Friday, March 27, 2015

CBC: The Appeasement Continues*

Those who read my blog on a regular basis will know that I have felt disaffected from the CBC for some time. While I am a supporter of public broadcasting and believe in its adequate funding, the CBC's futile policy of appeasing its Conservative overlords has eroded my respect for the institution. As well, the recent imbroglio over Amanda Lang's clear conflict of interest and the Corporation's subsequent whitewash has earned it no brownie points with me.

Over at Canadaland, investigative journalist Jesse Brown has uncovered more damning evidence of decline and rot at the Mother Corp. This time, it has apparently succumbed to outside pressure and scratched from its lineup a documentary entitled Volunteers Unleashed, a program critical of 'voluntourism' that my wife had intended to watch earlier this month. While no explanation was offered, Brown has uncovered that
the reason Volunteers Unleashed was pulled was due to "concerns" raised by Craig Kielburger's Me to We, the for-profit sister company to his Free the Children charity. Me to We pops up a couple of times in Volunteers Unleashed. Kielburger happened to be wrapping a stint as a CBC Canada Reads panelist on the day the doc was set to air.

Officially, CBC says the doc was temporarily pulled due to a "copyright issue" and will be "re-edited and re-scheduled". [In fact, it is rescheduled for April 2] Free the Children similarly told us that it was the CBC's use of "unauthorized footage" that led to their complaint.
Brown also alleges
that Me to We may have also raised the spectre of libel with the CBC over how they were portrayed in the documentary. Kielburger has sued journalists for libel before. We asked both parties if libel came up in this case. Neither answered the question.
The larger issue here, of course, is the very real question of how independent our journalism is.
Free the Children spokesperson Angie Gurley was nevertheless quick to dispel any suggestion that her organization tried to kill a documentary because they didn't like how they came across in it. In fact, she asked us to remove our description of the doc as being critical of their organization.

"No Critical Coverage"

Though Gurley admitted that her camp had not seen the doc, they trusted that "there is no critical coverage of Me to We or We Day in the film" because that's what the CBC told them.

Here is the "unauthorized" footage in question, which we present here under the Fair Dealing exceptions for news reporting and criticism in the Copyright Act. You can judge for yourself if it's critical coverage of We Day or not.

Also, Free the Children's Angie Gurley also told us that the CBC assured her that Volunteers Unleashed "did not include footage of Me to We Trips".

You can see here that this is not true:

Brown asks these pertinent questions:
Exactly how is the footage of We Day or the We to Me Ecuador trip "unauthorized"? CANADALAND has learned that the rights to the We Day footage were licensed from Global TV, and does not belong to Me to We/Free the Children.

Is the CBC going to remove footage of a company scrutinized in their journalism because that company asked them to?
That second question should be answered on April 2. As they say, stay tuned.

* Many thanks to my friend Dave for alerting me to this story.


  1. thx for posting this Lorne. I have always been a skeptic about Craig Kielburger's change the world preaching, but I haven't been able to put my finger on it, maybe because he strikes me more as a preacher in a revival meeting. He reminds me somewhat of "Elmer Gantry. He may be driven more by feelings of power rather then genuine altruism. Put it this way, he's no Stephen Lewis. There's just something about him that doesn't feel real to me.

    1. I really don't know enough about him or his organization to say too much, Pamela, but watching the video one is struck by a certain messianic zeal that he seems to give off. Like you, my friend Dave, who has done a lot of research into charities, is dubious of Keilburger. And if, as Jesse Brown suggests, his organization did put pressure on the CBC, well, that says a lot, doesn't it?