So, after a five and a half month wait, the CBC Ombudsman Office finally produced their review of our complaint about biased coverage and specifically their change of specific wording in their March 30th coverage of the Land Day Massacre.
Not surprisingly, they exonerated themselves and concluded they are not “beholden” to any interest group and the coverage did not violate CBC policy. The review, entitled “Watch your language – finding the right words to cover conflict in the Middle East”, said: “Language usage around this conflict is always fraught – any language changes made were consistent with CBC New’s own guidelines.”
The most damning part of our criticism had been that they changed specific terminology in Derek Stoffel’s reporting after receiving a complaint from the so-called “Honest Reporting Canada” HRC, a well-known pro-Israel lobby group.
However, CBC News Executive Director Jonathan Whitten stated:
“To the extent that Derek changed wording as the fast moving events of the day unfolded, it was to bring that wording into line with our own language guide.”
The Ombudsman report did go on to note that the language was changed following receipt of the HRC complaint:
“He (Whitten) added that the two examples of CBC language usage being questioned by HonestReporting were two of hundreds from the organization which accuse CBC of bias. He said CBC News staff look at each of them, as they do other criticisms or accusations of other sides in the conflict. They adjust the work when they have made errors or violated CBC journalistic policy.”
So to sum up: yes, they changed the language due to the HRC complaint, but only because they had made a mistake and the original version was not in line with their policies. However, in a later section, the Ombudsman review states, regarding the use of the term Israeli Arabs rather than Palestinians:
“The CBC Middle East language guide does not list a preferred usage. CBC news managers might want to provide some guidance. I am told that it has been CBC practice to use the term “Israeli Arab” and that is the reason it was changed – to be consistent with that practice.”
And then after a lengthy analysis about the difficulties of balancing reporting, the review concluded with this:
“I can tell you that Mr. Whitten is correct when he says the two examples you cite, quoting HonestReporting’s assertion that they have influenced the reporting, is two of many that come to this office. They also come from other interest groups. There is no merit to your contention that CBC News is beholden to any side in this conflict.
CBC News and current affairs have presented many stories and interviews which reflect the views and analysis of both the Israeli and Palestinian perspectives. The stories did not violate CBC policy.”
And yes, HRC did brag on their website about how CBC had “implemented their suggestions”. However, they have subsequently modified that line, perhaps realizing how crass it sounded, by trying to claim our original complaint was promoting “an outrageous Jewish conspiracy theory” by claiming “Jews control the media”. This ridiculous leap of logic was even reported by CJ News in an article on Sept. 28, 2018.
We were not aware that HRC represented all Jews, or were mandated to speak in the name of all Jews. We are also fully aware that our complaint dealt solely with the influence of the Zionist pro-Israeli lobby and even more specifically with the actions of HRC itself.
Regretfully, this is an increasing trend in Canada in recent months; the intentional conflation by pro-Israel groups of Judaism with Zionism and all Jews with the actions of Israel is dangerous and will in itself contribute to anti-Semitism.
What is the lesson here? That the Canadian media in general, with a few notable exceptions, is complicit in implementing the corporate and imperial agenda – we should expect no significant changes or improvements in how that media portrays the struggles of indigenous and marginalized peoples, including the Palestinians.