Friday, August 11, 2006

Reply From CBC

I am sharing a reply from the CBC, but I'll have to dissect it later. My IHTG (In House Tech Guy) just got back from a six week sojourn in Germany, so we are celebrating tonight!

As you may recall this had to do with Stephen Taylor's excellent exposure of media manipulation.

Please feel free to leave your comments about the response. Thanks!

UPDATE: As you will see from the comment section, this turns out to be nothing more than a form letter. Read the comments on this post by Stephen Taylor! Also check out this at Officially Screwed.

Reply as received:
(Italics mine)

Thank you for your email to CBC regarding a report aired on The
National. Jonathan Whitten, executive producer of The National asked me
to forward the following to you:

Thank you for your e-mail of August 8th addressed to Vince Carlin, CBC
Ombudsman. As you know, Mr. Carlin asked me to reply.

You wrote to draw our attention to a report on the August 4 editions of
THE NATIONAL that you feel is inaccurate and misleading. Specifically,
you wrote that by juxtaposing a comment by a protestor with what you
feel is an unrelated statement made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in
a news conference, the report misrepresented the Prime Minister’s views,
and made him appear insensitive.

The report on THE NATIONAL Friday night concerned the Prime Minister’s
reaction to questions he was facing about the Middle East. The report
began with protestors outside the Conservative caucus meeting in
Cornwall, one of whom was seen saying that both sides killing innocent
children is wrong and has to stop.

The Prime Minister, meeting behind closed doors, did not hear her
message (although, as we reported, she was invited to meet with the
Minister of Foreign Affairs), but reporters did ask him about civilian
deaths in a news conference held after the caucus meeting. He did not
reply to the question directly, but he told reporters ­ including the
CBC’s Christina Lawand ­ that his policy on the Middle East remained the
same and would not change because of public opinion surveys or protests.
He said that Canadians are not neutral on terrorism and that he would
not call for a cease-fire until the right conditions were in place. And,
he said, when properly understood, his views represent the views of most
Canadians. Ms. Lawand clearly stated those views in her report.

She also included a statement from the news conference ­ the one to
which you referred ­ where the Prime Minister said he is "not
preoccupied in any way with reaction within individual communities."

This statement was in response to a reporter who asked specifically how
he felt about what seemed to be growing support in the Jewish community
for his government and ended his question by asking whether he was
concerned about the negative response among some in the Arab
community. Mr. Harper replied that he agreed the Middle East conflict
had a pretty strong resonance in some cultural communities, but that the
government “can’t take positions based on polls, we can’t take decisions
based on reactions within certain domestic communities.”

In the bulk of his answer, however, he explained that the issues were
far larger than the concerns of some communities. These are “serious
international issues, he said, “there are not only many lives at stake,
there are a lot of long term strategic interests of this country and of
the world.…” He talked about two major elements of the Canadian policy,
about terrorist groups, both in Canada and abroad. He talked about
humanitarian concerns, including evacuation and re-construction as being
among the “focuses of our activity.”

Then he returned to where he had started his answer and repeated: “I’m
not concerned or preoccupied in any way with reaction within individual
communities. I think that reaction is very predictable.” That was the
clip included in the report following the protestor. It is logical to
conclude here that the reaction he is “not concerned” with, is the kind
of reaction personified by the protestor seen at the beginning of the
report. Mr. Harper was talking about predictable reactions in general
of which the protestor was a specific example. Some have argued that he
was talking about polling within the Arab and Jewish communities, and
while that's possible, he was also discussing, in addition to polling,
"reactions within certain domestic communities." Far from being
unrelated, as you suggest, the two are directly related.

Later in the news conference, the Prime Minister was specifically asked
about the protestors outside the meeting. While he did say that it is
important to listen to members of the various communities (as we
reported, his Ministers met with two of the protestors) he also said
“they can’t guide all of our decisions at the same time.” Far from
being contradictory to his response to the earlier question, this was
restating the government position that we faithfully reported throughout
the piece.

I do, however, agree with your concern about the structure of the
report. The construction of the piece did make it appear the Prime
Minister was responding directly to the woman protester, and that was
not the case. We should have taken the time to make it clear that the
Prime Minister was responding to a general question, and not a specific
question about the woman's concerns, and I regret that. While this does
not constitute a misrepresentation of Mr. Harper's position, or the
position of his Government, the program could have, and should have,
taken the time to be clear about what prompted the response.

It is also my responsibility to inform you that if you are not satisfied
with this response, you may wish to submit the matter for review by the
CBC Ombudsman, Mr. Vince Carlin. The Office of the Ombudsman, an
independent and impartial body reporting directly to the President, is
responsible for evaluating program compliance with the CBC's
journalistic policies. Mr. Carlin may be reached by mail at the address
shown below, or by fax at (416) 205-2825, or by e-mail at

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Whitten
Executive Producer

Box 500, Station “A”,
Toronto, Ontario
M5W 1E6

I hope this information is helpful to you, and thank you again for


Jamie Richards
Communications Officer
CBC Audience Relations


Red Tory said...

