Below is the response from the CBC to this complaint I filed June 22:
Just as politicians and lobby groups must publicize their sources of funding in order to be accountable to the public, reporters seeking to inform that same public must make this information a prominent part of their stories in order to provide relevant context to readers. Particularly when a new political interest group appears on the scene, reporters have an obligation to provide readers with a complete picture of who this group is, why they have emerged, and who has provided the funds to make their emergence possible.
I believe Margo McDiarmid made a significant omission in the June 20, 2014 story, “Northern Gateway tanker threat spurs First Nation’s yarn blockade” by omitting a great deal of information about the nature of the “pipeline opponents” featured in his story — the Hartley Bay First Nation — particularly who provides their funding as outlined in this Joint Review testimony: https://bcblue.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/tides-gitgaat.jpg and this 2008 CP story in which the Hartley Bay First Nation created their own environmental disaster: https://bcblue.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/hartley-bay.jpg
Considering that many political activist groups these days are open fronts for special interest lobbies, reporters should be aware that their neutral coverage can be compromised by omitting critical details about who is providing the funding for mysterious new groups suddenly exerting great influence over our political debates. In particular, it is becoming increasingly apparent that many “green” activist groups have ties to highly questionable sources of funding that may significantly alter their standing in the eyes of the public if known, such as the recent news from NATO that some European environmentalist groups may in fact be on Russian payroll. Funding questions of green groups is thus a matter of clear public interest and curiosity.
A correction needs to be issued by the CBC and a statement from the CBC Ombudsman that condemns omitting such details in further stories on this and other similar issues.
Dear Mr. Skoreyko:
Thank you for your e-mail of June 22 addressed to Esther Enkin, CBC Ombudsman, drawing our attention to what you take to be a “significant omission” in a CBCNews.ca story posted on June 20, under the headline, “Northern Gateway tanker threat spurs First Nation’s yarn ‘blockade’”. (http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/northern-gateway-tanker-threat-spurs-first-nation-s-yarn-blockade-1.2682777).
Since I am responsible for Politics on CBCNews.ca, Jennifer McGuire, General Manager and Editor in Chief of CBC News, asked me to reply.
While I regret you are once again disappointed in CBC, with respect, your view of the story is largely not one I share.
Specifically, you suggested that the Hartley Bay First Nation is relatively new as a protest group, and the story should have included information about “who provided the funds to make their emergence possible”. Reporters have an obligation to include this information as a “prominent” part of the story to provide relevant context to readers, you wrote.
Context is important to help readers understand the significance of a story, I agree. But the contextual information we include in stories should be relevant. Although it may be in other stories, depending on the focus, I do not believe the information about who is funding the Gitga’at First Nation is relevant in this particular story.
Supporting your assertion, you included a brief excerpt from “Joint Review testimony”, which indicates that the Gitga’at First Nation says it “received $20,000 from the Great Bear Initiative for the purpose of participating in the Joint Panel process”. In the answer to a second question, the band states it received “no” money from Tides Canada or any similar organization to oppose the Northern Gateway project.
I should point out here that the excerpt is actually from the Gitga’at First Nation’s July 6, 2012 written response to the Joint Review Panel answering Northern Gateway’s first information request. In its answer to question (a) in section 1.4 “Capacity to Participate in Review” (your excerpt was of answers to questions (f) and (g)), the Gitga’at said that the federal government’s Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency had contributed $267,500 to support its participation in the Joint Review Panel Process.
As I understand it, the Turning Point/Great Bear Initiative is a fund set up by the BC Coastal First Nations, of which the Gitga’at First Nation is a member, and was jointly funded by the federal government, the provincial government and environmental groups including Tides Canada.
The details of who provided the funding to allow the Gitga’at to participate in the Review Panel process are well outside the scope of this story, which relatively narrowly focuses on the unique nature of the Gitga’at protest – the symbolic blockade of Douglas Channel with a 4.6 kilometre-long crocheted rope crafted by Hartley Bay community members – intended to demonstrate the “fragility” of the channel that would see some 220 oil tankers a year if the Northern Gateway pipeline is built.
Your e-mail also included a link to a story in which, you wrote, the Hartley Bay First Nation “created their own environmental disaster” and suggested that information, too, should have been included in our story.
The CP news brief you linked to from March, 2008, says the Hartley Bay band council was warned it may face a fine over a spill of 15,000 litres of diesel fuel. (There is a more detailed version of the story here: http://spillcontainment.wordpress.com/2008/03/25/hartley-bay-bc-councillor-says-residents-worked-hard-to-contain-large-oil-spill/). Any spill is serious, although it is hard to gauge the effect of this one. The longer story says Environment Canada had two years to decide whether it would lay charges, but despite some searching, I could not find any confirmation that charges were in fact laid.
In retrospect, including a reference to the spill might have provided some insight to the Gitga’at’s sensitivity to the potential environmental damage that could result from spills the area. Although you did not mention it, and perhaps more to the point, I think the story could have included information about the 2006 sinking of the Queen of the North just a few kilometres from Hartley Bay. When that ship ran aground in the narrow channel, some 220,000 litres of diesel oil was spilled.
Thank you again for your e-mail. I hope my reply has reassured you of the continuing integrity of our news service.
Senior Producer, Politics