CBC studies whether its news is biased - Macleans.ca

CBC studies whether its news is biased

Broadcaster commissions experts to determine if coverage is balanced


As Conservative senators demand to see proof that CBC polling data wasn’t shared with the Liberal Party, Hubert Lacroix, president of the broadcaster, has told the Senate finance committee that his company has commissioned a study to check whether its news is biased. “Our job—and we take it seriously—is to ensure that the information that we put out is fair and unbiased in everything that we do,” he said. Experts were hired to conduct an independent review of the company’s news gathering and delivery and are now preparing a report, scheduled to be released this fall. But the study is creating controversy within the organization. “I fear this may be part of the CBC’s attempt to placate its political opponents and to limit the ability of the news and current affairs service to do the kind of tough reporting that the public broadcaster has been known for,” said CBC Radio chief journalist Jeffrey Dvorkin, who also added that bias studies are often, ironically enough, biased themselves.

Ottawa Sun

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CBC studies whether its news is biased

  1. It's about time, I am so tired of listening to the little digs at the Conservative Government every chance they get. Not to mention the website headlines, usually in the negative light also. But if Ignatieff wants to pull out his soap box, by golly, they have all the time in the world for his daily whining. It doesn't take a study to know their bias, just listen to and read the daily news as presented by CBC. I have said it before, I would like my tax dollars towards CBC to be my choice, until they break their partnership with the Liberals, I don't want to pay for them.

  2. This should be interesting. How can the plainly obvious, pro-Liberal CBC offer an unbiased opinion? Of course they will conclude that they aren't biased.

    To do it right they should hire KPMG or some other consulting firm, but even consulting firms often tell you what they think you want to hear.

  3. CBC is a negative reporting broadcast.They report on issues they think are important.Some times they make a mountain out of a non issue. A real good broadcast is from Aljazera. They report on the true and real issues in the world. Besides,Peter Mansbridge is about as interesting as stale bread,just my point of view.

    • actually, stale bread is pretty interesting if you observe it for long enough.

  4. FYI, I am not CBC Radio's Chief Journalist and haven't been since 1997. I am the Rogers Communications Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto and executive director of the Organization of News Ombudsmen. Please run a correction. Thanks. Jeffrey Dvorkin

  5. It is CBC's inability to provide any form of "tough reporting" that will doom it.Where is the tough reporting on the AGW scam and the tie- in to multinationals carbon traders like GM.
    I read t Mr Dvorkis correction with interest. this will provide clarity for all who have dealt with the CBC's ombudsman and the smug responses to any criticism, It also illustrates the incestuous nature of Journalistic teaching, kind of like the old myth of the snake renewing it's self by eating it's own tail.
    Hiring one or two profs who aren't cultural Marxists might break the cycle and produce reporters who are able to relate to the majority of increasingly annoyed Canadians.

  6. The idea that anyone or any organization is unbiased is absurd. I don't even understand why anyone would want them to. To paraphrase Gadamer "biases are the lens through which we see the world". If you think a source is unbiased, then it's just because it shares similar biases to your own.

    Really, most of the comments here are absurd:

    [i]"They report on issues they think are important."[/i]

    So kidding! Name a news organization that reports on issues they think are irrelevant. Every news organization thinks that what they're covering is important.

    [i]"majority of increasingly annoyed Canadians"[/i]

    Who is the majority? One of those legendary silent ones? Uh huh…

    [i]"I am so tired of listening to the little digs at the Conservative Government every chance they get."[/i]

    This is the one I'm most sick of hearing: the never ending whine of Conservatives who can't imagine that their beloved party ever does anything worthy of reproach. It's not bad reporting to criticize a party if there's something wrong that they're doing.

    And guess what? They report the same stuff when Liberals do it, and Peter in particular has always been dismissive of the NDP. It just doesn't stick out to you because it just seems like reporting the facts when they're saying something negative about someone who you perceive to be the enemy.

    Here's a tip for all of you CBC bashers: read up about something called "confirmation bias"; you've got it in spades.

    And I don't think I'm unbiased – quite the opposite. However, I strive to be more conscious and honest about my biases than most.

    The only valid criticism one might be able to level at the CBC is that we shouldn't have a public broadcaster. I personally don't agree with that argument, but at least there's the potential for an intelligent discussion there. All of this crap about bias and Marxism is a load of bull from conservatives with permanent victim complexes.

    • Best comment on this issue, sums it up perfectly.

  7. I thought the CBC Ombudsman addressed this already: my understanding of his assessment was that the viewpoints made available on the CBC are slanted left. Here is the assessment.

