Letters from Green Island

Jan 30 /08

A CBC Response

The first letter, from me to the CBC ombudsman, Jan 23/08, copied to CBC Island Morning, since they are referenced: (basically the same one that I submitted to a CBC discussion that they would not allow on their discussion board)

Dear Island Morning and Ombudsman,

I just learned of your 'no bias' policy while reading this story - CBC transfers reporter who fed questions to MP - and this quote caught my eye - "...The letter cited CBC policy: "Credibility is dependent not only on qualities such as accuracy and fairness in reporting and presentation, but also upon avoidance by both the organization and its journalists of associations or contacts which could reasonably give rise to perceptions of partiality... Any situation which could cause reasonable apprehension that a journalist or the organization is biased or under the influence of any pressure group, whether ideological, political, financial, social or cultural, must be avoided..."

Now, given the above quote, I am wondering if you would care to comment on the fact that on the CBC PEI radio morning show, I get to hear "Business Digest" several times a week, and Michael Hlinka pontificating on how wonderful Capitalism is a couple of times a week, and other pro-capitalist things on the news regularly (for instance, compare the number of stories you do on press releases from the Conference Board of Canada against those from the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives) - yet never, never, never do I hear anything described as a 'voice from the working person/poor' or 'labour' or anything like that on any regular, featured basis (and precious little at anytime) - do you suppose, given this, and considering that there are far more average working people and poor people in PEI (and Canada of course) than there are capitalists or businesspeople, that it might be reasonable for someone like me to perceive a perception of partiality on the part of the CBC towards 'business' and Capitalism, which would fall under at least three and depending on how you define things all five of the categories you list, and a kind of bias against the ordinary working person? (Your failure to respond to this will be sufficient answer for my readers at On Green Island - it's no secret, but we need to do these letters as part of the research).

Thanks etc -

On Green Island in spirit
the dream that once was Canada in my heart .......


- and then the surprise, a more or less polite and thoughtful response from a certain high up at CBC Charlottetown (I'm not putting his name here, as he did not specifically give me permission to 'publish' the letter):

Jan 24/08
Dear Mr. ---.

Thank you for contacting Island Morning and for your comments. Island Morning and CBC Prince Edward Island constantly strive to reflect the diversity of perspectives articulated in our province. While we certainly do reflect economic and business activity generated from PEI and across North America, I respectfully disagree with your assessment that Island Morning "never" features voices or viewpoints from the "working person/poor." Recent examples that underscore our willingness to capture these perspectives can be found in the majority of our newscasts, and throughout Island Morning programming. We've illustrated how many Islanders are struggling to afford to heat their homes. We've provided consistent and balanced coverage on how working people in the livestock sector are abandoning their industry, and of the struggles of farmers from Prince to Kings counties. In November, we devoted several days' worth of programming to what impact drug addiction and drug-related crime is having on people from all economic backgrounds. In December, for three consecutive weeks, we focused daily attention on the opportunity for Islanders to contribute to the notion that everyone should be able to enjoy a traditional Christmas meal through our Turkey Drive broadcasts. Island food banks played a major role in participating in this programming. We regularly profile Islanders who are leaving this province for the lure of secure employment in Alberta, and tell stories on the toll this migration is having on Island families. I'm not sure how this coverage suggests a "kind of bias against the ordinary working person". Just to test my premise, I did a search on what Island Morning broadcast this week in terms of content and diversity of opinion. Each program this week represented or spoke to a voice from the demographic you describe. There was an interview regarding how PEI's aboriginal off-reserve population could access more federal money. We featured a consumer piece on how Islanders could shop for a better home heating oil price. Island Morning broadcast an item on a project being developed which will enable Islanders (who cannot afford a lawyer) to represent themselves in court. There was extensive coverage on the impending closure of a local hog plant and the difficult choices facing its employees and hog farmers. This does not include the regular reflection of working poor or "labour" (as you describe it) perspectives regularly broadcast in our newscasts. Whenever there is a budget, or a throne speech, or any other major political development provincially or nationally, Island Morning and CBC Prince Edward Island always endeavour to capture a full range of political and ideological reaction. I believe there is no bias favouring capitalism or business (big or small) in our coverage.

