Two weeks ago we started a series of stories about CBC and how they spend the $1.1 billion in taxpayer subsidy we give them each year. Often the stories have been about blank, or near blank, pieces of paper.
At the heart of the issue with the CBC is that we don’t think they are following the access to information law in the fullest. To demonstrate we have showed that the state broadcaster has generated far more complaints to the federal information commissioner than other government departments or agencies. We also detailed the ongoing court battle with the CBC and the Office of the Information Commissioner.
CBC of course does not share our point of view. That’s to be expected.
Since the launch of the series they have responded with an ad that ran in several newspapers and an open letter, which we published in Le Journal de Montreal.
Other media outlets have not taken up the push to have CBC be more open and transparent. That doesn’t mean they don’t like the issue overall, they just don’t want to do stories on the CBC. On Saturday The Star had a front-page story about the costs of renting out “American-owned” Deerhurst for the G8 summit.
The Citizen had a front page story on the costs of contracting out services in Ottawa.
Then over at CBC’s website there was an interesting blog post by David McKie, a respected journalist who uses access to information as one of his regular tools. McKie was commenting on the federal government’s lack of full transparency.
I have refrained from commenting on CBC’s journalistic practices during this series on accountability because all of the claims and counter-claims about bias at the CEEB are not the point, it is about accountability for our tax dollars that is. The reason for bringing up McKie is the same reason John Tory brought up The Fifth Estate in his rant on CBC last week, a government organization can’t demand openness and accountability and not provide it themselves.
Several people have claimed that Quebecor, the owners of Sun Media and QMI Agency should be providing the same level of openness as we are demanding of CBC. This is a false argument on several fronts.
Firstly, Quebecor does not take $1.1 billion from the taxpayers, CBC does and that is why they are subject to the Access to Information Act. Secondly, compare this story, or this story, where we showed that CBC released only some but not all information on executive salaries and bonuses with this snapshot of a company report from Quebecor.
Sure the executives at Quebecor make more money – at least we think they do – but again they are not subsidized by taxpayers. But also note that their names, salaries and bonuses are posted. CBC released bonus figures but no names. CBC released a range for their VP salary that is $200,000 wide. CBC won’t tell you which VP earns which salary.
Quebecor executives are accountable to their shareholders, of which I am currently not one, despite questions from the Liberal candidate from Gatineau.
CBC executives should be accountable to their shareholders, the Canadian people. I don’t think they are accountable enough yet.
A final note.
Norman Spector at the Globe has been fascinated by the back and forth between our bureau and the CBC and is convinced this is all about advancing the economic interests of Quebecor president Pierre Karl Peladeau. If this series does this, it is a side benefit. Nor have I, despite the sad story of David Patry, had a single word dictated to me by any of my bosses.
This series is about a good story that other journalists are not touching. In fact there has been more ink spilled, more pixels generated by members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery to discuss our Sun News venture than there has been to investigate the CBC’s use of $1.1 billion.
The end. For now.