A Canadian's perspective on domestic and international issues. Independent coverage of Canadian federal, provincial and municipal elections and anything of interest in Canada.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

CBC coverage of Canadian Federal Election

I'm concerned about the CBC's election coverage. Reporters, in particular CBC Ottawa Bureay chief Keith Boag, it seems to me, continually refer to the NDP and Greens as also-ran, and to base coverage on the polls. It is not up to the CBC to decide which parties are or are not real contenders. It is the job of the CBC to give equal time and space to all persons and parties running in the election.

Clearly, some of the other national media are firmly in the pockets of the two big parties, based partly on the fact their "mother" companies are owned by millionaires who support the big parties. But the CBC is owned by the people of Canada and, as a result, has an obligation to present the news in as unbiased form as possible. We expect more of the CBC than we do from Global or CTV, whose coverage reflects the bias of their parent companies. Your parent company is the people of Canada!

When reporters like Boag go out before a national audience and refer to parties like the NDP and Greens as having no chance to win, which Boag frequently does, we're left with the impression the CBC actually supports the political imbalance, and the combined Liberal and Conservative positions, that they are the only two parties that really count.

My other concern is the frequent sessions with chief anchorman Peter Mansbridge and reporters from the big newspapers in Ontario and Quebec. These reporters work for companies that are owned by millionaires. Their views, intentional or not, reflect the positions of these big media barons. I have yet to hear a single one of these reporters refer to either the NDP or Greens as being anything but also rans. This helps to perpetuate the myth that Canadians only have a choice between the two big parties, which simply is not true. There are other choices and I think its high time the people-owned national broadcaster begins to recognize this.

As a former reporter, I recognize the entire election has been phrased in terms of a sporting event, like boxing, where one opponent battles another. The reality is quite different. The current election has more in common with a WWF free-for-all than it does with an Ali-Foreman rematch. This occurs, I think, because of a lack of imagination and ability to adapt on behalf of the reporters and thier editors. They simply do not seem to know how to cover an election that involves more than two contenders. The CBC, like Global and CTV, seem to be stuck with the old road map and guide. They either don't know how, or are too lazy to, wrap the coverage in modern context, and revert to using the same old boxing match analogies used back in the days when Canadian politics was a fight between just two contenders.

Personally, and this is nothing against Boag as a person, but he's been the Ottawa bureau chief for far too long. He's stuck and seems incapable of bringing any new perspective to the table. You might say he's a little like the Liberal party. I think you need to change him up. Also, I think if Mansbridge is going to talk with people, it should be everyday people, plumbers, nurses, school teachers, bus drivers, single moms, et al, instead of these talking heads who work for the media giants. At very least, he should switch these people up from time to time. Every week its the same old tired faces with the same old outdated perspective. Nothing against Chantel and Alan and the rest but, find someone else to talk to!

I think the worse thing about the CBC's dependence on big league reporters from national papers is the reporters themselves. They've been so long in the scrum, so long behind their desks writing about national politics, that they've lost touch with the people. These reporters hang out with other reporters, they move around in the same scrums, they have expense accounts and obligations to their parent companies. They seldom ever speak to, let alone socialize, with everyday people who are not somehow connected to either the parties or the media. Their perspectives are those of people who have not been outside their own social circles in a very long time. Thus, their bias is that of the people who they meet and speak with most often, other reporters and editors. They do not reflect the common working people in this country. Sadly, this fact, leaves the common folk with the impression that the media are in the back pockets of the two big parties. True or not, that's the impression people are left with.

Throughout this election I have been very disappointed with the way the CBC has pandered to the Liberals and Conservatives. Every night, when the election news segment begins, it is always either a clip on the Liberals, or a clip on the Conservatives. I know it is justified by the belief that most Canadians will vote for either one or the other, but I wonder if that would be so if our media was to stop reinforcing the myth that these two parties are the only ones that really count.

I've always turned to the CBC when I wanted to get a real Canadian perspective. Sadly, in recent years, all I'm hearing from the CBC is the same stuff I can get on the other channels. This is less so with CBC Radio than CBC TV, but it is nontheless, and very sadly, true.

Short of performing a major house cleaning, and getting rid of people like Boag and Mansbridge, who are so steeped in the Ottawa and Toronto press gang club they are like institutions unto themselves, I think the least the CBC can do is stop relying on other reporters, from other media companies, and start talking to people who jobs are not connected to the media. We want Canadian perspective, not the perspective of Canadian reporters.


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