Mainstream media one of the sources of misinformation in Canada, reveals major report
A new research memo by the Public Policy Forum found that mainstream media outlets like the CBC, CTV and Huffington Post were one of the causes of misinformation among Canadians.
“The one troubling point seems to be that, while social media exposure is associated with higher levels of misinformation, so
The findings are part of the think tank’s “Digital Democracy Project” which is “a multi-year project to analyze and respond to the increasing amounts of disinformation and hate in the digital public sphere”.
According to the report, those who get their news from mainstream outlets are more likely to give incorrect answers to questions about
“Survey respondents who read or watched more traditional news media were less likely to express uncertainty about policy questions than those with low consumption, but more likely to give an incorrect response,” it says.
When asking respondents to reply to statements on central policy issues like the environment, immigration and the economy, those with a high amount of traditional media consumption gave nearly twice as many incorrect answers than those with low traditional media consumption.
“Respondents with high levels of traditional news media exposure reported uncertainty in the answer to our fact-based questions 2 fewer times than those with lower levels of media consumption,” reads the report.
“They gave 0.9 more correct responses; however, they also gave 1.1 more incorrect responses, which means they gave 0.2 more net-incorrect responses than those with lower exposure.
Among other findings, the memo claims that most Canadians consume a majority of their news from the following five outlets: CBC online (42%), CTV (41%), CTV online (40%), CBC Television (39%) and TVA-Nouvelles (37%).
According to the report, the project surveyed over 1,000 Canadians and analyzed millions of social media posts to achieve its findings.
Amidst calls for proactive measures on the global “climate crisis”, 11,258 scientists from 153 nations agreed with the findings in a recent BioScience publication. They warn of “untold suffering due to the climate crisis”.
Unless we commit to reproducing less, “transition” from fossil fuels, cut meat from our diets and end deforestation, the effects will only worsen, according to the publication.
The Liberal Party dogma echoes these sentiments. From using Inuit Canadians as props to giving fictitious sympathies to the prairies (having labelled them as “climate change deniers” in the past), the false moral platitudes undermine attempts for rational discourse.
When that discourse sours to the received wisdom being beyond reproach, and media mix education with indoctrination, society suffers as a result.
Yes, climate change is just that–a serious issue trumped up by alarmist rhetoric.
Like health care, education, and yes, even climate change, contentious issues such as these require honest debate, realistic goals, and a plan to achieve said policy aims. Combating climate change can occur without alienating large swaths of the population or moving to “phase out” entire industries.
While it is no secret that Albertans are the least receptive to coercive climate action, the backlash from a recent poll demonstrates how divisive mere inquiry can be. Suggesting an alternative to the carbon tax even constitutes the label of climate change denier.
Therefore, if it is true that “Scientists have a moral obligation…to ‘tell it like it is’, then, perhaps, the demonizing of one’s opponents, as the political left often does, is not how we save the world from the pending apocalypse.
Effectively, the climate change issue has become a means by which tragedy is politicized, opponents mischaracterized, and the genuine need to educate gone with the wind. It’s all about centralized control, increased taxation, and not the freedom to choose.
The recent High Level fire was not caused by climate change, but arson
The CBC pinned the devastating fire this summer near High Level and Chuckegg Creek on climate change, using wire copy from Canadian Press reporter Corlette Derworiz with the misleading headline “Alberta wildfires linked to climate change, scientist says”.
Despite the fires still raging, the CBC article began by spinning the story in service of the climate change narrative, before the smoke had settled and the cause of the fire was even established.
We now know from the release of the RCMP’s investigation that the largest of the fires around Chuckegg Creek and High Level were caused by arson, something that was made public on Oct. 22.
Of course, climate change will result in more wildfires. Nobody would contend that warmer weather makes for drier conditions, but in this case, the reporting was dishonest. Emphasizing a single factor without acknowledging other causes, including arson, was irresponsible.
The premier’s response at the time included the need for more context as to why this fire season may be worse than others, including but not limited to climate change.
“‘I accept the science on anthropogenic climate change,’ Kenney said in a news conference. “But, in this particular instance, I can tell you we are on the five-year average for forest fires in Alberta… The large one right now is happening in an area where there has not been a fire for 80 years, and so, regardless of other factors, it was due eventually for a large wildfire.’”