    Here is the relevant quote from the aforementioned report linked above:
    "But there is another significant aspect to our policy. As mentioned, it calls on CBC outlets to touch on the widest range of views possible. On CBCNews.ca, there does not appear to be a wide range of “pointy” views. For instance, many of those who complained claimed that there is no one of an opposite ideological viewpoint readily apparent on the service. Unfortunately, this appears to be true. As I observed in an earlier review concerning CBC Newsworld programming, the CBC should not necessarily avoid having people of strong views on the air, but we must ensure that people of differing views are given a fair opportunity."

    To me, the CBC has looked quite unmistakably biased for a very long time. We don't need an investigation, it's pretty obvious. But if this helps those at the CBC acknowledge what I view as their lack of professionalism then I'm all for it.

    EDIT: Although, I suppose the Ombudsman was referencing their opinion pieces, not their news coverage. It sounds like this is more about the hard news coverage. Again, it seems obvious to me that there is bias, but it would be nice if an official report came to the same conclusion I guess.

    • If the Ombudsman's reportagrees with the quote you have provided, he does not say what you claim at all. If they avoid having people of strong or "pointy" views then they are in the mushy middle. That is obviously neither out in right-wing land nor on the left limb. Like it or not that is only appropriate for the national broadcaster – as the broadcaster many of you no doubt prefer likes to claim – fair and balanced.

      The cbc should not waste its time and our money trying to appease the CPC and their apologists -> if (when) the study finds no bias then the study will simply be declared biased.

      • You should read the report before making the assessment that I've misread it. I linked it in the post.

        He's not saying that CBC lacks pointy views. He is saying that CBC has pointy views from only one perspective: the Left.

      • Unfortunately, Gaunilon hasn't been very clear in what he's writing. The assessment he refers to is the response to complaints about Heather Mallick's column on Sarah Palin.

        So given that knowledge, the relevant point of his quote are the lines from the ombudsman "many of those who complained claimed that there is no one of an opposite ideological viewpoint readily apparent on the service. Unfortunately, this appears to be true." And later he recommends that "CBCNews.ca should have appropriate resources to ensure that a wide range of opinion and analysis is available."

        As a side note, however.. bias is not a lack of professionalism.

        One can also argue that since that report in 2008, they've done more than their share to balance out the opinion available, just look at P&P.

  8. Don't care whether the CBC is right, left or the unprincipled centre, just stop stealing from me to pay for it. Here's a novel idea. Ask the middle class who can't do without the CBC's leftist platitudes fund it themselves.

  9. Joe C., I couldn't have said it better myself.

  10. HA HA HA HA- What next a comission to determine if the suns rises in the east? CBC whitewash comin up!! I am tired of Peter Mnasbridge and his EXTREMELY obvious Liberal bias being paid on my dime.Shut down CBC or get news anchors that do not have an agenda.

    • Tell ya what, the CBC can get "anchors that do not have an agenda" when the National Post gets editors that don't have a right wing agenda. If the CBC actually does lean left, I would consider that an appropriate antidote to the capitalist consumerist drivel published by the commercial media, who can only survive by appeasing corporate advertisers. If we can't have balance at any one media outlet, I'll settle for a balance between them.

      • I did not know that National Post is funded by our tax dollar?

        • That rather depends on how you look at it. All corporate media in Canada are the beneficiaries of a variety of government subsidies and tax breaks. That is a form of tax payer funding. However, that wasn't my point. My point is that the very nature of commercial media makes it biased in favour of capitalist and consumerist perspectives.

          Every wonder why media environmental coverage never zones in on how to eliminate automobiles? Because newspapers would lose their automobile advertising.

          Ever wonder why the real estate pages never talk about how to sell your own house? Because–as the Kingston Whig Standard found out the hard way–the real estate companies will pull their advertising?

          I worked in radio years ago. I was called on the carpet once for making an innocent remark about the fact that we could wait to put our snow tires on our cars for a few weeks. Why? Because a tire company sponsored our traffic reports.

          If you think the corporate media aren't biased, you are truly truly clueless. The CBC, as the one mainstream media outlet in this country that doesn't rely on advertising, is the one outlet that can AFFORD to be anti-capitalist and anti-consumerist sometimes. I'm sorry that you see the occasional anti-capitalist message as a form of left-wing bias or socialist propoganda. I consider it balance of a truer variety than that found with the corporate media censors. Socialism is one of the many perspectives that should be represented in all media as part of balanced and objective reporting. …but it's not.

