Here’s the first installment of “What Was Wrong With CBC’s The National Last Night”. In these blurbs I will summarize the CBC’s flagship news program from the previous night, highlighting what was glossed over or completely ignored by the public broadcaster in the last day’s news cycle. I will also question, where applicable, stories given undue prominence. Of course, one person can’t possibly make news judgments on all of the news stories bombarding us endlessly on cyberspace 24/7, but I’ll do my humble best to point out the most glaring omissions and overtly biased coverage. I’ll also include hyperlinks to stories, where needed, to show when crucial information has been left out of The National‘s coverage. I realize it is incredibly difficult to put together an hour-long news show each night, but CBC doesn’t get paid the big bucks for nothing (the public broadcaster gets well over a billion dollars a year of taxpayers’ money), so it should be held to a very high standard. I also won’t scrutinize every segment, instead primarily focusing my attention on The National‘s Canadian stories with a political element, as well as coverage of the U.S. It’s also hard for broadcast journalism, which uses images and short segments to tell stories, to get into the meat of a story. However, every story has crucial information that should be included in a broadcast report, and I, and I’m sure many readers, have noticed The National can be incredibly biased in how it frames news stories. So it’s worth doing this exercise to reveal what those CBC biases are. My past criticism of CBC has always had great engagement, and who knows, maybe there’s an off chance, and this is likely delusional, but, if enough of you read and share this, maybe we can keep the CBC’s The National‘s feet to the fire and affect the coverage for the better. Maybe we could even help them recover their abysmal ratings, behind both Global and CTV, with some constructive criticism.
Now, without further ado, here’s the inaugural deconstruction of CBC’s The National.
The National always starts off with previews of that night’s top stories. Last night’s top stories were: NAFTA trade tensions, new mortgage rules possibly pricing people out of the market, Quebec debating legislation banning face-coverings when receiving public services, and the “Calgray apologizes for last night’s election mess.” Noticeably–bizarrely–moneybags Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s recent troubles were conspicuously absent from the lineup. But more on that unforgivable omission later.
The lead story was a report from CBC’s Katie Simpson from Washington on the ongoing NAFTA negotiations. I was going to give this segment a passing grade for relatively good objectivity, but at the end of the report Simpson made a whopper of an assertion.
“You’ll remember during the final stretch of the Canadian-European free trade deal Chrystia Freeland walked out and cried during a tense point which was an incredibly successful tactic.”
Right. Freeland’s waterworks made the Europeans feel sorry for her so they gave into all of her demands out of a feeling of guilt over being tough on her during negotiations. In reality, that trade deal had already been largely hammered out by the Harper government and was going to get signed whether or not Freeland weeped. And how does Simpson know that was a “tactic” and not just Freeland’s emotions getting the better of her? Let’s hope Freeland doesn’t start tearing up in negotiations against Trump and the Americans. I don’t think it will get us very far and I don’t want to hear the CBC, again, spinning it into some brilliant strategy on Freeland’s part.
(By the way, here’s a good time to do an aside on how God-awful the video player is on CBC’s website. First off, I’m pretty sure it has more commercials than the private networks Global and CTV–COMBINED. And when I tried to pause and go back to transcribe Simpson editorializing, the stupid video started all over and I had to watch several commercials all over again. The video also freezes regularly. $1.2 billion from the government every year and our public broadcaster still can’t get a simple website right. It’s reminiscent of the two billion dollars spent on the disastrous Obamacare website. The lesson here, folks, is government-funded projects almost always suck spectacularly, or at the very least cost many multiples than they should just to be mediocre at best. And yes, I realize the government is a necessary evil needed to provide certain services to the public.)
Next up was Bombardier’s “deal” with AirBus. The report was pretty accurate, with a few minor problems. The CBC reporter mitigated the fact that the Trudeau government gave Bombardier a $372.5 million loan. When talking about government “investment” in failing Bombardier, the reporter said Quebec invested more than a billion and then followed it up by saying “Ottawa lent millions.” This would be more accurate: the Trudeau government lent hundreds of millions to Bombardier with very little strings attached. The CBC report also failed to mention that Bombardier was given additional money under the false pretense it was saving Canadian jobs. In reality, Bombardier has been cutting Canadian jobs, shipping them off to Mexico and China for years. There’s also Trudeau’s personal connection to Bombardier and his pandering to Quebec. The CBC report also didn’t mention the scandal of Bombardier execs getting fat bonuses after receiving the federal and provincial bailouts. The CBC report also wasn’t very clear on how Bombardier got taken to the cleaners by AirBus in this latest deal. Who is one state-funded corporation to be the judge of another state-funded corporation?
