A recent study by three Canadian academics has concluded that CBC AM radio is ideologically left-wing.
In a paper entitled “Bias on the CBC? A study of Network AM Radio,” Profs. Barry Cooper and Lydia Miljan of the University of Calgary and Maria Vigilante of Carleton University agree with the increasing number of Canadians who are upset about CBC News and Current Affairs treatment of important public issues. The authors state that there is somewhat of a “leftist orthodoxy” among CBC staffers and quote internal CBC studies which conclude that its hosts and producers are “products of the more radical sixties and appear unsympathetic to the new conservatism of the eighties” and that public complaints of a leftist slant have been significant and growing since the early seventies. The authors also find that criticism of the federal Tory Government from the Left was covered five times more often than criticism from the Right.
The CBC has attacked the methodology of the study but without admitting the truth of the study’s conclusions, admits that it has a “serious image problem.” In this regard, the study comments that “there seems to be no awareness that the problem with the CBC has anything to do with realities other than that of a highly malleable image.”
Within the Corporation, there is concern, however, about what the Mulroney government might do after the Report of the Task Force on the Future of Public Broadcasting in Canada is released in the near future. Last year a number of the Tory members of the House of Commons Communications Committee publicly attacked the leftist slant of the CBC.
Even on CBC airwaves, there has been some recent criticism. In April of this year, Prof. John Crispo complained on a local CBC radio programme that the CBC had a regular “stable” of left-wing commentators and very few conservatives such as himself.
While many Pro-Lifers believe that the Canadian Left is the primary source of the “pro-choice” philosophy and of its advocates, there is no specific mention in the study of the CBC’s treatment of the abortion issue.
What CBC critics have not agreed upon is what should be done to correct CBC bias without being subject to the political charge of trying to censor or manage the news. CBC staffers are concerned that an Ombudsman may be imposed on the Corporation, independent of the Government, but with sufficient clout to deal effectively with public complaints of bias. Other suggestions range from wholesale firings to requiring the CBC to institute an audio and videotape lending service and publish a monthly news and current affairs abstract and index detailing its programming content. These latter suggestions would facilitate study of CBC performance because, unlike the print media, CBC broadcasts are not generally available in libraries.
The new Communications Minister, Flora MacDonald, who is considered to be a “pink” Tory by many observers, may be unsympathetic to any interference with CBC “independence” and conservative critics of the Corporation are concerned the whole issue may be ignored by the Tories when the Government’s proposals for reform are announced.