A letter to Jennifer McGuire, General Manager and Editor In Chief, CBC News
Dear Jennifer …
I was hopeful for a while that the “new” policy on paid speeches was being taken seriously by the CBC and as a result, having an effect on the number of (seemingly all senior) CBC News journalists accepting paid speaking engagements. (In my view, “none” would be best, as you know.)
For some months – I guess in retrospect, it was just summer – the numbers were decidedly down and I wrote you to compliment you on the fact that progress was being made on an issue that you seemed to agree was important for the integrity of journalism at the CBC.
A perusal of the November stats on paid speeches is upsetting.
21 paid engagements by a variety of the most senior of the CBC’s TV and Radio journalists.
Let me ask, using a few examples, as to how you came to approve these events:
- Amanda Lang taking money to speak from the Portfolio Managers Association of Canada and from Sun Life. Does Amanda regularly report on the worlds of investing, pensions and insurance in Canada? Yes, she does.
- Peter Mansbridge taking money from Morningstar Mutual Investment Funds to speak at its awards dinner. Is Peter regularly involved in discussions of the world of Canadian investment, either in news items or in leading panel discussions on the “Your Money” panel? Yes, he is.
- Diane Buckner taking money from a prominent law firm and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to speak at an awards dinner honouring private business leaders. Does Diane regularly cover Canadian business issues in her reporting? Yes, she does.
- Diana Swain taking money to speak from PMI, a private sector organization (with some public partners) dedicated to improving “project management.” Does Diana often report on Canadian business and economic issues? Yes, she does.
In the new policy announced last April 24, you promised that requests for paid speaking engagements would be rejected:
“from companies, political parties or other groups which make a significant effort to lobby or otherwise influence public policy, even if the speech or event seems innocuous.”
Certainly, with any reasonable reading of this policy and considering the payers involved in the above examples and the others listed, one would have expected the CBC to have immediately refused permission for its journalists to attend – and be paid.
I appreciate the new “commitment to all Canadians that CBC will be more transparent” being honoured; i.e. releasing paid speech information after the fact, on a monthly basis.
But what’s the point, if you are continuing to allow – and thus encourage – exactly the same kind of behaviour to continue taking place that created such widespread public concerns about the impartiality of journalism at the CBC in the first place last spring.
You can do better.
Canadians expect that of you.