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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ethics expert investigating CBC-Liberal collusion

CBC Ombudsman Vince Carlin has just been handed the hot potato from Hell.

Carlin has to investigate a formal complaint from the Conservative Party of Canada that a CBC reporter provided questions to Liberal members of the Parliamentary Ethics Committee to ask former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

If he confirms it, he will confirm, whether he admits it or not, the long-held belief that CBC reporters are biased against the Conservatives and allied with the federal Liberals. The fallout will be widespread and lasting.

If he says he can't confirm it, he risks being humiliated by TVA reporter (and former Liberal cabinet minister) Jean LaPierre, who first reported the CBC-Liberal collusion story. If LaPierre comes up with the name of the CBC reporter, then Carlin will be widely seen as part of a cover-up and he'll likely find himself looking for a job. The fallout from this scenario would be worse.

He could try to straddle the fence and say he can't find the evidence against any reporter but declare that, in general, collaborating with one party against another is bad and shouldn't be done by any CBC reporter. That would have about as much credibility as Mulroney's safety-deposit box story. The answer would satisfy nobody, except perhaps the Liberals, and the suspicion of the CBC would fester like flesh-eating disease.

And it doesn't help the CBC that, according to Carlin's bio on the CBC website, he "also became one of the leading commentators on journalism ethics in Canada and has appeared as an expert witness on journalistic practice and ethics in a number of legal cases involving most of the major media outlets in the country."

And if that isn't enough, Carlin's wife is an ethics teacher with Ryerson University's Philosophy Department.

Some clues as to where Carlin's investigation is going may lie in the Canadian Press story Saturday on the CBC probe:

CBC reviewing claim reporter fed questions to Liberal MP

OTTAWA - The CBC has begun an internal investigation and possible disciplinary action after one of its parliamentary reporters apparently suggested questions to a Liberal MP taking part in the high-profile Mulroney-Schreiber inquiry.

CP states flatly that CBC is investigating "one of its parliamentary reporters." Oh?

(Note, also, how CP frames the matter by gently describing collusion as 'suggesting questions.')

The CBC has many "parliamentary reporters". In Manitoba, the journalistic community wondered if CBC's Golden Girl, Krista Erickson, let her zeal get the better of her. But nobody in English Canada gives two hoots over the issue the Liberals raised with Mulroney-- Quebecor and cell phone licences--so you can likely cross off Krista from the list of suspects, along with the rest of the CBC's parliamentary cabal--Don Newman, Senior Parliamentary Editor; Susan Murray, Senior Parliamentary Reporter, CBC Radio; Keith Boag, Parliamentary bureau chief and whatever host of others carry the designation.

CBC reporter Rosemary Barton was covering the ethics committee hearings, but she's not a parliamentary reporter as such. However she was identified as "a political reporter for Montreal's CBC News at Six." during the February Quebec election, and that may point in the right direction.

It's likely that the reporter who phoned the Liberals, a call confirmed by one of their own researchers to LaPierre, was from Radio-Canada, the French arm of the CBC.

And, in fact, you can find this story on Radio-Canada's website

Mise à jour le samedi 1 décembre 2007 à 7 h 27
Téléphonie sans fil
Quebecor se défend
Quebecor affirme n'avoir rien à se reprocher dans le processus qui a amené Ottawa à ouvrir davantage le marché de la téléphonie sans fil.
Jeudi, CBC rapportait que l'ancien premier ministre Brian Mulroney, membre du conseil d'administration de Quebecor, aurait joué un rôle important de lobbying dans cette affaire, alors qu'il n'est pas un lobbyiste enregistré.

Which sort of translates (thank you Google) to:

Wireless Telephony: Quebec Defends Itself
The Quebec group claims to have abided by the rules in the process of lobbying on the opening of the market for wireless telephony. Selon CBC, Brian Mulroney aurait fait des représentations pour Quebecor, alors qu'il n'est pas un lobbyiste enregistré. According to CBC, Brian Mulroney had made representations to Quebecor, as he is not a registered lobbyist.

Lo and behold, Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez was asking Brian Mulroney about that very same issue at the ethics commitee on Thursday. Coincidence?

And a little further digging on the CBC-French website turns up a list of their
Parliamentary correspondents in Ottawa:
Geneviève Asselin, Daniel Lessard, Jean-Yves Michaud and Patrice Roy


Of course, the CBC has already informed the public that if the allegations of collusion turn out to be true, the identify of the CBC reporter will be protected.

The CP story stated:

The public broadcaster did not name the reporter, but said "the particulars of this matter are currently under investigation and will be considered under the disciplinary processes outlined in our collective agreement."

Got that? Collective agreement.

Cone of silence.
So back off.

But CBC has hundreds of employees, some of whom actually claim to be reporters.

Confronted with a great story tinged with a possible cover-up, the CBC journalists will have to live up to their alleged reputation and expose the name of the reporter to the public.

They are always the first to climb their high horse and declare the public has a right to know. And in this case we do have a right to know if the public broadcaster is in bed with the Liberal Party. The "journalists" at the CBC have no option but to go around their union contract and name names.

Oh, the irony.

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