In our interview with the CP reporter, she said, “Kenney’s comments aren’t wrong, but fire scientists say they don’t tell the whole story,” which is ironic, given the original story included misleading quotes from the scientist she interviewed.
It all seemed quite strange that the quotes from Dr. Mike Flannigan, who has a Ph.D. in Plant Sciences, and who specializes in fire’s interaction with climate, would give such a lopsided take on the northern Alberta wildfires. His quotes, peppered throughout the article, read like climate change propaganda, which, now having talked to him, are deeply misrepresentative of his views.
A quote like “We are seeing climate change in action,” makes it sound like Dr. Flannigan is speaking on the northern Alberta wildfires, and like other quotes, are lacking in context, suspiciously short, and do not reflect something a respected environmental scientist would claim while a wildfire is still burning.
When we called Dr. Flannigan to ask why he seemingly had attributed the fires solely to the increased risks from climate change, the ensuing discussions pointed our concerns back to Derworiz’s piece that the all-too-credulous CBC published because it fit the public broadcaster’s confirmation bias.
Upon questioning him, it was soon evident that Dr. Flannigan is very detailed in the way he handles the issue of forest fires. The quotes included were tailored down to meet the CP’s and CBC’s climate change narrative.
As Dr. Flannigan put it:
“Media like sound bites of ten to thirty seconds, where, unfortunately, you can’t get into all that you know, but you try and hammer home the major points and often I do try. But it doesn’t always make it because things get cut, that the amount of human activity in northern Alberta has increased significantly. And so we’re seeing more impact because more people are living and working in the forest as compared to 40 years ago. So that’s why we’re seeing more Chuckegg Creeks, Slave Lakes, and Fort McMurray. It’s because there are more people there, and they’re starting fires.” Dr. Flannigan
When we followed up with the CP reporter to question the editorializing in her news article, she said it was unfair to expect her to get the cause of the fire correct as she had less information when she wrote the article. This misses the point entirely.
The issue is that CP wrote a story about the northern Alberta wildfires and linked them to climate change before having all of the evidence. Even if the cause of the major fires around Chuckegg Creek and High Level had been strongly linked to climate change, it would still not be correct to write the story before confirming that as factually accurate.
If you don’t have the information, then you don’t write the story. That’s how journalism works.
On the call, the reporter pivoted her position from climate change being linked to the fires to climate change, generally making wildfires worse, which is a palatable position, but not one that was portrayed in her article.
She deflected criticism of the information she presented back at Dr. Flannigan, stating, “I’m not giving you different information. The prof is the expert. He’s the guy that you should talk to.”
Dr. Flannigan told us, “I don’t usually like to go to individual events and say, yes, that’s a direct result of climate change.” That contradicts the premise of the article which broadly links all the fires, including those close to Chuckegg Creek and High Level, to climate change.
Again Dr. Flannigan had said that he doesn’t just give soundbites nor link causes or factors to fires while they are still burning. He will provide extensive information to anyone who comes looking for his expertise.
“Media wants a hook, and the more sensational, the better. So, I can sometimes talk for 40 minutes, and it will be reduced down to thirty seconds or twenty seconds, and they [only] take snippets. And sometimes it’s out of context, or at least it’s not complete. It’s incomplete. And yeah, I mean, it’s a very complex issue, and to reduce it to one point is–yeah.”
The CP reporter responded to us when asked if it was okay to run a story before getting in all the evidence, saying, “Well, I don’t think that is any different than Premier Kenney making statements about what he thinks caused the fire at the time.”
Having mentioned Premier Kenney’s response to the fire, she claimed her article was a response to his “strong statements.”
“I believe that is why we did that story at the time,” she states.
Though the author isn’t wholly to blame, the CBC is dogmatic on the climate change issue and gladly publishes alarmist rhetoric on their website regularly. Those opposing the so-called “climate crisis” are ex-communicated as “deniers”, while Greta Thunberg is given sainthood.
Based on this editorial trajectory, it isn’t a shock that the CBC has set up an incentive structure that could result in a biased, inaccurate piece being published without sober second thought.
It doesn’t seem to matter to them that a misreporting of the issue could impact the lives of people living in northern Alberta. People need to know accurate information on what caused a fire to be able to make an informed decision on continuing to live in the area or not.