Once again, thank you for sharing your opinion with us.

Sincerely yours,

XXX, CBC Prince Edward Island.


I thought he had more or less missed the point of what I was complaining about, and replied (Jan 28/08):

Dear Mr. XX, (CCed to others mentioned in this letter),

Thanks very much for taking the time to reply - not something I am used to regarding my various letters to people in the Canadian media. However, I fear I may have worded my short note in a misleading way, as you have not actually responded to my central point. Always a problem - people in modern society are reluctant to read long letters, but in short letters it is difficult to explain things properly. Charles Dickens wouldn't have done well in soundbite Canada. There I go again.

Certainly the morning show features many interviews with average sorts of Islanders about what is happening on the Island and how these things affect them, which is good of course, but my point was that there are no regular, featured spaces (not sure what you technically call a radio 'column') given to voices or people who see the world through a non-capitalist, non-business lens to comment on such problems and other things and offer some explanations as to why things are so tough these days for so many people - voices which would give a balance to your regular 'business digests' or Michael Hlinka telling us all how wonderful capitalism and its programs and policies are, and we shall say nothing bad about it! But many, many Canadians do not agree with Mr Hlinka - and I know you would find many Islanders among them.

Why, for instance, wouldn't you have a voice from the Council of Canadians once or twice a week, an organisation which speaks for many, many Canadians, and I know you have a chapter there on the Island? You could get Leo Broderick, for instance, to respond to Mr Hlinka's praises of capitalism each week by - well, I wouldn't presume to put words in Leo's mouth, but I am sure he would be somewhat less laudatory of the wonders of our current financial system and the policies the globaliser-capitalists favor. Or someone like Sharon Labchuck would probably find a good audience each week, and I expect Sharon would be equally unimpressed by Mr Hlinka's love of capitalism. Now that would be balance - a voice singing the praises of capitalism, and another voice questioning it - on a regular basis, of course. As far as I can tell, and I have been listening to the show most mornings (evenings here) for the last couple of years since I got broadband, you have no regular voices at all as regular commentators speaking from a non-capitalist point of view - and I am not talking about radical anarchism or something of whom there are few people in Canada, but a social-democracy POV, of whom there are many, many, many people in Canada - far more, I would suggest, than there are card-carrying capitalists. (Social democrats believe in, for instance, a well-funded single payer health care system in Canada partially funded, of course, by a reasonable level of corporate taxation, while capitalists want a minimalist poorly funded two-tier system and minimal corporate taxation - where do you think most Canadians fit in that dichotomy? Most Islanders?)

That is the bias I was referring to. That you have many islanders telling us each week the problems they face is interesting and good, but only to a point - where are the voices analysing, from the non-business perspective, on a regular basis, how those problems are related to our current economic system and what might be done about them? You have many voices speaking for 'business' and capitalism, such as Mr Hlinka and your 'business digest' things, and explaining how (in their opinion through the capitalist lens) it is all natural, and fine, and everybody sit down and enjoy the ride it's great children!! etc - but why not a voice on a regular basis from the perspective that maybe it is not all so fine at all, maybe capitalism is getting out of control, and that is the basis of the problems Islanders face, and if they really want things to improve, they have to start examining the very system of capitalism itself, maybe putting some reins on these people? Some voices analysing things and speaking for the majority of Canadians who are feeling the crunch, rather than the regular voices from the few who are profitting greatly because the many are being crunched?

Do you suppose there are more members of business groups such as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce or citizen's groups such as the Council of Canadians on PEI? I don't know - I suspect the Council of Canadians - yet you have many regular voices telling everyone what the business groups think of things and would like done - yet no regular voice from a citizen's group such as the Council of Canadians with a somewhat different analysis and perspective.

If you had such citzen POV-analysis voices on a regular basis as you have the business voices, that would be balance, and I could not, would not, cry bias if you were doing this.

