Thursday, June 09, 2005

Fraser Institute and the CBC

The Fraser Institute published a study this week purporting to prove that "CBC’s television news coverage of the United States is consistently marked by emotional criticism, rather than a rational consideration of US policy based on Canadian national interests...

This anti-American bias at the CBC is the consequence of a "garrison mentality" that has systematically informed the broadcaster’s coverage of the US. Garrison mentality was a term coined by Canadian literary critic, Northrop Frye. He used it to describe a uniquely Canadian tendency reflected in our early literature, a tendency, as he put it, to "huddle together, stiffening our meager cultural defenses and projecting all our hostilities outward."...

To gauge the extent of anti-American sentiment on CBC, one year’s coverage of the Corporation’s flagship news program, The National, for 2002 was examined. The authors chose 2002 because it followed the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, but was prior to the US invasion of Iraq.

In total there were 2,383 statements inside the 225 stories that referred to America or the United States on CBC in 2002. As with most news coverage, the largest number of statements was neutral; they constituted 49.1 percent of the attention. Thirty-four percent of the attention to America or the United States was negative, over double the 15.4 percent positive descriptors. Only 1.6 percent of the statements were considered ambiguous."

There was, however, an effective rebuttal on Antonia Zerbisias’ excellent new media blog on the Toronto Star web site. She points out that in the period under study were some stories bound to elicit negative statements about the U.S., such as the accidental killing of four Canadian soldiers by a U.S. fighter pilot in Afghanistan. Might just have had some influence on the numbers. The study merely cites coverage of this issue as another example of anti-U.S. bias (p. 12 of the study).

If he were being honest Cooper should have argued that the views of his study deserved attention despite the fact that he is politically a conservative who in the past for example, collaborated with Stephen Harper and Tom Flanagan on the so-called Alberta firewall letter (see this account of Cooper’s role on the web site of the conservative Alberta Residents League).

Of course offering such a the disclaimer might be an acknowledgement that his analysis is somewhat less than objective and dispassionate, and perhaps should not be taken too seriously.

Don't know how I missed the Globe's John Doyle's comments on this subject but they are worth quoting:

Yoo-hoo! Any study that finds "the largest number of statements was neutral," actually finds that the broadcaster is doing its job.

In fact the level of neutrality is extraordinary given one of the key stories of 2002 -- the killing of four Canadian soldiers and the injury of eight others in April, 2002, when a U.S. fighter pilot dropped a 500-pound bomb on the Canadians in Afghanistan after the pilot's commanders had initially denied him permission to drop it. The incident stunned Canadians and the first reactions from the U.S. military galvanized many into genuine anger at the United States, which lasted for months.

Choosing one news program during a year of intense feelings and then spinning the figures is just bogus. There is more integrity in a WWE bout.

No comments: