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Problems at the Public Broadcaster 

[PoliticsWatch updated 11:30 a.m., August 27, 2007]

The CBC has been at the centre of a number of recent controversies, including publishing a doctored photo.

OTTAWA -- The CBC has found itself in the middle of a number of controversies in recent months. 

In April, the public broadcaster's Web site accompanied a story about Kyoto with 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. 

Conservative bloggers, who have long accused the network's news of being biased, discovered the original picture and soon made allegations about the network doctoring photos.

When he appeared before the Commons heritage committee a few weeks later, Tony Burman, editor in chief of CBC News, Current Affairs and Newsworld, CBC Radio and Television, was grilled by Conservative MPs about the photo. 

Burman described the incident as "an inadvertent error" that occurred after a retouched photo was misfiled. Burman said the retouched photo was never meant to be published. Despite Burman's explanation the Tory MPs on the committee remained skeptical. 

In late June, Burman announced he was stepping down as head of CBC News after seven years on the job, an unexpected move that surprised many. 

Burman's departure created another controversy for the CBC when it hired the headhunting firm Egon Zehnder International to find his replacement.  

An internal memo went out at the CBC advising interested candidates for the job to send their applications to Tom Long, who is a former Canadian Alliance leadership candidate. His media spokesperson for that campaign was Sandra Buckler, who is now director of communications for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The link between Long and the PM's top spokesperson was enough to prompt NDP MP Charlie Angus to accuse the government of meddling with the selection process. 

"Stephen Harper has been obsessive in his attempt to control, limit and spin the political media of this country," he said. "It is unacceptable that he has a key political buddy vetting the resumes of potential CBC news directors."

In addition, PoliticsWatch reported in July on CBC's little known exclusive Web advertising deal with American Web giant AOL

The CBC refuses to disclose any financial details about the arrangement with AOL. All that can be confirmed is that it is a revenue sharing arrangement, with AOL receiving a percentage of CBC's online ad revenues. The exact percentage AOL receives and how much money the deal has brought in for the CBC is not known. 

Some MPs on the heritage committee, who are in the midst of a study on the CBC in the 21st century,  were not aware of the ad deal. 

Conservative MP Chris Warkentin told PoliticsWatch he planed to ask CBC executives about the deal with AOL when they appear before the committee in the fall. 

There will be more nervous times ahead for the CBC. 

CBC and Radio Canada's main broadcasting licenses expire on August 31, 2007, but were extended an additional year by the CRTC to allow for a review of television policy. The government was expected to launch a mandate review after the heritage committee completes its study of the CBC. 

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