You should be one to be nit-picking. You can't even format the text of the response properly.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Hark! Methinks I feel a whole lot of hot air blowing! But there is nothing there. How strange.

Jason Bo Green said...

I knew you were going to say that. I got the EXACT same reply to *my* letter, which said NOTHING of the points addressed in the response!

I wrote back to the ombudsman:

Thank you so much for forwarding my emailed concern about the "Lawand Report" to the National.

I received a form letter reply from Jamie Richards that did not actually address any concerns that I mentioned.

All I got was a defence of the choices made in editing.

Again, I repeat:

-I'm not a CBC critic, I'm a diehard CBC booster
-I did not vote for Harper, but still expect appropriate and honest reporting
-the CBC is my prime news source. I am personally hurt and shaken to see how that footage was taken out of context
-I cannot in any way defend the segment or the CBC to critics

I add:

-there is no defence to mis-using this footage. I know how editing works - I've done a lot of editing myself. This was shoddy work.

Mr. Carlin, I feel in the strongest possible way that the segment producer(s), editors, and Ms. Lawand must apologize publicly for this mis-use of news footage, via either the producer(s) or Ms. Lawand.

I beg them to do so.

I used to trust the CBC. My trust is shaken. I expect better from my main source of news and information, and I expect the corporation to hold itself to the highest possible standard.

Jamie Richard's letter was insulting and condescending to me.

I will be very frank and honest with you. If the CBC does not make this right, and does not extract a public apology from those who created that segment, I will never again speak in defence of the corporation. It has abused my trust.

I'm very disheartened right now, and am made moreso by Jamie Richards letter. I've always felt the CBC was above poor journalism. I implore the CBC to restore my faith in it.

and to Jamie Richards:

This letter does not actually address the concerns I expressed in my email to Mr. Carlin.

I'm a lifelong, passionate defender of the CBC. This letter has only insulted me. I have written to Mr. Carlin in regards to it.

Perhaps, thanks to the internet, I'm only just now realizing that the CBC is no different from other news sources. I've always felt it was held to a higher standard, which is why I choose it above all others as my prime news and information source.

Mr. Whitten's response has only defended the segment's editing choices. I know editing - I've done lots of it. That footage was mis-used.

I did not vote for Harper. I have been a CBC booster since high school. Mr. Whitten is wrong. The segment producers, editors, and Ms. Lawand are wrong.

I beg the National's producers to apologize publicly for this mis-use of news footage. My faith in the CBC as an unparalleled news source has been broken. I would like to see it restored.

Thank you for forwarding Mr. Whitten's email to me.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Jason, that's exactly what I was afraid of. A bunch of form letters. Truly pathetic.

Shawn said...

Sounds exactly like ther form they sent me when i sent them a letter a while back. Blah blah blah, condescending talk-down, you misunderstood what was said, etc.

Never an admission of an error by the omnipotent CBC. Heck, how dare I criticize shoddy journalism....I only pay for it with my tax dollars.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Shawn, yeah. It is disgusting.

Alberta Girl said...

I got the same letter - I replied back asking the Ms. Lawand publicly retract her statements otherwise the integrity of any further reports will be held in question.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Alberta Girl & Jason - You both had great responses. Please let me know if they actually reply with something other than a form letter. Thanks!

Gerry said...

All the CBC is good at is hockey and comedy, and I wasn't aware that people actually took their news reporting seriously.

Anonymous said...

Jason, you're just starting to have your eyes opened regarding CBC reporting...keep watching closely and as you follow more and more blogs you will see that their "news" is most often disguised "opinion", it's quite sad. I was disappointed too when I found out...I have come to the conclusion that most of the MSM sucks, they are biased one way or the other, so I will continue to get my news and opinion from blogs.


Joanne (True Blue) said...

Gerry - Their 'news' reporting is comedy. ;)

Sara said...

holy shit JO,,, you did it,,, its not the words but you got a response of a direct question... nice one.. see blogging does matter

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Sara, thanks but don't get too excited. If you check out Stephen Taylor's latest post and comments on this issue, you'll see that it was a form letter designed to placate the masses.


TrustOnlyMulder said...

Holy Bejeebers. I just posted about this same letter after reading the identical form reply that Jay posted in Stephen Taylor's comments!!

The CBC cookie cutter is working overtime.

For Gerry, who says they do Hockey well?

CTV will be taking over shortly after their $140M/year bid which the CBC cannot meet. I would much rather see Pierre McGuire doing hockey than the old fars Harry "it's not the check, but the sudden stop" Neale and Bob "have you seen my glasses" Cole.