For the record, the CBC never updated the original article or made any retraction of the information provided within.
Since CBC receives well over a billion dollars of taxpayer money annually, it would be nice if Canadians could rely on accurate information, especially in stressful situations like wildfires or extreme weather events where evacuations occurred.
While CBC and CP mislead Canadians, The Post Millennial provided quality coverage of the region, even before the fires
The importance of shining light on underreported issues with a large platform or spotlight is crucial—especially so as we make concerted efforts to mend historical injustices.
And speaking truth to power, including the mainstream, is vital for the free press to do so consistently, and to do right.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has big plans.
To truly do that though, the CBC would have to function as a media producer that represents all Canadians.
With only one week until the election ends, they have blown that opportunity by not just blurring the line between partisanship and journalism, but erasing it altogether.
For those catching up, the state broadcaster will be taking the Conservative Party of Canada to court for using clips of the broadcaster’s footage in an online attack ad, something other parties also do, but CBC decided to single out the Conservatives.
Stunningly and stupidly tone-deaf, the CBC named Rosemary Barton and John Paul Tasker as applicants in the copyright infringement lawsuit, but are now planning to amend it to remove both journalists’ names after facing serious backlash from the public and experts alike.
Part of the public outrage came from the fact that court documents show the CBC began sending letters to the Conservative Party on October 7th.
That was the same day that the only official English Leaders’ debate was moderated in part by CBC journalist Rosemary Barton.
At this moment, it’s not clear whether Barton was involved since then, or if this was handled without their knowledge. But lawyers not involved in the case are saying it’s pretty hard to believe Barton wasn’t involved in the lawsuit where she was named as one of the applicants. Either way, there’s a serious problem.
If CBC journalists Barton, co-host of The National, and Tasker were aware of the lawsuit it would mean Barton co-moderated the leaders’ debate while not disclosing to the public she was suing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s party.
If they were unaware, the CBC was so trigger happy that it initiated a suit including named applicants without the knowledge or consent of the journalists.
Both cases are worrying. And this is just the beginning.
According to an article published in the Globe and Mail by lawyer Michael Geist, “the lawsuit is all the more puzzling because the legal claims are quite weak. The majority of the seven clips do not even include CBC journalists. Three are taken from the English-language leaders’ debate and one from a town-hall meeting with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. Of the remaining clips, Ms. Barton says nothing in one, and the others run for a total of 10 seconds.”
Interestingly, while the CBC continues to sue the Conservatives for copyright infringement, according to a 2018 Canadaland report, the state broadcaster itself remains mired in its own legacy of stealing scoops from small private Canadian content producers without giving credit.
Regardless of the hypocrisy, the CBC has also been quick to attack and criticize independent journalism in this country, often labelling it as unserious or lacking credentials.
Indeed, Barton even had the nerve to tweet out the suggestion that not all journalists are real journalists.
It was a clear swipe at Andrew Lawton of TNC who had to force the government’s hand by getting last-minute court-ordered accreditation after being targeted, blocked, and harrassed by Trudeau’s campaign as well as the Trudeau government-appointed Leaders’ Debate Commission. Once a federal court judge ordered the commission to give Lawton accreditation, a CBC journalist allegedly conspired with one of Trudeau’s aides to try and stop Lawton from asking Trudeau a question.
The embarrassing news of Barton’s involvement in CBC’s lawsuit dropped one day later, and the subsequent removal of her name and denial she was involved followed after her and CBC got blasted on Twitter. This begs the question: why do so-called real journalism outlets launch frivolous copyright suits against a particular political party mere days before an election without disclosing it to their audience?
The CBC and The National host Rosemary Barton are suing the Conservative Party of Canada for copyright infringement over CBC clips used on the CPC’s “Not as Advertised” website attacking Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, as well as for using CBC debate clips on the CPC Twitter feed.
“The CBC obviously has rights as the copyright owner in its broadcast, but those rights are constrained by limitations and exceptions under the law that allow for use of its work without the need for further permission,” said University of Ottawa copyright law professor Michael Geist in a blog post, arguing the Conservative’s had the right under fair dealing to use the CBC excerpts, much like CBC borrows pieces of others’ work in its reporting.