The next segment was on mortgage changes–which seemed pretty balanced in its reporting.
The following segment was on the possible ban of face-coverings in Quebec when receiving public services, ostensibly for identification and safety purposes, and how it may single out and unfairly affect Muslim women who wear the niqab and burqa. Of course the CBC found a woman who chose to start wearing the niqab a couple years ago. All the Muslim women CBC finds seem to make the choice of their own volition, devoid of any outside influence. I’ve already covered CBC’s bias towards Muslim face-coverings in “CBC’s Impudent Prettification of the Niqab” a couple years ago, and I continue to see this bias persist unabated by the public broadcaster.
Then, to prove CBC’s feminist credentials after it defended and misrepresented a patriarchal symbol of oppression as a symbol of women empowerment, the CBC reported on the private member’s bill being proposed in Ontario that would make it illegal for employers to enforce a dress code requiring women to wear high heels. Never mind doing a report on the scathing Auditor General’s report, from earlier that day, which revealed Wynne’s government kept billions of dollars off the budget in its Fair Hydro Plan (read, Unfair Hydro Scheme for Winning Re-election) by paying accountants millions to come up with an elaborate way to cook the books. No, a bill that hasn’t even passed about high heels in the workplace is definitely more newsworthy and fashionable to report.
The next story with a political angle on The National was on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women disaster. It seemed pretty accurate, except it didn’t mention all of the staff recently quitting the total train wreck inquiry.
Finally, back to the moneybags Bill Morneau story blowing up this week, which was inexplicably absent from Tuesday’s The National. It is in fact shaping up to be the story of this week. On Monday, the bombshell revelations that the finance minister didn’t disclose to the ethics commissioner, for two years, a private corporation his private villa in France is under and that he didn’t put his assets in a blind trust, despite claiming he had, leaving him open to huge conflicts of interest. As some journalists have pointed out, Morneau could be personally benefiting–greatly–financially from decisions he makes as finance minister. Mark my words, if this was the old government this would be the lead story for months. (My God did they beat the dead horse that was the Mike Duffy scandal for years.) Instead, Morneau’s scandal got a minute and forty-six seconds of coverage on Monday night’s show. The segment’s narrative was that Morneau was “struggling” politically and that PM Trudeau rode “to his rescue” and that Trudeau’s people “clearly aren’t happy” with Morneau. Excuse me, but the whole reason the finance minister is facing a firing squad is because he’s carrying the water for Trudeau in going after small businesses and moderately wealthy professionals (to generate more government revenue for a PM who likes to spare no expense) which puts a big fat bull’s eye target on the backs of the fabulously wealthy Morneau and Trudeau himself because they aren’t going after all the loopholes the O.1 per cent like themselves benefit from greatly, like escaping inheritance tax on a French villa, offshore tax havens, or Trudeau’s family fortune. Instead the Monday night’s The National spent more time trumpeting the government’s last minute tax cut for small businesses, a desperate attempt for the government to change the channel on its own hypocrisy, than on the Morneau scandal erupting right now.
Trudeau threw Morneau under the bus by forcing him to try and ram through these tax changes, but somehow he’s the hero coming to the rescue in CBC’s eyes. And the CBC reporter also suggests something quite extraordinary needs to happen for a finance minister to be suddenly removed from his/her position, and that these revelations aren’t enough. It’s amazing how broadcast journalism can completely change the tone of a damning story of conflict-of-interest. The short clip didn’t even mention Morneau’s company and his huge stake in it, or how his new tax plan could benefit it, but instead said something along the lines of, “Morneau must be wondering how the heck he got here.” Ah, gee, shucks, the poor guy is down on his luck and doesn’t deserve the flack he’s getting. I have a sneaking suspicion the CBC’s The National won’t be able to avoid covering this scandal tomorrow or the next day. However, it will be fascinating to see how they spin it.