CBC boss grilled about
[PoliticsWatch updated 1:00 p.m. June 5, 2007]
|The CBC used this altered photo to accompany
a story on the Kyoto accord on its Web site in April.
The head of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News faced questioning from Conservative MPs on Parliament Hill Tuesday about what they called a "doctored photo" that appeared in April on CBC's news website.
The public broadcaster's news web site carried an altered stock photo of the Toronto skyline that was
noticeably darkened and made the smog and atmospheric haze appear much
worse than in the original photo.
The altered picture of the skyline accompanied a story about the Kyoto accord and was first noticed by a Canadian conservative blogger.
During a meeting at the Commons heritage committee, Conservative MP Chris Warkentin accused the CBC of
publishing a "doctored photo" that misled the public.
The CBC official was appearing before the committee as part of its
study of the role of the public broadcaster in the 21st century.
"It was a complete misrepresentation," he said. "It speaks to the sensitivity that you have to engage in at CBC. Of course it wasn't intended, you ensure us, to mislead Canadians but in fact it did mislead people because it was there to support an opinion that was being brought forward with the article that it was published along with."
Tony Burman, editor in chief of CBC News, Current Affairs and Newsworld, CBC Radio and Television,
said the use of the darker photo of the Toronto skyline was the result of a "process error" and not indicative of any editorial bias at CBC.
"What happened then is that a photo was retouched," he said. "It wasn't retouched for use on
air . . . It got misfiled . . . It was inadvertently pulled out and used."
"It was a very subtle difference. In fact it looked very similar. We did check it. It was immediately pulled when we were aware of it. It was an inadvertent error."
The photo is one of the recent mistakes that the CBC has apologized for over the last few years.
Burman said there has been "six or seven incidents" over the past two or three years that were inadvertent. He told the committee that "things happen" in the 24-hour news business.
The CBC official was also questioned about why the CBC did not file a news report on a large pro-life rally held on Parliament Hill last month.
Organizers of the March for Life have often complained about the lack of media coverage of their annual event.
"I'm wondering as to how the decision is made not to carry 7,000 people on Parliament Hill as opposed to some times we see 20 protestors somewhere and all of a sudden that's the news story that leads out?" Warkentin asked.
Burman said he was not aware of the specifics of that editorial decision but added it was not an effort to deliberately ignore the pro-life movement.
"There's no one that woke up that morning and said 'Let's kind of willfully ignore a rally of 7,000 people,'" he said.
PoliticsWatch covered the same rally and CBC camera crews were in attendance, but the event did not appear on CBC's The National.
After the committee meeting, Burman told PoliticsWatch that those who are suspicious about the CBC being biased are limited in number.
"There isn't any evidence to suggest that Canadians are developing a mistrust with the CBC," he said, noting that there have been "limited incidents" and "some people think there's a pattern to them."
"We obviously don't."
He said accusations that the CBC has an anti Conservative or even an anti-Liberal bias go back as far as the Trudeau era.
"I don't think that it's a greater problem now than in the past, but just there
are a lot of blogs now."
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