  11. at least the cbc isn't totally left wing anymore, Kevin O'Learey is right of Attila the Hun ..he isn't so scary though because he is a financial conservative and (we think) may not be a social conservative

    • I agree that financially he's right of Attila the Hun. Socially, he appears to be out there in his own personal fringe-land. Anyone see the Lang&O'Leary Exchange episode where he showed off his Barbie doll collection?

      A little freaky, and unnerving. Sometimes you really don't want to pull back the covers to see the true personalities behind our on-air folks.

      • i get a laugh out of kevin, he has a good schtick going even with his barbie doll collection ..they need more characters on the cbc

  12. Sure let's waste a few million so the CBC can exonerate themselves from charges even their most rabid supporters know are true. Seriously does anyone doubt their bias? Go back and study the news and comments in the two months prior to the Harper/Martin election. You will find not just bias but an incandescent hatred for Harper and the Conservatives. And Its not just in their news— its how they present it, in the tone and tenor of their commentary, in the stories they omit, the stories they quickly bury and the stories they beat to death. In the last decade they have crossed the line from their usual left-wing bias to something resembling a self-appointed propaganda agency, unable and unwilling to examine Canadian politics objectively and even-handedly.

    What CBC can't wrap their collective heads around (perhaps its dark where they keep them) is that Canada exists beyond the smoggy boundaries of the GTA and the majority of Canadians cringe when they hear their country described as "socialist". That's why Harper and the Conservatives, despite their manifest flaws, are still preferred to the doughy-headed alternatives.

    • Holy hyperbole central batman!
      -"waste a few million." er, how much do you think this review will cost? It's not a judicial inquiry for god's sake.
      -"incandescent hatred for Harper" er, that is nothing but crazy-oversensitivity there, there's never been anything resembling incandescent hatred about ANY topic on the CBC ever.
      -"cringe when they here their country described as "socialist". — actually, it's only right-wingers who are constantly whinging about Canada being "socialist" so you can blame your cringing on your whinging

  13. CBC is just the balancing act for the other mainstream media owners. Do we have to have ALL of our television broadcasters right-wing in Canada?

    • The 8% of the audience that watches/listens to the CBC should pay for it themselves and not have the other 92% fleeced to fund it. Let the freeloaders raise their own funding like PBS/NPR does in the US. Then we'll see how long CBC survives. Socialists love spending other people's money for their own benefit.

      • We DO pay for it ourselves. I assure you, JFJ, that the taxes paid by the 8% of us who listen to/watch the CBC constitute more than enough dollars to keep the CBC afloat without your contributing a cent. I'll make you a deal ok? I won't complain when my tax dollars are used to fund all kinds of BS that I don't believe in, like tax breaks for polluters and a child tax benefit for wealthy people, and you don't complain about when your tax dollars are used for things you don't believe in. Taxpayers have a broad range of interests, and despite its flaws, I think the Canadian government does a pretty decent job of representing our diverse interests in the way it uses that revenue. Spending money on the CBC is about taking care of one of those diverse constituencies. Close to 3 million Canadians is a sizable constituency at that.

        • Likewise :D

        • Well w e could always test that. Make the CBC independent to be funded by the few that want it and asee how long it lasts. One year and it'll be bankrupt. Of course the left know all about bankrupting countries. They're out in foce on the streets of Athens demanding that Germany keeps them to the life they have become acustomed to but not earned.

          European socialists have run out of other people's money to spend. McGuinty and Charest have reached the same stage in Canada.

          • Actually, Greece is bankrupt because of the Olympics. …but we won't bring that up. That makes all those right wingers who ripped us off royally to reward their own rather uncomfortable.

            If you want to set up a system were we can opt in to funding the CBC, I'll go along with it on one condition:

            I want EVERYTHING we pay taxes for to be opt-in. If you want to be able to opt-out of funding the CBC, I want to be able to opt-out of funding the Afghan war. I want to be able to opt-out of funding all the stupid tax breaks we're giving wealthy people so they can buy art supplies and soccer gear for their kids. I want to be able to opt-out of the giant government grant that was given to the Campus Crusade for Christ.

            But since I don't get to opt out of all the crap I don't believe in, how come Conservatives who hate the CBC should get special treatment?

          • No, actually, Greece is in trouble because of their socialist policies. Have you read the news lately? Also, please realize, that those "rich" people you are taking about are the ones who are keeping this country going. Where do you think the money is coming from? No rich persons = no companies = no jobs (at which point you can opt out of everything because there would be nothing left).