I remember shaking my head in frustration as you did the series about the turkey drive that you mention - sure it's great that Islanders are so generous and you help with the turkey drive - but where was the analysis about WHY so many Islanders needed to be helped? The food bank guy said the food banks were started in 1985 or so as a 'temporary measure'! - but they've been growing every year! - where was the analysis about WHY there are more and more poor people each year, not only in PEI but all across Canada, in the almost 20 years we have had 'free trade' that was supposed to make everyone more prosperous?? - analysis/excuses not from Michael Hlinka (he gets lots of time already), but from people whose goal is critical analysis of the system that is creating this poverty? Do you suppose such analysis would be interesting to Islanders? I suspect it would.

What about the NAU/SPP? Have these EVER been mentioned on Island Morning? Not that I recall (I can't comment on your other shows - I only have a chance for the morning show here) - yet they are very, very important things the national government is doing, things that will surely affect Islanders as they will affect all Canadians. Those who support capitalism, such as Mr Hlinka, aren't anxious to talk about such things, because although they will be great for 'business', they will NOT be good for most Canadians, and they know this - and this again indicates bias to me, that you do not have anyone from, for instance, the Council of Canadians talking about such things. Let a CofC member and Mr Hlinka do a bit of back and forth over a few weeks on pros and cons of the SPP (or any other economic issues). I'm not suggesting in any way a one-sided perspective from CofC, I believe in full discussion of all important issues - but when I see you giving space several times a week to business people like Mr Hlinka, yet none to people with serious questions about Mr Hlinka's capitalist programs, that is when I see bias. The interviews with average Islanders about how Mr Hlinka's capitalism affects them, without any commentators talking about why, and what might be changed to help them, is very biased, it seems to me.

And your series on drugs - I actually wrote you a longish letter about that which was never answered, which you can read here if you like - again, you talk about the problems without trying to talk about real solutions- solutions which must of necessity involve a careful look at what we our doing with our economic system, and how it is helping to create such problems. (The letter is on my website at http://www.rudemacedon.ca/lgi/07/1125-reality.html )

Well, I am sure you are busy, and not inclined to read long letters, so I better sign off although I could go on at length - but if you are interested in a fuller explanation of the things I talk about, you could write again, or perhaps start with a short book I recently wrote called They're Building a Box - and You're In It, online at http://www.rudemacedon.ca/dlp/box/box-intro.html . Once again, I do thank you for taking the time to respond, and I hope that in the future we will see a bit more balance in your programming, now that hopefully you understand what problems of bias I talk about a bit more fully. (Note - I copy below an email I received today, coincidentally, about a Council of Canadians speaker who is coming to Halifax next month, whose topic is what I have been talking about here, that maybe capitalism is not quite as good as Michael Hlinka keeps telling your listeners - it would surely be a start in showing your non-bias in this matter if he was to be interviewed on Island Morning - perhaps you could set up a special hourlong debate between this person and Mr Hlinka, with phone-in questions - that would probably be very entertaining and enlightening both!)

(a former Islander, now a Green Islander)


(the email I referred to, about the interesting speaker:)

From: A... G...
Sent: Thursday, January 24, 2008 11:35 AM
To: CW
Subject: Social Murder event, Feb 18th
Please distribute widely...

Robert Chernomis, Professor of Economics at the University of Manitoba and co-author of Social Murder and Other Shortcomings of Conservative Economics, will be visiting Halifax as part of a regional speaking tour to launch this new book. Social Murder examines the connections between the destructiveness of global capitalism and the professional economists who help keep it that way. Join Robert, Board member of the Council of Canadians, in a frank discussion about Conservative economic policy and itsī devastating impact on the health, wealth and welfare of Canadians.

The Halifax event is happening February 18th at 7pm, Dalhousie Student Union Building (6136 University Ave.) in Room 303. Admission is free and copies of Social Murder will be available for sale. For addition details on the tour, please visit: www.canadians.org.

(AG) Atlantic Regional Organizing Assistant, Council of Canadians, Halifax

- and end of story, I expect - as noted earlier, you cannot really dispute the things I say about CBC bias, and it's not something that any of them can admit - so the higher ups at CBC won't talk to me, or allow the things I say on their discussion boards, and I expect that since the CBC guy copied his letter to the CBC ombudsman, who surely understands what they are doing in terms of keeping people inside the box, that the CBC PEI guy has been given the word to cease and desist with this dangerous cancer-exposer.

To paraphrase someone of an earlier time, it's not paranoia if they really are after you.

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