The lawsuit was filed on Thursday and argues the CPC violated the moral rights of CBC journalists John Paul Tasker and Rosemary Barton and its use of CBC content could confuse viewers to believe the public broadcaster is biased for the Conservatives, which goes against the public braodcaster’s mandate.
Ironically, many Canadians have instead been accusing the CBC of being biased for the Trudeau Liberals, including the journalism of Barton herself, who has a history of showing favouritism for the Liberal leader and his government, including taking an affectionate selfie with Trudeau to share on social media as well as asking him friendly frivolous questions in an end of year interview in 2018.
Barton has also made recent partial comments live on air, such as how the Trudeau government’s large deficits don’t matter or that the RCMP are “just asking a few questions” regarding the SNC Lavalin scandal investigation.
“Moreover, the claim over short clips over debate footage is enormously troubling, considering both the importance of broad dissemination of the debate and the fact that the debate involves little specific contribution for any individual broadcaster,” continued Geist in his post assessing the lawsuit. “CBC has an unfortunate history of overzealous use of copyright to stifle freedom of expression and that approach appears to have reared its head yet again as the 2019 campaign hits the home stretch.”
CBC’s lawsuit has had a chilling effect, with the video under question already being pulled from the CPC’s YouTube channel.
In 2015, Barton’s predecessor and mentor Peter Mansbridge also complained to CBC management about the CPC using some interview footage between him and Trudeau that included an embarrassing response from the Liberal leader in response to the Boston Bombing attack.
Mansbridge himself has been questioned for his partiality for the Liberals after his fawning interview with Trudeau the day he was sworn in as PM and his close friendship with Liberal partisan Bruce Anderson, who he regularly had on The National when he was the host.
Other political parties routinely use clips from broadcasters and haven’t typically been sued.
Outside of this recent action, the CBC has also been called out for multiple other instances of favourable Liberal connections or actions.
CBC journalist and parliamentary press gallery member Katie Simpson, for example, was questioned on why she would use a picture of a smiling Trudeau as her background on Twitter. (She’s since changed it.)
The CBC is also still collaborating with a survey company–that also received lucrative contracts from the Liberal government–to create its Vote Compass, an unscientific survey that tells voters which party they are most aligned with and in the past has been accused of favouring the Liberals.
Last week another CBC journalist wrote an incorrect “analysis” piece that claimed the B.C. carbon tax was revenue neutral, the same claim the Liberals are making about their own carbon tax, which Barton tweeted out. It took the public broadcaster 18 hours to properly correct the mistake and neither the journalist who wrote it or Barton made note of it online after sharing incorrect information.
During the 2015 election, Trudeau promised the CBC an additional $150 million annually to its well over a billion it receives in government subsidies annually.
During the campaign, Trudeau himself also joked about how his government would always provide preferential treatment to the CBC, while passing forward poutine.
On Thursday night, Barton questioned whether other journalists are legitimate, this after a court forced Trudeau government appointed Leaders’ debate commission to allow journalists who were critical of Trudeau into the event.
In response to the lawsuit, the Conservative party has sent out a mailer in which it argues it has the right to use short clips from the CBC.
When CPC Leader Andrew Scheer ran for the Conservative leadership he said he would scrap the CBC News division, but he has since backtracked on that promise, instead saying CBC needs to refocus on Canadian stories.
Mainstream journalists such as media critic and Canadaland founder Jesse Brown have said the CPC is completely within the realm of fair dealing and it not violating copyright.
The CBC has retracted an earlier story which placed the ruling Manitoba Conservatives in a dead heat with the NDP for the upcoming election.
The archived version of the story’s headline was “NDP and PCs in ‘dead heat’ heading into Manitoba election, poll suggests.”
The poll in the article was done by Converso Research, who later admitted that the data was inaccurate.
In reality, the Conservatives—who are polling at 35 percent—are far ahead of the NDP who only have 21 percent of the vote.
The discrepancy was believed to have been caused by overweighing results from northern Manitoba, according to the pollsters.
“The discrepancy was caused by an over-weighting of responses from northern Manitoba,” said the company’s managing director Carl Mavromichalis.
The original article reporting on the results was published by the CBC early Friday morning at 6 a.m. and was edited several hours after the article had been widely circulated.
Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine shows that the article was still unedited by 1:27 p.m. that afternoon.