The CBC has stopped being a critic since the Harper Cons have implied that more cuts would be coming if they kept pointing out what the Harperites are doing to Canada........
A Leading Exemplar of The CBC's Policy Of Conservative Appeasement
I received the following email yesterday from Jack Nagler, Director of Journalistic Public Accountability and Engagement at the CBC, regarding my conflict of interest complaint about Rex Murphy. [quote]
Thank you for your Feb. 5th email to the CBC Ombudsman about Rex Murphy. There have been suggestions he is in a conflict of interest because he has given paid speeches to groups supportive of the oil industry, and suggestions that the CBC should have disclosed this fact when he addressed the subject of Neil Young’s anti-oilsands initiative on The National last month.
While I don’t believe there is a conflict of interest, there is a serious issue about transparency, one that we are reviewing at the moment.
But let me address both concerns.
On the question of Mr. Murphy and the alleged conflict of interest:
First, Mr. Murphy is not a full-time employee of CBC News He is a self-employeed freelance. He does some work for CBC. He also does outside work, including speaking engagements.
Second, -- and I want to emphasize this -- the very reason Mr. Murphy appears on The National is to do analysis and express his point of view – he is not a regular reporter. We even call his segment on the program “Rex Murphy’s Point of View" to distinguish it from regular reports. His perspective on the oilsands, whether viewers agree with it or not, is an analytical argument based on facts, and is perfectly valid commentary.
He has been utterly consistent in expressing those views for a long time, and he makes the same broad points whether he is talking on The National, in a newspaper, or in a speech at a public event. We have no reason to question the independence and integrity of those views. That is important. Yes, Mr. Murphy holds an opinion that people in the oilpatch may like and agree with. But it is a considerable leap in logic to suggest that he is therefore in the pocket of this industry.
Third, the most important consideration for us is whether we are providing our audience with a varied and balanced perspective on an issue as important as oilsands development – and I believe we are. You may note that Mr. Murphy’s “Point of View” segment criticizing Neil Young was a response to a feature interview The National aired with Mr. Young two days earlier. There’s no other national newscast that gave Mr. Young and his views that kind of platform. It’s all part of us fulfilling our mandate as the public broadcaster to reflect diverse opinions and to offer Canadians the opportunity and the information they need to make up their own minds.
The other question, as I noted at the beginning, is that of disclosure: what information can and should we share with the audience about the outside activities of freelance contributors to on CBC News?
In policy and practice we support the idea of transparency, not just for Rex Murphy but for all of our contributors. But implementing this is not always as simple as it sounds.
There are a set of complicating factors, ranging from how much we can legally demand of our freelancers, to privacy rights of our employees, to what constitutes “full disclosure”. Is it only paid speeches we should disclose? Or do we need to be concerned about journalists who attend charity events, or moderate a public forum? Does the content of a speech matter, or does the mere act of getting in front of a lectern make it a question of public concern? And finally, how do we share the disclosure so the audience can properly judge for themselves what’s appropriate?
All are good questions. In light of your concerns and those of others about Mr. Murphy, our senior editors are reviewing the way we deal with the issue to ensure we are appropriately transparent with our viewers. I expect that review will be completed in the next few weeks. When it is we’ll be sure to post it. In the meantime, we thank you for your patience.
You should also be aware that the CBC Ombudsman has already launched a separate review of this subject. 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. When that review is complete, it will be posted on the Ombudsman's website at CBC Ombudsman.
I hope this response has reassured you of the integrity of our news service, as well as our willingness and desire to serve Canadians properly.
Director of Journalistic Public Accountability and Engagement,
There is much more detail on all this included in a recent blog post by CBC News General Manager and Editor-in-Chief Jennifer McGuire, which I encourage you to read at: http://www.cbc.ca/newsblogs/community/editorsblog/2014/02/a-question-of-conflict.html
You might also be interested in what Mr. Murphy himself had to say in response to the critique of his ethics. He wrote an op-ed piece this past weekend in The National Post that you can find at: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2014/02/22/rex-murphy-speaking-my-mind-no-matter-the-issue/