Propaganda in Action: CBC News anchors uncritically parrot Tory talking points on Senate appointments

stephen-fletcher-cbc-senate-appointmentsToday two news anchors uncritically parroted Conservative Party talking points on Harper’s senate appointments, gave on air rebuttals to opposition parties’ talking points without doing the same for the Tories’ talking points, and only gave air time to the Conservative Party spokesperson without affording the same courtesy to opposition parties.

No, it wasn’t a broadcast of Mike Duffy Live where political opinions are expected and encouraged.

On the contrary, this was the putatively neutral news anchors of CBC News who are failing to uphold even the most basic rules of journalistic practice.  Moreover, factually incorrect statements — some may go so far as to call them lies (see bolded text below) were allowed to pass without correction or indication that they were lies.

Partial Transcript:

“Canada has 18 new senators and a whole new partisan squabble.  The prime minister made the appointments to the upper chamber despite his own reluctance to do that…”

This opening sentence says a lot in relatively few words.  By setting it up as a partisan squabble and then only giving the Conservative Party a chance to explain why these appointments were necessary what this really implies is that — in the absence of contravening soundbites from the opposition — the government is doing something necessary and the opposition parties are the ones engaging in ‘partisan squabbles’.

“… So Margot, I guess that tells a little bit about the government’s position.   Presumably you would expect to see the opposition saying something about this.  Have they come out yet?

“Well they have come out yet and they’ve been very critical about what the government has done.  Obviously they’re saying that the government is being hypocritical because the prime minister has always said he didn’t want to have an elected senate, that he wanted to have it appointed.  But it never happened.  He couldn’t get the legislation through parliament and only two provinces agreed to actually have their senators elected, so the opposition is already saying that this is pretty hypocritical.  But we did speak to the Minister for Democratic Reform, Stephen Fletcher, a little earlier in the hour and he explained why they needed to do this.

Stephen Fletcher: “There were so many vacancies in the senate that it wasn’t able to function. There was 18 vacancies, we had an unelected body blocking legislation from an elected body, the House of Commons, and it wasn’t a sustainable situation.  The Prime Minister is committed to Senate reform, we are going to bring forward the legislation, these Senators are committed to Senate reform, they have a limit of 8 years and they have also committed to stepping down once an election is held in the province in which they represent, whichever comes first.”

For the purposes of this story, we will ignore the fact that Stephen Fletcher is a known racist and that it boggles the mind that any reputable news agency would let an avowed racist on their airwaves who unapologetically called Japanese people “Jap bastards”.  [Note: apologizing with "I am sorry if anyone was offended" is not an apology]. See also: Non-apology apology.

Turning to what Fletcher actually said: we see that no hard questions were asked of Fletcher.  Most importantly, if Stephen Harper’s plan to not appoint any Senators was causing Parliamentary gridlock as the Conservatives were claiming (it wasn’t, but let’s assume that it was) then one would presumably expect a question directed to Fletcher around the lines of “So then the Prime Minister admits that his strategy of not appointing Senators was fundamentally flawed?”  No such question is shown.

Fletcher also states that the Senate was not able to function due to it’s lack of membership.  This is a blatant lie that any journalist should have picked up on.  Parliament hasn’t yet sent any legislation to the Senate since the election because Parliament was prorogued by the Governor General.  The first item to be sent to the Senate was to be the economic update and that wasn’t allowed to be voted on by the prime minister because he knew he would lose the vote.

Fletcher also states that these Senators would have a term limit of 8 years which is not only a lie, but it is actually unconstitutional, against constitutional convention and unenforceable to ‘require’ these Senators to step down after 8 years.  No document — not even a contractual document — can force a Senator to step down before his or her constitutionally-protected term is expired.

The broadcast then concludes:

Margot McDiarmid: “Now Danielle, there is another political reality to the appointments today.  The prime minister did say shortly after he prorogued Parliament that he was actually going to make these appointments.  And the reality is that he is also concerned that if Parliament comes back at the end of January and his government loses a nonconfidence vote for its budget, the Liberals may come back in and form the government and then appoint yet more Liberals to the Senate and it will remain top-heavy for years to come.  So he needed to make these appointments now before Parliament resumes at the end of January.

Danielle: “Fascinating strategy, thank you very much Margot.”

So it’s just factually obvious that Harper needed to make these appointments now, according to the CBC hosts.

How much more propaganda will progressives take before they grow a pair and begin challenging the ridiculous Blogging Tory claim that CBC stands for “Communist Broadcasting Corporation” and counter with the far more tenable counter-claim that it is more aptly characterized as the “Conservative Broadcasting Corporation”?

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5 Responses to “Propaganda in Action: CBC News anchors uncritically parrot Tory talking points on Senate appointments”


  1. 1 Eric G 22 December, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    This whole affair is just about enough to permenantly drive me into permenant “half-empty” thinking. Sigh.

  2. 2 Ken Furber 22 December, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Merry Christmas Paul et al. Hope you all have a great holiday break.
    As for your point above, I’ve noticed of late that CBC has started to parrot the right-leaning propaganda of most main-stream Canadian media. Too bad really. However, if you look at the comments on today’s CBC web site story most people are uncharacteristically upset with our PM. In fact, the general tone is good riddance to bad rubbish, if the coalition should knock him off late next month. What seems to have really ticked most respondents off is the PM’s apparent Harpercritical attitude toward the unelected senate. As with almost all Reform/Alliance/Conservative election platforms, the stance that the Senate should either be elected or dumped seems to have disappeared now they are in power. In other words the old saying “you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time but you can’t fool all of the people all the time” seems to be ringing true here. Maybe voters are finally getting it.

  3. 3 janfromthebruce 22 December, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    Paul et al, what I noticed is that not one MSM commissioned a poll to “test public opinion” on Harper’s appointment of 18 conservatives to the senate. The media is silent. CBC has become silenced too! Too scared to speak out or else it will go the way of the do-do bird.

    The more I see Harper in action, the more I see fascism slipping into our Country. May Iggy not be our Chamberlain – one never bargains with a bully. If one thinks they can buy time they are fooling themselves.

  4. 4 A reader 23 December, 2008 at 10:18 am

    The other problem with that segment was that Stephen Fletcher repeated the lie about how the coalition had promised to appoint 6 separatist senators as fact, and neither journalist challenged him on it. How humourous and ironic then that the PM just appointed a former PQ MNA to the senate himself!

  5. 5 martinp 30 December, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    I didn’t follow all that exactly, but I’ve seen even more aggregious examples of CBC ‘bending’ to the right. The point here should be for the poster to actually contact the CBC. I’ve seen numerous examples where the CBC actually changes reports and even styles because of public comment. Don’t just keep it on a blog they’ll never see, send it to the CBC.


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