All the CTV has to do is hire Ron MacLean, Kelly Hrudey and they can dump the rest.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Mulder, I tried leaving a comment on your blog, but I'm not sure if it worked. I'll try again later.

Anonymous said...

No surprises here. The CBC from time immemorial has sent out the same drivel that's supposed to pass for a "reasoned" (sic) response to its critics' complaints.

Especially now that Tony Burman is at the helm, the idea is to make sure that the reader can't see the forest through the trees: layer upon layer of detailed blather is supposed to dazzle you with the CBC's insightful and in-depth analysis of your concern when, in fact, the CBC has in no way answered your detailed concerns.

Add to this that the CBC Ombudsman, Vince Carlin, is a CBC alumnus, detoured for a few years to Ryerson's Journalism department, and then asked back to the CBC to be their ombudsman: I thought ombudspeople were supposed to be dispassionate and neutral. There's no conflict of interest here, is there?

The CBC has NEVER, to my knowledge, apologized for any indiscretions or outright misprepresentations, certainly not in the past 30 years that I've been calling them on bias and inaccuracy in their reporting. It's against their policy to own their mistakes and then to say they apologize for them.

As I say CBC = Crap Begets Crap.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Anon, well said! lol!!

Maybe we should request that they change their name to GIGO (Garbage In; Garbage Out.)

Nicole said...

Hey JO!!!
Now I have to go back and reread your post because when I clicked over to the comments, I see RT has been here. Is the cold war over?
I take off for a week, last I heard you 2 were "dead" to each other. Well, I have to say, it is kinda nice to see. Maybe there still is hope for the world.....

Sara said...

Jo, I'm gone to Halifax for a week but I'll still get my email and keep up my blog just not as much as normal..

wish me luck

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Good luck, Sara!! You go girl. :)

PGP said...

You are learning that the CBC and its officers or spokespeople are following the "policy".
It is required that they respond but not that they address the issues.

I've been through this myself, notably when they were using the public broadcasters resources to (IMO) promote the marketing and consulting business of a pair of ex-liberal flacks. Under the guise of what they described as a subject of interest to the public, they manufactured a nice little Q&A that neatly provided a platform for shilling the post liberal gravy train private enterprise.

As with the responses you are getting, the replies fulfilled the policy requirement but certainly did not address the issues. There was no "mea-culpa" only arguments in defence of the actions taken.

This is clearly proof of the total self centred and self serving culture that the CBC has grown into.

Every time you hear them present themselves as the defenders of truth and spokespeople for the Canadian public you migh feel the outrage that I do and have done for many years.
Canadian taxpayers should not be forced to fund this support group for self righteous socialist causes.

BTW ..just discovered CBC watch? Where have you been? ( Smile and wink ) ;)

Joanne (True Blue) said...

.just discovered CBC watch? Where have you been?

lol! Yeah, I guess I'm behind the times, here! Great site though!

You're absolutely right about the CBC responses. They pay "lip service" and nothing more. You can tell by the tone of the form letters that they don't care a bit what you think about them. They are accountable to no one, or so it seems.

Also, getting this run-around pass-the-buck thing is ridiculous!

My letter gets passed from the Ombudsman to two other guys, and then I have to write back the Ombudsman????

That is like voice-mail jail in cyberspace!

Darren said...

I'm joining this conversation late, and so need some clarification: why are you characterizing this response as a form letter?

I understand that it was used as a comment elsewhere, but is your expectation that someone from the CBC respond to each instance of the common complaint with unique verbiage?

jeff davidson said...

holy shit JO,,, you did it,,, its not the words but you got a response of a direct question... nice one.. see blogging does matter
although i enjoy writing my blog also, i feel i must point out that the cbc has been dealing with complaints from the viewing public since time began. in the days before blogs, yes sara it's true, people wrote letters and sent them by mail. these days, since most cbc viewers don't have blogs, people can pass on comments or complaints to the cbc with a wee innovation called "email".
there doesn't appear to be any deception in your reply, joanne. it seems pretty straight forward. i'm amazed at how often you cast a doubting eye towards the cbc but accept the "news" from the tor sun or the post as the gospel.objectivity doesn't appear to be your strong point.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Jeff, the difference is that our taxes do not subsidize the Sun or Post.

A form letter is better than nothing; but barely.

Anonymous said...

I got the same - exact same - reply from the same flunky after which I realized that it was only a form letter as it in no way addressed the criticism I sent to Vince Carlin.

We are living in a pinko socialist country, my fellow Canadians, and they sure don't like the idea that enough Canadians got smart enough to elect an honest, uncorrupt man as PM. Problem is, the whole bloated bureaucracy which is our federal government has become as corrupt & immoral as the Liberal Party, and it will take PMSH years to ferret them all out.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Anon - amen.