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.

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