Saturday, April 21, 2007

The CBC's Office of the Ombudsman

Since the "Lawand report" last year, there have been a few CBC stories that have bothered me and others (via CanuckJack). It got to the point where I was seriously questioning the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's integrity; an upsetting position, given that they're publicly funded.

In reading the CBC Ombudsman's latest annual report, and his findings regarding the "Lawand report" (including his further observations), I do sense a commitment to principled journalism. However, I can't help but wish that the Office of the Ombudsman had more teeth. For example, the following review of a complaint is from his annual report:

Program: The World At Six, CBC Radio
Mr. Pounder complained about a CBC Radio report about Venezuela. Chavez may or may not be the villain the CBC makes him out to be. But the CBC's presentation is so dubious that it is impossible for listeners to form their own judgment.
Review ([David] Bazay)
While it is true that program balance can and should be best determined over time, and while I found overall coverage to be pretty well balanced, I did agree that there was some merit to Mr. Pounder's complaint. The report gave voice to one of President Chavez's supporters and to two of his critics, including the priest/sociologist cited at the very end of the item who described President Chavez as a tropical Milosovec, and accused him of destroying Venezuela's democracy. I shared Mr. Pounder's view that in fairness the president or one of his supporters should have had the opportunity to respond.

I wonder whether that's enough; whether, in the event that this sort of reporting was shown to be systematic, anything could be done about it. Again, it's my money we're talking about here.

I suppose the 43 466 complaints regarding the Green Party's exclusion from the televised leaders' debate last year support the notion that the CBC would be held to account for such actions; well, that they would draw significant ire anyway. And with the Ombudsman recommending greater public access to the Office in his annual report, one can hope that there wouldn't be a shortage of publicly-available evidence.

Update: May 9: The Auditor General also evaluates the CBC periodically.

Rory Stewart on The Agenda

If you haven't heard Rory Stewart speak, do yourself a favour and watch or listen to Steve Paikin's interview with him on The Agenda.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Green Party policy and nonviolence

The Green Party has announced that Kevin Potvin will not be allowed to run as their Vancouver-Kingsway candidate in the next election because his views are antithetical to Green Party values. The press release opens with the claim that Potvin [expressed] approval for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and that [n]on-violence is one of the Green Party's fundamental principles, so the party's position is clear.

I would hope that May read Potvin's article from 2002 before coming to that conclusion. And even if she did, I find such an unequivocal conclusion to be a bit of a stretch: after all, as Potvin clearly stated in the article, and in his rebuttal to the recent criticism, he was stating his feelings at the time, not advancing a violent ideology or some such. Besides, he was a journalist at the time. While such a statement from an elected representative of a country that must work closely with the United States might raise some eyebrows and ruffle some feathers, that's exactly what journalists are supposed to do.

Now maybe May had a telephone conversation with Potvin prior to issuing the press release. Maybe he said something to her that was aberrant to the rebuttal he posted. If so, I think it should've been included in the release, because the party's position seems flimsy as it stands; another example of the excessive caution in Canadian politics.

To take a theory such as nonviolence and apply it so broadly to everything representatives (and would-be representatives) of your party say and write is to invite disaster: if they manage to navigate that minefield at each and every press conference, you can be certain of what will be first and foremost on their minds at all times, and, by extension, of the chances of anything remotely illuminating being said.

And how did nonviolence get so high up in the party's platform anyway? When I hear antithetical and the Green Party, big oil and clear-cutting come to mind, but not violence. Not that I think violence solves anything, but it has about as much to do with environmental protection as womens' rights, or abortion. Let's stay on message here, people; at least 'til we get a bleedin' seat anyway.