Get Rid of CBC’s Ethical ‘Journalistic Standards’ Policies, Conservative MP Suggests
Conservative heritage critic says a government led by Pierre Poilievre would ‘set journalists free’ from ‘cumbersome guidelines’ and ‘dictatorial editors’
Conservative MP Rachael Thomas has a suggestion for improving CBC’s journalism — get rid of CBC’s policies upholding high “journalistic standards.”
Thomas, who is also “Shadow Heritage Minister” for Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives, floated the Orwellian suggestion on the latest episode of the Conservative Party of Canada’s official in-house podcast.
Last week, Thomas made headlines after making a bizarre accusation that CBC News supports Hamas and terrorism, prompting Thomas to table a motion at the Heritage Committee to examine “the CBC and their journalistic standards.”
CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices are a set of internal policies upholding high standards of accuracy and journalistic ethics in CBC’s news coverage, ranging from policies on issuing corrections to protecting sources to covering sensitive stories involving children or victims of crime.
The podcast, titled “Defund the CBC” and billed as a deep dive into the “nonsensical CBC journalistic standards,” was posted a day after Thomas’ motion failed.
“When you’re putting restrictions on what journalists can and can’t do, and what words journalists can and can’t say, to me that’s pretty problematic,” podcast host and Conservative MP Jaime Schmale said.
Thomas agreed: “I think that’s the problem that as Conservatives we have with how CBC operates,” Thomas said. “We see that the journalists who work there are given very clear marching orders.”
“As Conservatives, we believe that journalists should be entrusted as professionals to take on the stories that they believe are worth telling and to pursue them from a nonpartisan angle, from an unbiased angle,” Thomas added. “We just don’t see that from the CBC. We just don’t.”
Thomas suggested a Conservative government would not only defund the CBC, but would also “set journalists free” from “all of the cumbersome guidelines if you will, or standards as some might say” — as well as “dictatorial editors.”
“As Conservatives, we would very much say the CBC needs to be set free, they need to be set free, set them free from public dollars and therefore set them free from all of the cumbersome guidelines if you will, or standards as some might say, set journalists free from that. Allow them to provide Canadians with real stories, real news from real people. And I think if we were able to get away from partisanship, if we were able to get away from dictatorial editors, we would be able to restore some trust in the Canadian public.”
Thomas did not respond to questions from PressProgress seeking to clarify how she would “set journalists free” from CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices and whether she believes MPs should oversee CBC News’ editorial decisions.
Thomas has been leading a public crusade against CBC News’ Journalistic Standards and Practices in recent weeks.
After CBC News issued an internal memo reminding journalists about CBC News’ longstanding guidelines on how it uses of the word “terrorism” in news reporting, Thomas accused CBC of being “on the side of terrorists.”
Thomas proceeded to table a motion calling for the Director of CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices and the CBC Ombudsman to testify before Parliament.
While CBC’s Journalistic Standards and its rigid commitment to “impartiality” have come under criticism in the past, particularly from Black journalists, Thomas’ motion effectively invited politicians to interfere with CBC’s news coverage.
Thomas’ motion was heavily criticized by press freedoms groups, who condemned the motion as “editorial interference” and a “violation of press freedom.”
“Any efforts to politically interfere with any news organization’s news gathering process is a complete violation of the press freedom,” said Brent Jolly, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists. “Editorial independence is crucial to a free press, and politicians should not be meddling with the decisions journalists make.”
World Press Freedom Canada joined in “condemning any political effort to interfere with the CBC’s editorial independence.”
Let’s be straight: MPs should not be dictating how journalists cover the news. Editorial interference is a violation of press freedom. Full stop.
Read the full statement: https://t.co/ZVnWVctDoM pic.twitter.com/xxoVotYENm
— Canadian Association of Journalists (@caj) October 24, 2023
During a pre-scheduled appearance by CBC President Catherine Tait at a Heritage Committee meeting Thursday, Thomas went further, at one point alleging CBC News is not “independent” because it receives “government dollars.”
“They cannot survive without the government dollars, which means then that it’s hard to believe that the news coverage is entirely independent.”
Conservative MPs are arguing CBC is not “independent” because it receives “government dollars.”
CBC President Catherine Tait was asked if the National Post and Conservative Party, which both received government dollars, are also “beholdened” to the government.
Tait said no. pic.twitter.com/coLEwcmbUE
— Luke LeBrun (@_llebrun) November 2, 2023
Noting that the National Post and Conservative Party of Canada also receive “government dollars” in the form of funding and subsidies, Liberal MP Taleeb Noormohamed asked Tait if she believed those organizations are “beholdened” to the federal government too.
“No,” Tait replied.
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