Extinction Rebellion throws down the gauntlet to CBC News in British Columbia

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      An ad hoc group of environmental activists has decided it's time to go after the media for its climate coverage.

      This became clear in an April 23 letter to Treena Wood, the news director at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in British Columbia.

      Extinction Rebellion Vancouver opened the letter with a declaration that it will "occupy the intersection of Hamilton and Georgia, outside CBC's Vancouver headquarters".

      This action, which started at noon on Saturday (April 24), is intended to persuade CBC News "to report with urgency on the existential threat of human-caused climate change".

      "During the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen what emergency communication looks like—and we know it's possible for the media and government to deliver it," Extinction Rebellion Vancouver stated. "Yet our most prominent journalistic institutions, including CBC News B.C., are failing in their responsibility to report the news, as they continue to cover the climate and ecological emergency as if it is an afterthought rather than an existential threat."

      Extinction Rebellion Vancouver's letter cited an April 22 CBC Radio One report, which played up the difficulty of achieving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's new greenhouse-gas targets.

      "Yet the broadcast did not even mention the facts of the matter: comparing these revised targets with 1) what the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] says is necessary to stay within 1.5 degrees warming [since the start of the Industrial Revolution], 2) Canada’s actual policies (which have seen GHGs actually increase since the Paris agreement)," it said. "This misleading and negligent reporting is far from being exceptional."

      This isn't the first time that members of Extinction Rebellion have held protests outside news organizations.

      In 2019, about 70 people were arrested at a similar demonstration outside the New York Times building in New York City.

      Demanding changes

      Extinction Rebellion Vancouver wants stronger editorial guidelines at CBC News to integrate the climate and ecological crisis into all of its news reporting.

      "While CBC News reports on the science of climate change occasionally, the magnitude and impact is not being reflected adequately in the coverage," the group alleged in its letter to Wood. "By ignoring the scientific facts in political coverage, as in the example above, CBC News is misleading its audience and providing cover for the government’s continued lack of accountability on climate action." 

      It's demanded that CBC News "tell the truth" about the climate crisis and "act as if it is real".

      Furthermore, Extinction Rebellion has called for climate and ecological headlines daily and coverage of this subject on every beat and in every story, and on all platforms.

      In addition, the group is pressing for solutions-oriented journalism to highlight what can be done to solve the crisis.

      Moreover, it wants CBC News to adopt "climate emergency" language, something the network has adamantly refused to do even as other media outlets, like the Guardian, have gone down this road.

      "The facts are overwhelming, and the science is clear," Extinction Rebellion Vancouver states. "CBC needs to stop hiding behind the pretense of false balance and accurately report the science of the emergency and the story of the struggle of Canadians for life on the planet. Without strong climate action, the current path will tip us into civilizational collapse, according to Sir David Attenborough and the Secretary General of the United Nations."

      CBC consigns climate to certain shows

      There are opportunities to learn more about the climate through some of the national broadcaster's programming.

      For example, CBC Radio One has a half-hour program called What On Earth, hosted by Laura Lynch, which examines climate solutions.

      Other shows, like The Nature of Things on CBC TV and Quirks & Quarks, also periodically address the climate crisis.

      In addition, CBC Vancouver meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe has given the climate more coverage than weather forecasters working at private radio and TV stations. And UBC climate-science researcher Simon Donner was on The Early Edition radio show in Vancouver this week to talk about the new federal greenhouse-gas emission targets.

      However, flagship national shows on radio such as The Current, The House, and As It Happens are not making the climate a staple of their coverage.

      Nor does the "At Issue" panel on The National newscast. And the Power & Politics TV show does not come close to treating the climate crisis with the urgency that many environmental activists would like.

      Moreover, CBC Radio gave a climate-crisis minimizer, Rex Murphy, a platform for many years as the host of the Cross Country Checkup show on CBC Radio One, notwithstanding complaints from listeners.

      And the network's newscasts have paid little heed to climate feedback loops that could put humanity on the road to extinction.

      In addition, CBC newscasts have not paid much attention to dramatic developments in climate finance that could have far-reaching ramifications on Alberta's oil industry.

      The Extinction Rebellion letter to Wood closed with these sentences:

      "CBC’s journalists, editors, and executives need to recognise the higher purpose of their profession and duties as citizens and human beings. This is what your audience demands."