Friday, April 3, 2015

Jesse Brown Was Right: The CBC Did Cave

A week ago I wrote a post based on a report by Canadaland's Jesse Brown asserting that pressure had been exerted by the Keilburger organization over a documentary from the CBC's Doc Zone exploring the dark side of 'voluntourism.' Originally scheduled to air in March, it was pulled from the lineup due to what the Corporation called 'copyright issues.' It was Brown's contention that a Keilburger threat to sue CBC led to the some self-censorship.

Last night an edited version of Volunteers Unleashed aired, minus any critical references to 'Me to We,' the Keilberger movement that has blossomed into a very profitable industry.

Here is one of the original clips that was subsequently doctored:

I can only describe the revised version, as the show doesn't not seem to be play on the Doc Zone website. The above clip cuts out the appearance of the Keilburgers onstage, showing only, from a high angle, and without identification, an electronically blurred-out figure onstage that one would only know is Keilburger if one saw the original clip. As well, the narration adds that Pippa Biddle, (originally disdainful of Me to We,) says that Biddle is critical of some voluntourism organizations, but not Me to We.

Here is the second clip from the original version:

In the censored version from last night's show, the reference to the fact that the young people depicted "are about the 40th group from Me to We to arrive in Quito this summer" was removed.

So why is any of this important? First of all, let me say that I have nothing against organizations that try to motivate young people to rise from their quotidian and often selfish concerns to recognize and embrace the larger world. The problem is that excursions promoted as voluntourism, of which Me to We is a big part, often cause more harm than good to the people such volunteers are supposed to be helping. Last night's program made that abundantly clear.

However, by removing the Keilburger organization from that critical view, the CBC succumbed to threats from an entity what has become a huge machine, and has therefore betrayed both the public trust and the public good. While the same has happened with private broadcasters, I, and I'm sure countless other Canadians, expect more spine and integrity from the national broadcaster.

Finally, the kind of alleged bald threats wielded by the Keilbergers suggests to me that they are more interested in protecting and promoting their 'brand' than they are in achieving philanthropic goals.

That's my view. Anyone else care to weigh in?


  1. If you have the leverage to manage what is said about you in the public square I think you have to do it.

    This is not an age of thoughtful response, of intelligent give and take. It's an age of reaction.

    Turning yourself and your work, especially if the work has any social value whatever, to the vagaries and rages of the digital public square, without somehow doing what you can do to blunt the possibilities of bringing that rage down upon oneself...self-destructive urges come in many guises.

    I have no problem with it other than to say they missed the boat when they signed the contract. They should have stipulated final approval.

    1. Before I offer my own response to your comments, Dana, please clarify who you are referring to having signed the contract that should have stipulated final approval..

    2. The Kielburgers. Before the documentarians could shoot them they had to be contracted. They are the owners of their images and their voices and have the right to exercise control over how those voices and images are used. Just as you do. However, were you to suddenly become a major public figure that right would take on a great deal more importance. You would learn, very quickly, not to turn your images and sounds over to anyone, ever, for any reason, without stipulating strict controls and final approvel.

  2. Looking in from the outside, this 'Me to We' movement is little more than a marketing exercise to extract money from the parents of vulnerable young people. In that sense it is more a 'We to Me' movement. You can't replace true altruistic social movements with empty slogans.

    At the end of the day, it's all about the money.

    1. That may be, Anon, but as I said in the post, I'm not against trying to motivate young people to do good things. As the documentary makes clear, however, the devil is in the details.

  3. Upon re-reading your piece I have one more thing to offer.

    Do you have the sense that Jesse Brown is dis-interested in "promoting his brand"? I certainly don't. I'm quite sure he's pumping himself out there day after day with hopes of gain. Gain some more money, more prestige/cachet, more readers/subscribers. I don't think there's a journalist alive who's above inflating the significance of a story and I reckon that goes double for people whose livelihood is not provided by a contract with a media company. So...grains of salt...leading to teaspoons...

    Along similar refer to "bald threats" in your penultimate paragraph. Yet in your first paragraph you refer only to "Brown's contention".

    That's an unjustified leap in my opinion.

    All of this is of course my opinion...

    1. Thanks for your clarification and comments, Dana. I am not a lawyer, so I am not sure there was any contract signed with the Keilburgers to use their images. The first clip shows them at a Me To We rally and was not licensed to the Keilburgers, but rather was owed by Global Television. Perhaps it was shot by a member of the audience. If Global licensed its use, could the Keilburgers legally stop it?

      Secondly, Pippa Biddle was expressing a negative opinion about the utility of such excursions that are promoted by groups like Me To We. Do the Keilburgers really have the legal authority to suppress an opinion, since it was not in any way libelous?

      Thirdly, a statement of fact was excised from the Ecuadorian sequence: 40 such excursions that summer had been Me to We groups. Can a factual statement be suppressed?

      Your point about my reference to bald threats is a good one. I should have said, and will change it to, 'alleged bald threats."

  4. It doesn't matter who shot the footage or who owns the film/disc it's on. If it's of you then you own the image and if you speak then you own the recording of it. They have to have your permission to show/air it. This is true for you or me but it's trebly true for people who live their lives in the public eye. Most will be advised to copyright their image/voice and most will because to not do it opens a Pandoras box of potentially ugly machinations. Since the Kielburgers also represent and embody their organization they have probably very likely also placed the organization under that umbrella.

    So...*if* they were filmed without their permission (neo-phyte documentarians and gorilla crews) and then found out it was going to air they had every right to delay it while they and their lawyers had a look at it. They could quite easily have simply said "take us out of it altogether, you had no permission".

    Say you are walking down the street one day and a news camera gets shoved into your face. You are asked a question, you answer and then with no further ado they leave. That evening your friends are all calling to say they saw you on the news and blah blah blah.

    No one with that news crew asked you to to sign a waiver granting them permission to use your image/voice.

    You have the right to sue.

    A public persons image/voice is intimately tied to their ability earn their livelihood and thus there are different classes of copyright laws applied to the use of their image/voice.

    Just because Pippa Biddle (and who is this disinterested person) said there had been 40 excursions doesn't make it fact. Did she have documentation? Did she have individuals from each of those groups? Did the Kielburgers have documentation proving otherwise? Do the Kielburgers and this Biddle person have a history?

    No, the Kielburgers don't have the right to suppress a negative opinion. But no one knows if they did - all anyone can say with any certainty is that opinion wasn't in the version that aired.

    I remember hearing about these guys now and then but I had no idea what they actually do. I just know that for public persons in this age owning your image/voice and having control over what is done with it and by whom is incredibly important.

    Ask any young female actor whose face has been superimposed onto a porn actor.

    1. Thanks for your response, Dana. One point of clarification: it wasn't Pippa Biddle who claimed there were 40 excursions, it was the documentary's narrator.

  5. I once performed a song in an old musical called "Lock Up Your Daughters".

    A trio if I recall.

    The repeating chorus of which was;
    "It must be true
    For I read it in the papers
    Didn't you."



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