is simple or black and white, there are both kinds in the Canadian media - many low level employees who have no idea what they are really doing, and the higher-ups who are fully aware of their role in herding Canadians into their brave new world order, in the box as I think of it - .

I suppose your lack of response to this short letter will be another bit of evidence proving you really do know what you are really doing there - there's no future in the con man arguing with the mark who understands the game, and the people listening in might get some bad ideas (bad from the con's perspective).

And this letter will be evidence to you that quite a few of us out here understand what you are up to.

(If I am reading this wrong, I would be happy to engage in any sort of private or public, short or longer, exchange of ideas on these things you cared for).

(oddly enough, I actually defended the CBC from a rightwing attack last week - - well, I guess, thinking about it, it wasn't so much a 'defence' as a re-focusing of the criticism .... still.)


CBC News responds to Conservative fundraiser
Friday, December 28, 2007

About a week ago, CBC News became aware of a Conservative party fundraising letter that was highly critical of our news operation, accusing us of systematic bias. Some news organizations carried a story about the letter. [[this story follows this one]]

Publisher John Cruickshank sets the record straight in an open letter to Doug Finley, the Conservative party official who sent the letter asking for contributions.

Dear Mr. Finley,

I have reviewed your pre-Christmas fundraising letter.

I write this public response to you because I believe that by its inaccuracy, innuendo, exaggeration and expressed malice towards hundreds of Canadian journalists you risk damaging not just your target, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, but also public faith in our political process.

I understand that a private association like the Conservative party does not have the sort of transparent and reliable complaints process that we have at the CBC. That is regrettable.

I understand that you have already availed yourself of access to our Ombudsman, complaining that a member of the CBC News staff communicated suggested questions to Liberal MPs in advance of a public hearing. I appreciate this show of confidence in the integrity of our process. I wish you had reflected that respect for our commitment to answer any and all complaints about our work in your unfortunate letter to potential donors.

You were well aware when you sat down to write your appeal for cash that CBC News had publicly condemned the behaviour you complain of and had called a disciplinary meeting to look into it.

Your suggestion to your potential contributors that the CBC was waging a partisan campaign against your party and the government of Canada was flatly contradicted by every step we had taken before you composed your cash appeal.

We accept that you are not the only, or even the first, Canadian political party to use CBC News as a whipping boy for fundraising purposes.

The Liberal party accused us of bias on several occasions when it fit their agenda.

As a public broadcaster we take our responsibilities to all Canadian shareholders very seriously. This is more than just a glib promise. Unlike any other broadcaster in the country, the CBC has a journalistic standards and practices book. This book is given to each reporter, producer, editor and host working at the CBC. It outlines in explicit detail the code of conduct for our journalists. It covers conflict of interest; it covers issues of journalistic fairness and balance. It is clear, and it is binding. It is also a living document. We talk about it and refer to it daily when we are dealing with difficult ethical issues. It is also freely available to the general public to see, so they know exactly what standards we aim to maintain.

I would be delighted to share a copy of it with you.

CBC News is especially sensitive to how we cover partisan political debates. The CBC is non-partisan. We do not want to be seen to be a creation of any party (although, as you know, it was a Progressive Conservative government that brought our organization into being.)

While all our journalists try to live by our code of conduct, CBC News is not infallible. But we are accountable. When there are errors of judgment, or misunderstandings or improper interpretation of the journalistic standards and practices, we investigate. When we discover shortcomings, we change our standards and practices.

No other news organization in the country operates within such a demanding ethical regime. For you to sully the reputations of so many dedicated Canadian professionals is utterly unacceptable. Your denigration of our ethical standards can only contribute to the public cynicism about public life that is already far too pervasive.

Yours sincerely,
John Cruickshank,
CBC News

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Tories blast CBC in party fundraising letter
Published: Monday, December 24, 2007
Canadian Press: Alexander Panetta, THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA - The Conservative Party of Canada has slammed the country's public broadcaster in a fundraising letter to party members.

Top party official Doug Finley has sent Conservative grassroots supporters a letter in which he lambastes the CBC and asks people for money to help fight an election.

Finley, the party's campaign director, says he was shocked by allegations that a CBC reporter helped produce questions for a Liberal MP to ask Brian Mulroney at a recent parliamentary hearing.

Now he's using the incident as a fundraising message to the party faithful: Tories face a chronic disadvantage because of their powerful enemies, and need your cash to overcome it.

But while casting the governing party as a perennial underdog, Finley glosses over the fact that the Tories are - by far - the top dog in the money department.

The Tories are loaded with cash after out-fundraising the Liberals by millions of dollars at a four-to-one ratio, and that money has allowed them to staff campaign headquarters and run multiple TV ads.

Finley glosses over those advantages in a letter that focuses on the challenges of being a Conservative.

"Let's face the facts," Finley writes in a letter, released by the party Monday.

"Running as a Conservative in Canada is never easy.

"The Liberals have long benefited from the support of the country's most powerful vested interests. And the NDP has always been backed by the country's loudest vocal interests."

He goes on to ask for $100 or $200, and argues that financial support will help the Tories overcome the challenge of fighting the Liberals and "their vested interest allies."

The Conservatives already do have plenty of help sitting in their bank account.

The party has so much money that for months it's been operating a 1,500-square-metre election headquarters in an Ottawa industrial park.

And Finley leads an election team that has remained in place throughout the two years since the last campaign.

That team has spent millions bombarding Liberal Leader Stephane Dion with five waves of negative TV ad campaigns, and the cash-strapped opposition has been left to reply with low-budget Internet ads on Youtube.

But the Tory fundraising letter suggests the Liberals get help elsewhere.

Finley's letter mentions two other CBC reports where the network was accused of bias against Conservatives. He notes, in passing, that the CBC received $1.11 billion in government funding in 2006-07.

CBC brass have said they are investigating and considering possible disciplinary action against a reporter who allegedly supplied questions for Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez to ask Mulroney.

But the broadcaster's reaction has left some puzzled on Parliament Hill.

Other reporters say they've suggested questions for politicians in the past - for instance, when Conservatives were in opposition and grilling the Liberals during the sponsorship scandal.

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