Tuesday, January 31, 2012

CBC pained by public reaction

Jennifer McGuire is general manager and editor in chief of CBC News. Today, with no shortage of hubris, she posted a defence that attempts to explain the broadcaster's determination to act against recommendations of CBC Ombudsman Kirk LaPointe by continuing the appointment of Stephen Smart, husband of Premier Clark's Deputy Press Secretary, as CBC's Legislative Bureau Chief.

One minor but interesting thing about McGuire's piece is that it has been tinkered with after they posted it. The CBC timeline for the article when I write this shows: "Posted: Jan 31, 2012 3:13 PM ET | Last Updated: Jan 31, 2012 4:03 PM ET." Most of the comments allowed are time stamped before the item was supposedly posted. Since the last update, about eight hours, only three comments and a few replies to comments have been published. Comments were running about 90% critical of Ms. McGuire's rationalizations so the webmaster pulled references to her article from the CBC News home page. One is left with the impression CBC is playing games with its comment sections to avoid embarrassment. The most recent one may have been too painful for folks at the public broadcaster:
"Sorry Jennifer, your'e wrong. Just because Stephen Smart has not breached journalistic standards in his reports does not mean there is no conflict. A media outlets lack of reporting is just as bad as "soft journalism."

"Here are some examples:
"1) If you Google "Stephen Smart CBC" you find that the CBC failed to report on the Ombudsman findings last week. The Globe and Mail also missed this major story.

"2) Last week the Times Colonist reported the hiring of Christy Clark's friend to a high paid VIHA job was labelled "secret and confidential" rather than "Urgent" as previously reported.

"3) The BC Rail documents are all over the internet and everyone except Bill Tielman and Alex Tsakumis ignore the facts.

"4) The other day my comment was censored by CBC because it referred to Smart's conflict. It was clean and only stated facts with a link to your competition
"Thankfully we now have the internet and are able to dig out the real truth. I refuse to watch the CBC news until my confidence is restored."
There is one additional avenue for CBC consumers who are unsatisfied with the public broadcaster's stone ear in this matter. There is a segment of The National called Go Public that provides this invitation:
"Want to hold the powers that be accountable? Go Public wants to hear from you. You can email us directly at gopublic@cbc.ca, with your name, contact information and details of the story you would like us to look into - or - you can use the story submission form [on the linked page]."
Here is the email I sent to CBC News Go Public:
May I suggest you investigate the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in British Columbia. CBC's Legislative Bureau Chief is the husband of Premier Clark's Deputy Press Secretary, a person appointed by Order in Council, which by-passes rules of engagement faced by typical civil servants.

The Deputy Press Secretary in one of a relatively small group that designs and co-ordinates the Premier's public relations. Of course, the purpose of that office is to gain positive spin on stories involving the leader of the Liberal Party of British Columbia.

The CBC Ombudsman investigated the obvious conflict of interest and determined that the relationship was inappropriate. Oddly, the general manager and editor in chief of CBC News decided the findings of the Ombudsman should be ignored.

This relationship precludes the Victoria Bureau Chief from investigating and reporting on similar or more egregious conflicts of interest that affect fellow members of BC's Legislative press gallery. To do so would simply amplify concerns about his own position.

Since the only option of complaint has not led to a satisfactory resolution, Go Public should examine and report on this unprecedented situation.

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  1. great idea. I have also sent a note to Go Public.

  2. Jennifer : Over five years ago i stopped subscribing or reading the vancouver sun due to political interference with its editors and writers.

    Today its the CBC that i have turned off

    You can bury your head in the sand, but we will abandon you in droves. Enjoy your navel gazing.

  3. I've had to read Ms. McGuire's piece a few times because I can't quite believe what I'm reading. I'm not sure I'd call it a defence, because the position she sets out is so clearly indefensible. It certainly is an inadequate response. By taking this position CBC's credibility is undermined. I really expect better of CBC. Very disappointing, Ms. McGuire.

    I'm curious - why on earth wouldn't Mr. Smart take it upon himself to ask for another assignment? Surely he can see the problem?

  4. It seems that "no one" wants to be accountable for their actions - regardless of what might be seen as a conflict of interest. As long as they get well paid i.e. a lot of money for showing ignorance, they really don't care about anyone else.

    Too bad as Canada should be supporting a "Good and Independent" media - but those days appear to have disappeared of late.

    For all their problems, Britain's BBC and the USA's Public Broadcasting System stand head and shoulders above the CBC in quality, integrity and accountability.

    CBC has a looooong way to go these days, to even approach acceptable standards and is heading along the CKNW way - ugh !!!

    It sure seems that biased and challenged people get promoted to high positions in Canada - what a way to go eh !!! The days of integrity, high standards and credibility no longer appear to be the traditional hallmark ????????????

    Thank you

  5. McQuire’s response, sixth para;
    “Scott is one of six media advisers to the premier, and although she is not the senior adviser, when Stephen brought the situation to our attention we created a protocol to ensure an absence of conflict, whether real or perceived.”

    I retain my own perception about things in life. Now suddenly, I can count on the CBC to instruct me on what my perceptions are or are not.
    Once again the CBC brass provides more reasons to eliminate public funding for this broadcaster. Why have an Ombudsman at all.

  6. One other thought for this morning; by wording her response in the way she did McQuire reveals she is only taking information about this provided to her from underlings rather than investigate for herself. She has now become part of this story, inadvertently or not.

  7. What this story really shows is how incompetent Christy Clark and her PR staff really are.

    If the job of Rebecca Scott and others, is to make the preemy look good, they have been an abysmal failure.

    If the preemy has any intelligence at all, she should fire the lot of them.

    Problem solved.

  8. What is shown by our "colonial" government and media mindset, is an utter contempt for the truth and for the public at large.

    The government orders the newspapers and electronic media to only do stories that the government permits.

    To remain in control of the media, the government has an almost incestuous relationship by hiring spouses of major reporters, especially those who report on the government.

    Because of this, I do not subscribe to the Sun and Province, nor do I watch CTV, Global or the CBC as the all subscribe to the Herr Goebbels school of propaganda.

  9. I agree with 0726 am, completely bush league PR team, almost high school-ish in their failures.

    Remember the broom photo-op after the riots, truly gag worthy, it just gets worse from there on...LOL!!!

  10. For shame Ms. McGuire! How can you be so willfully blind and arrogant at the same time?! If CBC News is to regain credibility and trust, Smart or his well paid wife must go.

  11. The neo-rightists have their cake and eat it too. Now that CBC legislative reporter's conflict of interest has been outed (his wife is the Premier's news spinner,) they cite this a ground for de-funding the public broadcaster.

    Or is that just sour grapes?

  12. The evidence grows (obnoxious Kevin O'leary is a TV star?) that CBC is prostituting itself for comforts provided by a government of ideologues who are impatient with dissent and determined to promote their corporatist agenda. Just as Corus Radio aims to please its funders (BC Gov't is one of the largest advertisers), CBC management bends over backward to avoid being on the wrong side of issues that truly matter to Harper's Tories.

    Stephen Smart is a safe choice who will cause no waves for the status quo. He has grown up with protection of a wealthy and influential family - his father is a BC Supreme Court judge. The old-boys network always clears the road for its young-boys and protects them as they find their place.

    The work of Andrew Nikiforuk, a single writer/researcher operating with modest resources, puts CBC's billion dollar news reporting apparatus to shame. It's not accidental.



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