            Regarding the grant for CCC, would you rather have a bunch of troubled youth running around causing problems? This organization helps a lot of youth get off the street and better their lives.

  14. CBC acts like a propaganda machine for hard-left wingers.
    I agree, let their viewers/listeners pay for CBC views which are extreme & unbalanced with Canadian family life today.
    Also, Bob MacDonald's views on AGW are bordering on the irrational.
    Does he (ever) question AGW industry & IPCC "litte mistake"?

    • You clearly wouldn't know "hard left wing" if it kicked you in the butt. Stop throwing terms like that around and go do some research on what that really means.

      And why the hell do so many right wingers think that global warming science, whether correct or not, has anything to do with the left wing? I really think that it must be because you guys like to source everything you don't like in the "left wing". It really only makes you look silly.

  15. I'm sick of hearing the CBC is biased in favor of the left If you watch the at Issue panel or Power & Politics I think you would be hard pressed to justify the claim of left wing bias. Andrew and Alan are rather obvious conservatives . P & P seems to lean over backwards to give us a large dose of those who hold conservative leanings from their host to the obnoxious power panelist like Kory the knife The real bigger lies witth those who manipulate the public into buying in to this idea . Attack the CBC, rally the troops before the evil lefties take over our country. What a crock of BS . You should be embarassed to admit you can be so easily duped.

  16. I consider myself pragmatic, I vote for any party that put realistic visions and plans on the table. If I want to watch balance journalistic shows, CBC is not it. It has always been too much on the left of the spectrum. I hope I am wrong, but it seems they get most of their journalists from activists organizations. It is a broadcasting corporation that focuses on too much negativity. I believe this corporation needs a mirror very badly. It is hijacked by people of self interests that diverse from the rest of the country. It is an equivalent of CNN for US (right) and CBC (left). If they wish to continue to promote their own self interests then they should be brave enough to go on its own without funding from the rest of us. If I want to watch fair journalism, I watch CTV and BBC. I consider CBC and CNN as viruses that is okay to watch once in a while for strengthening once immune system and for nothing else.

    • You do remember MiKe Duffy right? CTV . You know the now Conservative senator rewarded for his fine upstanding journalists skills He required a strong stomach not just a good immune system .

  17. OK, suppose the CBC study finds it to be biased? Then what? Collective bargaining prevents them from firing the egregiously biased, "employment equity" (race and gender quotas) prevents them from hiring white heterosexual men that they desperately need for balance (sadly, identity politics are a wretched fact in this country). If, after this study, they find a journalist being biased, what are they going to do? Again, collective bargaining. Krista Erickson was found actively colluding with a Liberal MP and she suffered no meaningful consequences and no study of bias will change that.

    The question to ask is: what incentive do CBC employees have to give fair coverage? Little to none. They know there are no meaningful consequences thanks to their union, we've established that as fact, so they'll do what they want to do.

    Much of the above goes for Maclean's too, by the way. Both are structured in a way to make fair, unbiased reporting – and a functioning democracy itself – utterly impossible.

  18. The CBC is dumbing itself down at a quick enough pace to become another centre right news corp in no time.

    There is no broadcast news that comes close to being biased left. The CBC is too focused on mile wide/inch deep stories to even express any bias. When they do do in depth items, the non-moderate among us get excited and the CBC takes further steps to dumb down their reporting.

    Once the CBC has been silenced, Canadian Press will be next.

    • I hate to say this, but in the past year, I've seen major dumbing down at Canadian Press.

  19. I really do not care whether CBC or its supporters do or do not believe they are bias. They can go their own merry way doing what they have been doing but please do not use public funding doing it. They should stop being too hypocritical in pretending and imposing that their thoughts and views should represent the whole country.

  20. The CBC is just playing to its audience. It's a chicken and egg thing – when they lean somewhat to the left, they attract a somewhat to the left-leaning audience but which came first, the left-leaning audience or the left-leaning coverage. If the CBC were to gradually or suddenly change their alleged bias, they would most likely lose their current audience which would result in a drop in advertising revenue which would result in more begging for tax dollars.

    Just about every media outlet in Canada (and the U.S.) has at least some bias. If you read the comments after coverage in Maclean's, it seems to lean slightly to the left. Globe and Mail, same story. National Post definitely leans to the right. Global seems centrist but their news coverage is so "light and fluffy" that it's really hard to tell. I'm not claiming that my interpretation of the bias that these outlets show is scientific, but I think that some sense of bias can be gained by which direction the vitriol is headed.

