Friday, March 11, 2011

Why I dislike CBC News

I have to preface this by saying the CBC has been a major part of my life since before I was born. My dad, as I've said before, was a TV producer. My mom wrote and acted in countless radio dramas and did the odd TV gig. I cut my teeth as an actor on CBC Radio and did two Beachcombers episodes; the first time I got paid to write was for CBC TV (Rene Simard Show in the 70s). When I was out of work, the Mothercorp came to my rescue with three solid weeks of work until my previous station let me back in.

But over the past few years, there's been a shift in the perspective of much of the programming, particularly news and public affairs. Maybe I've shifted, and just hadn't seen how slanted the point of view is. Let's just say that, if "Canada Lives Here [at CBC]", as the "positioner" states, where the heck do I live?

In the course of less than two hours last night, I found a stream of reasons why I feel this way. CBC's local afternoon show, then The World At Six, followed by As It Happens, ran a series of stories on politically-charged events, and every one of them lacked an important ingredient.

The other side.

The items were:
  1. protests over Wisconsin's new labor laws: an interview with an organizer from the BC Government and Service Employees Union who had gone to Madison, WI, to join the protests; she used language like "attack on organized labor", "destroying the middle class" and other such rhetoric.
  2. more on the protests on The World At Six
  3. The World At Six had a spot-news item on the opening of hearings into an alleged conspiracy by Muslims in the US to promote terror: the "radicalization" of American Islamists
  4. on As It Happens, an interview with the communications person for a "moderate" Muslim organization, decrying the right-wing reactionary approach to the above hearings, playing (for a second time) an emotional statement by a Congressman about a Muslim firefighter killed in 9/11 and who had been, apparently, accused of being "in league" with the terrorists; the public affairs person described how Muslims had been working with the FBI to expose the efforts to radicalize young Americans
  5. On The World At Six, an interview with international AIDS envoy Stephen Lewis about the bill to allow Canadian generic drug companies to export drugs overseas -- particularly drugs to combat the effects of AIDS.
  6. Also on The World At Six, an interview with the person who developed an educational curriculum for Omar Khadr, the Muslim-Canadian imprisoned at Guantanamo for killing US soldiers.
Now, if you have left-wing tendencies, you probably wouldn't have noticed the slant. Rhetoric like the CBC reporter who referred to the chairman of the committee investigating the Muslim issue as "leaving out facts" let you know not just where he -- the reporter -- was coming from but also implied that if you were in any way sympathetic to the right-wing point of view, then you, too, were bigoted, ignorant, knuckle-dragging scum.

See, here's what I wanted to hear -- and would actually expect to hear it on the taxpayer-funded public broadcast outlet that's supposed to represent all Canadians:
  1. some of the reasons why the Wisconsin government brought in this labor legislation in the first place. Do we simply assume that the Governor and all Republicans in the state have conspired to come up with a carefully-crafted, union-busting piece of legislation, stripping away people's rights? Or is there a specific problem they're trying to address and this is the only way they can do it? Have they tried other means and felt stonewalled by organized labor? Maybe it's the former ... maybe it's the latter ... maybe it's something else ... but I want to be able to make up my own mind.
  2. similarly, I wanted to hear more about why this Congressional committee was trying to dig up dirt on Muslims in the US. How many Americans have been radicalized? How? What are the suspicions? The CBC was quick to invoke the term "McCarthyism", which was certainly a dark point in history, but people tend to forget -- or ignore -- the fact that there were Communists active in US Government positions and in areas of influence, like the movie industry. Whether this constituted a real danger was something that should have been looked into, but from as objective a point of view as possible - not in the atmosphere of fear that McCarthy and his ilk created. Same thing here: there's an opportunity to dig into an issue, but without airing out the suspicions and the evidence for holding those suspicions, how can we make up our own minds?
  3. the interview with Stephen Lewis made it clear that exporting drugs that combat the effects of AIDS was a good thing -- and couched in the terms that it would help children infected with the virus, of course it is. But Mr Lewis and his organization have been on record as scoffing at idea of promoting abstinence -- indeed, practically any time someone has the temerity to raise the issue of abstience at an international AIDS conference (the ones that invariably call for another billion dollars to be spent on the futile search for a cure or a vaccine), they're shouted down and accused of being manipulated by those wicked American Evangelicals. Since there is no cure and no vaccine and people continue to contract AIDS despite the active promotion of condom use, it's evident that these drugs will do little more than delay the inevitable. For the children, I'm all for it: it's not their fault. But how many million more will become sick and die while this high-priced charade continues? Needless to say, that was not part of the discussion.
  4. I had stopped listening by the time the Omar Khadr piece came on.
I want to hear all sides and make up my own mind -- not have it made up for me by observers and commentators, and especially not delivered in a way that I find sneers at anyone who doesn't hold that point of view. Is that too much to ask of the taxpayer-funded broadcaster? The network's "positioner" states, "Canada Lives Here", but that vision of Canada is very narrow and is founded in the sense that we're sure glad we're Not American -- the classic Canadian inferiority complex.

In World War II, Lorne Greene was anchoring the nightly news on CBC Radio. The Allies had been taking a beating in Europe, but word came of a significant victory. Greene -- who had been known as "The Voice of Doom" -- prefaced the story with the ad-lib, "Tonight, we are pleased to bring you some good news from the front."

Calls and letters came in, excoriating Greene for showing any kind of bias -- even where our own forces were concerned. How things have changed.

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