Richard Stursberg reveals a CBC study indicated Conservatives were treated best by The National

A new book by a former top CBC executive reveals that the flagship TV news program, The National, gave more positive coverage to the Conservative government than did the national TV newscasts on the Global and CTV networks.

Poll

How would you describe the CBC TV newscast anchored by Peter Mansbridge?

Balanced 42%
95 votes
Left wing 12%
28 votes
Right wing 34%
76 votes
None of the above 12%
26 votes

The ex-head of English services, Richard Stursberg, writes in The Tower of Babble: Sins, Secrets and Successes Inside the CBC (Douglas & McIntyre) that he briefed “one of the Most Powerful Ministers in the Conservative government” about an extensive arm's-length “Fairness and Balance” study.

“Remarkably, the results showed that the CBC not only allocated more time to the Conservatives than either Global or CTV, but we tended to treat them more positively as well,” Stursberg writes. “This, for me, was unexpected.”

In preparing the report, ERIN Research retained five academic media researchers to examine a 25-week sample of news in the 2009–10 season. This included 6,000 radio news stories, 7,500 television stories, and 2,400 stories on the Internet.

The study revealed that the CBC's national newscast devoted 69 percent of the speaking time for parliamentarians to Conservative MPs and only 31 percent to opposition politicians over the period.

The National's chief rival, CTV National News, granted 61 percent of the speaking time to Conservative MPs, whereas Global allocated 54 percent to politicians on the government side and 46 percent to the opposition parties.

In a recent interview at the Georgia Straight office, Stursberg said that the study was undertaken because many Conservative MPs had “a certain view” of the CBC. “They felt that it was…full of pinkos,” he admitted.

He also emphasized that the CBC takes its responsibility to be fair “extremely seriously”, and he wanted the government to know this by conducting a “gigantic study”. His book didn't reveal the identity of the cabinet minister with whom he shared the results.

“Whether it had any kind of influence on anything, I have no idea,” Stursberg said.

Since then, right-wing broadcasters such as Charles Adler and Ezra Levant have pounded away at the CBC as some sort of den of left-wing thinking.

“I think people want to continue to believe certain kind of things because…they may have some kind of axe to grind,” Stursberg mentioned. “I think it's unfair. And I'm very surprised that there has not been more conversation about the study.”

Stursberg mentions in the book that he was fired in 2010 after he expressed disagreements with the president, Hubert Lacroix, and some members of the CBC board, who questioned his emphasis on gaining mass audiences through such shows as Battle of the Blades. This sometimes came at the expense of arts programming that drew lower ratings.

He noted that one former high-profile critic of the CBC, right-wing National Post columnist Jonathan Kay, recently wrote a column praising the Crown-owned network.

Kay, the founder of his paper's "CBC Watch" column many years ago, favourably commented on the presence of “populist conservative voices such as Rex Murphy, Don Cherry and Kevin O'Leary” on the CBC.

Murphy is a frequent critic of the scientific consensus on climate change; O'Leary is a rich businessman whose favourite author is right-wing zealot Ayn Rand.

If the right is starting to embrace the CBC, does this mean that it has abandoned the left? Not according to Jennifer Maguire, editor-in-chief of CBC News.

In an interview with the Straight at the CBC building in Vancouver, she said that the Fairness and Balance study was a detailed, six-month content analysis that showed that “we are, by and large, neutral”.

“So any sort of perception of inherent bias was not real,” Maguire said. She also suggested that Stursberg was “probably simplifying” the results of the study.

While it indicated that Conservative MPs received more airtime on The National, Maguire claimed that the nature of the stories at that time explained why more Conservative MPs ended up on the news.

“It's like coverage of the Middle East,” she said. “You can't measure it in one story.”

CBC's At Issue panel, which comments on federal politics, includes a libertarian National Post columnist, Andrew Coyne, and a senior adviser at National Public Relations, Bruce Anderson, who has worked on federal Conservative and Liberal campaigns.

Anderson's company's clients include energy businesses active in the Alberta tar sands.

The third panel member, Chantal Hébert, is a middle-of-the-road political columnist with the Toronto Star.

Maguire said that she didn't play any role in the selection of panel members. And on the same day, the head of CBC Radio, Chris Boyce, told the Straight that Murphy does not select the topics to be covered on Cross Country Checkup, which he hosts on Sunday afternoons.

“We have standards—journalistic standards and policies—that we expect him to abide by in his role as the host of the show,” Boyce added. “And as far as I'm concerned, he does.”

Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.

Comments (11) Add New Comment
bdubblut
When you get as 'jolly' as some of these old guys do with each other, it's obvious any gravy train will do.
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RickW
Hubert Lacroix is "Harper's Man" .He was appointed president and CEO of the CBC, effective January 1, 2008, by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in November 2007 replacing Robert Rabinovitch. So what else can we expect?

RickW
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linda
I'm gald the conservatives were treated best
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linda
To justin your ugly
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blueheron
"Since then, right-wing broadcasters such as Charles Adler and Ezra Levant have pounded away at the CBC as some sort of den of left-wing thinking."

Adler and Levant, as usual, have it right.

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PeterW
So we should believe a study exonerating the CBC from accusations of bias that was prepared by .... the CBC?
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Andrew
Peter Mansbridge is a Bilderberger, and naturally supports the right wingers currently in power. He attended a secret Bilderberg meeting with Gordon Campbell back in 2010. See for yourself here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/gallery/2010/jun/08/bilderberg-spain-del...
Mansbridge has never reported on the event. What was he doing rubbing shoulders with global oligarchs? (Kissinger, Rockefeller, Wolfowitz, Trichet, Strauss-Kahn, Geithner to name a few). Are globalists setting the media agenda for Canada with Mansbridge as their mouthpiece?
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RickW
Adler & Levant? They wouldn't know right (as in correct) if they tripped over it. They DO know right (as in rightwingnut). Consequently, everything they say is drivel - much like their countrpart in the US, Bill O'Reilly.
RickW
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Robert Long
A lot of people here are actually trying to say that the CBC is biased to the right of centre and that this is not right. While I would disagree with these people about which side of centre the CBC favours, I certainly would agree that its not right for a publicly funded broadcaster to be biased in any direction.

So.

Since both sides agree that its not right for a publicly funded broadcaster to be biased, would those on the left who think the CBC IS biased to the right, please join us on the right in calling for an end to public funding for the CBC?
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Robert Scarborough
To Robert Long:

Looks like you called their bluff and by the number of thumbs down it looks like they folded.

It's the same thing I always say to the lefties who try to make this ridiculous claim that the CBC is right biased. This is just a denial type of argumentative tactic. If that's the case, I say, would you agree that the CBC should not get public funding then? "Oh ah, well, um, no." Why? "Well um, err, because....." then they're stuck for an answer.

The fact that it's almost exclusively right wingers calling for the end of public funding for the CBC is a pretty clear indication that the left wingers are quite happy with the way the CBC treats their side of the political commentary.
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Martin Dunphy
Robert S.

Or it could mean that they aren't willing to throw a public broadcaster on the scrap heap--as you appear to endorse--just because it is showing some bias to appease its purse-string holders, who have been slowly starving it to death for decades.
Starving people will do desperate things to stay alive while they wait for better days.
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