    Of the main television news broadcasters, I actually find CBC's coverage to be more in depth than either CTV (who recycles the same basic broadcast 4 times an hour) or Global. Sometimes CBC's coverage is too deep, however, that is a matter of personal taste.

    As for funding, here's how their funding compares to the BBC and ZDF. In 2006, the CBC received $946 million from the federal government, about 2/3rds of its total funding – that works out to less than $30 per capita or about $100 for an average household. In contrast, the BBC receives most of its funding from household television licences that cost a whopping 145 pounds sterling ($218 Canadian) annually. ZDF in Germany collects a licence fee of 17 Euros per month per household (about $265 Canadian per year). Makes the CBC look cheap by comparison.

    I suspect that, if the CBC finds themselves to be biased and changes the approach to their news coverage, they will lose both listeners and watchers.

    • And there's basically no competition on the left for news all the other organizations are pretty right wing, as others have pointed out. Maybe what others see as an unbearable bias is just a smart play for a demographic that's not represented elsewhere in TV news…

      ; )

    • Whichever way you cut it, the UK and Canada fund their public broadcasting through theft from their citizens.
      Not even the Mafia is a bigger international crime syndicate than government.

      You want CBC, pay for it yourself.

      • No problem, JFJ. I'll pay your $30. You pay my share of the Afghan war. Deal?

      • Theft? You mean dues. You like law & order, a currency system, infrastructure? Yeah, you need to pay dues to the society that built all of that.. and that's all of us. You don't like it, you're free to leave the club or work to change the dues.. but don't go calling us criminals for charging them.

  21. CBC can retain the format they are comfortable with, I have no problem nor take issue with that. But move public funding from CBC to BBC or fund another broadcasting corporation whose mandate is to give impartial or fair journalistic pieces of reporting and work.

    • There has been complaints of bias in the news over at the BBC for years now.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_the_BBC

      Here's how much British tax payers pay per year for the BBC compare to the CBC from Marc Cassivi's March 26, 2009 column from La Presse. "En 2007, chaque citoyen britannique a contribué 124$ à la BBC. La contribution annuelle de chaque Français à France Télévision passera bientôt de 65$ à 77$. Combien a coûté à chaque Canadien l'ensemble des services de Radio-Canada/CBC en 2008?? Exactement 34$. Neuf cents par jour. Même pas de quoi s'acheter une gomme Bazooka." http://www.cyberpresse.ca/chroniqueurs/marc-cassi… Remember that the BBC entire network of television and radio stations does not broadcast any advertisement outside of adverts concerning their programming and is one of the reason why the licensing fees are higher than in Canada.

  22. biased toward who, what, where, when, and why?
    bias is normally a viewpoint of the writers or writer the editors edits and if they are biased the position the paper dictates is biased from the viewpoint of the publishers and the owners or shareholders etc.
    does one need a study to come up with the conclusion?
    cbc….what is the purpose and motivation behind this ridiculous study?

  23. Well of course everyone is bias. This is what makes up your political values. If you want the goverment to make up your shorcommings,low wage but stiil want daycare vote liberal. Make good cash and want the money to do as you see fit vote for the cons. But for gods sake report it like it is. There is nothing wrong by saying i am a liberal or iam a conserative, and i think that PM is Great , or I think that he is ???? but claim who you are.

  24. More than half the people on the Board at the Laval institute for Media Studies are former CBC executives or producers. There's an impartial study.

  25. I complain regularly about CBC bias, but the CBC Ombudsman has no authority and CBC management has no interest.

    Perhaps CBC management should have a public complaint system, rather than a secretive one.

    Perhaps there should be an independant study.

    Perhaps there should be public hearings.

    Perhaps there should be a senate committee.

    I don't trust CBC bias to study their own bias, the analysis will be selective for the benefit of CBC.

  26. The CBC is a left wing propaganda machine that rivals the Toronto Star. Like all lefties, the CBC far too often criticizes Israel while being suspiciously silent on Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, or Cuba.. The left use anti-Israel anti-American and anti-corporate culture as a type of bonding ingredient for the purpose of group identity. And the CBC often makes erroneous reports about Israel, which it latter corrects.

    • Citations please.

  27. CBC, 'studying itself!' <giggling!>

  28. The CBC is such a conservative tool, whining incessantly about the libs and ndp's that I am sick of it. The cons get away with murder and CBC looks the other way but let anybody else error ever so slightly and they try to make it sound like murder. The investigation is being done by neo-con tools that, of course (just like Faux Noise) will be found to be miraculously fair and balanced. Yep, fair and balanced, by Jove!

    • What planet are you on?