CBC may have to battle a perception that it's too close to the B.C. Liberal government

When he worked in the legislature press gallery, Wayne Williams was one of the province's most respected political reporters.

He was considered tough, fair, and nonpartisan.

But nowadays as the news director of CBC's local TV newscast, William faces the unpleasant task of batting away perceptions that his station is too close to the B.C. Liberal government.

On October 28, 2010, one of CBC's reporters, Belle Puri, accepted a job as press secretary to then-premier Gordon Campbell. Five days later, Campbell announced his resignation.

Luckily for Puri, Williams took her back as a reporter. He told the Royal City Record that there were two conditions: she couldn't go on the air until after the B.C. Liberal leadership convention and "she won't be covering politics for a long, long time, if ever."

Puri never actually worked for Campbell. She was supposed to begin on November 12, 2010, but Williams allowed her to keep her job in the newsroom.

"The CBC is always very concerned about the perception of conflict and impartiality," Williams told the Royal City Record at the time. "We fiercely defend it."

This week, CBC revealed that it won't transfer legislature reporter Steven Smart, even though his wife Rebecca Scott is deputy press secretary to Premier Christy Clark.

CBC ombudsman Kirk LaPointe had ruled that this created a "pervasive appearance of a conflict of interest", even though there is no evidence that Smart has taken advantage of his wife's position.

In recent years, CBC has hired several former staff from CKNW, which used to employ Premier Clark as a talk-show host, including Puri and Smart. Others include Stephen Quinn, Steve Lus, and Mike Clarke.

Meanwhile, the managing director of CBC's B.C. operations, Johnny Michel, formerly worked at Global TV and BCTV. Under his leadership, CBC brought on former Global TV anchor Tony Parsons.

In the old days, Global TV and CKNW Radio were seen by some on the left as publicity arms of the B.C. Liberal government under Gordon Campbell.

Now with some of the same voices showing up on CBC—and after LaPointe's ruling—it makes it that much more difficult for the Mother Corp. to deal with similar perceptions.

Perhaps if CBC put an unabashed left-winger on the local airwaves in a prominent position, this would alleviate these types of concerns. But these days, genuine lefties are in short supply in the mainstream media.

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



Evil Eye

Jan 22, 2012 at 12:02pm

In the same vein, did you not do a series on Palmer and Baldry, getting paid by certain Liberal government friendly organizations, for being a guest speaker at certain events, thus are they perceived to be in a conflict of interest as well?

I recall you took a lot of flack over this.

Maybe it's time to revisit that story.

Xian Qi

Jan 22, 2012 at 12:58pm

The right wing thinks CBC is staffed with pinkos. The left thinks CBC isn't lefty enough. Geesh.

You say " if CBC put an unabashed left-winger on the local airwaves..." Well, here's two: Neil MacDonald and Terry Milewski.

But what happened to the idea of impartiality? You contradict yourself. First you laud Wayne Williams as being "tough, fair, and nonpartisan." Then you end the piece calling for more "unabashed" lefties to be put on the air.

Despite your effort to demonstrate a potential and slight bias toward the right on CBC, those links do nothing to demonstrate that there are "unabashed" right-wingers on the CBC local news. So why do we need "unabashed" lefties on the air to balance what is only a perceived right-wing bias? Why not just call for greater impartiality?


Jan 22, 2012 at 1:14pm

The other thing that will make this harder for Mr. Williams to ignore?

The words of none other than Mr. Keith Baldrey himself....



Greatly Concerned

Jan 22, 2012 at 1:23pm

The Conservatives are just a bunch of indulgent beasts shambling towards Bethlahem.

Catherine Lee

Jan 22, 2012 at 1:32pm

"perhaps if CBC put an unabashed left-winger on the local airwaves in a prominent position, this would alleviate these types of concerns" Perhaps? Are you kidding? I don’t think Charlie Smith actually listens to CBC. CBC Radio is so full of left wing politics that sometimes I have to turn it off it's so biased in that direction. Steven Quinn beats up on right wing politicians while totally soft peddling the lefties, sometimes you would think he works for Mayor Robertson - and his support of left wing unions is very apparent on his show, as is union support from everyone on air at the CBC. CBC Radio is the most left wing news organization out there. As for CBC TV news, it strikes me as pretty sympathetic to left leaning causes as well, though not as much as radio. And hey, I’m, OK with that – when they lean to far right or too far left I just turn it off.


Jan 22, 2012 at 3:47pm

Right wing talking head cabinet ministers are the engineers of their own media demise. The CBC can do but little to hurt or help. Sloppy Joe Oliver for example is so damn stupid all they have to do is get out of his way. The CBC is not to blame for his neo-McCarthy tomfoolery about the pipeline, a ham-fisted, tongue-tied week of gaffes that made him and international laughingstock. Sloppy Joe's staff was responsible for that, following the PMO orders of the day. The CBC only seems leftist today to those too young to remember radio drama like The Investigator and its ilk, shows like that were real giant-killers, but that's over 50 years ago, and they aren't coming back..


Jan 23, 2012 at 10:13am

Not only is it a conflict of interest being married to Christy Clark's right hand, Steven Smart is about as hard hitting as a marshmallow. A total washout.

look at the other networks

Jan 23, 2012 at 3:01pm

Steven Smart seems to be ok .. CTV ,CKNW and Global have a bigger problem ...
Keith Baldrey, Bill Good and Jim Beatty are most biased partisan hacks we've ever seen

Wayne Williams has never been respected

Dec 17, 2013 at 9:50pm

He's a hack, and a twit. I know people are CBC who think he's destroyed it with poor reporting decisions and bad staffing. Just watch CBC news and tell me it isn't true.