The trustworthiness of CTV's flagship public affairs program, W5, has been called into question in a Complaint lodged with the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) by the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada.
The Complaint concerns CTV's coverage of grants to combat racism by the World Council of Churches and the Anglican Church's contribution to those grants. The segment, entitled "A House Divided," was broadcast by W5 on October 29th.
The Complaint charges that there was a strong personal bias on the part of the reporter, Henry Champ, that critical spokesmen were unrepresentative of the views of church members and that manipulative film selection and editing techniques were used.
In a 20-page document (which included a complete transcript) signed by Archdeacon E.S. Light, General Secretary of the General Synod, the Complaint cites five major errors of fact and says the segment gave biased and distorted impressions which few in the audience would have the knowledge to challenge. It says an open, public hearing at which the videotape of the segment could be shown should be ordered by the CRTC.
"The fact that the Broadcasting Act requires the broadcasting system as a whole to provide balance in matters of public concern does not relieve the individual licencee of its obligation to approach controversial issues carefully, fairly and professionally," it states.
"If these criteria are not adhered to by each broadcaster, then the Act can do nothing to ensure for Canadians the trustworthiness of their broadcast journalism," it states.
The program segment dealt with grants made for humanitarian purposes by the Special Fund to Combat Racism of the World Council of Churches to African movements, particularly to Zimbabwe Patriotic Front. It included interviews with Archbishop E.W. Scott, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada and moderator of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, and persons critical of the grants.
The Complaint also carries the signatures of 15 other church officials from United, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Roman Catholic Churches or their organizations, supporting the contents of the brief and its request for a special public hearing.
In addition, the Anglican House of Bishops last week passed a motion unanimously supporting Archbishop Scott in his leadership of the church and in his role as moderator of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches. It said it regrets the distortion by some media of his position on the Program to Combat Racism of the World Council of Churches.
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For further information:
Rev. William E. Lowe
Director of Communication
Anglican Church of Canada
Office: 924-9192 ext. 252
Turner and Barrett
Barristers and Solicitors
On October 29th, 1978, at 10 p.m., the CTV Television Network aired, on its program W5, a 13-minute segment entitled "A House Divided."
The reporter was Henry Champ; the producer, Ian McLeod.
The documentary segment dealt with contributions by the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund of the Anglican Church of Canada to the World Council of Churches' Programme to Combat Racism.
Donations to the Primate's Fund are made specifically by individuals, both directly and through their parishes, as the result of a special appeal for that purpose. Money does not come from general weekly revenues. The Fund is administered by a board comprised of clergy and laity, chaired by the Primate, Archbishop Edward Scott.
The Programme to Combat Racism of the World Council of Churches receives funds for its grants directly and specifically from member churches (including the Anglican Church of Canada) and others who wish to participate in the Programme. Participation is purely voluntary. Among contributors are the governments of Sweden, Holland and Norway.
In 1978, the Special Fund of the Programme disbursed grants in the amount of $434,500 to twenty-nine agencies throughout the world, including two Canadian native groups.
The grant at issue in the W5 segment was for $85,000 for food, medicine, clothing and other humanitarian needs of over 100,000 Rhodesian refugees in camps operated by the Patriotic Front in Mozambique and Zambia. The Programme's contribution was a very small part of the multi-million dollar budget for the operation of these camps. The Programme is, in essence, a partner with other humanitarian agencies such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Calculated on an annual basis, less than one-quarter of one percent (approximately $2500) of the total Primate's Fund went to aid these refugees.
As our country agonizes over the nature of our future, Archbishop E.W. Scott, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has written to Al Johnson, President of the CBC with "a degree of puzzlement concerning the absence of any discernable pattern in CBC programming indicating that the nature of these historic events calls for more from CBC that just news coverage."
The Archbishop questions, "Is it appropriate to cover these events as you might a coronation or state funeral,...requiring no more than passive participation as interested bystanders?"
The Primate declared that "in the face of an apparent choice by the national, elected government to forego extensive citizen involvement," the CBC should accept a "central role as catalyst and medium for a Canadian constitutional dialogue." He likened this role to that of the builders of CPR except that now it is "human barriers of prejudice, ignorance and isolation" which must be bridged.
Archbishop Scott calls for an immediate meeting of the Board of Directors of CBC, or decisive action by Mr. Johnson as Chief Executive Officer, to institute "a policy of informational, cultural and citizen access programming."
The full text of the Archbishop's letter is enclosed.
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For further information, please contact:
Richard J. Berryman
600 Jarvis St., Toronto
Tel. (416) 924-9192 ext. 286
November 13th, 1980
Mr. Al Johnson
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
1500 Bronson Ave.
Ottawa, Ont. K1G 3J5
Dear Mr. Johnson:
We recall with appreciation CBC's balanced and informative coverage of the Quebec referendum campaign. Careful advance planning, combined with a true sense of the significance of the occasion for the country, enabled the Corporation to involved people in the debate while still avoiding the clear risk of Radio Canada becoming a matter of controversy. We recognize that the direction and tone set by the Board of Directors of the CBC, chaired by yourself, was instrumental in providing a most positive example to Canadians of what is so unique about good public broadcasting.
We are writing now to ask members of the CBC Board, through their Chairman, whether an analogous role for CBC has been considered and planned during the present constitutional process? Hearings of the Special Parliamentary Committee are almost upon us and we admit to a degree of puzzlement concerning the absence of any discernable pattern in CBC programming indicating that the nature of these historic events calls for more from CBC than just news coverage.
We ask members of the CBC Board, as trustees of the public interest, to reflect upon how CBC can best serve Canadian needs in a period of active constitutional revision. Can there be any higher priority for CBC than to maximize opportunities for informed citizen participation in the process? Is it appropriate to cover these events as you might a coronation or state funeral, events of great significance to the population but requiring no more than their passive participation as interested bystanders ?
As the most fundamental symbol of Canadian nationhood, patriation of our constitution is an occasion of great moment, the collective, irrevocable assertion of our political independence and freedom. What is currently proposed is indeed even more than patriation, an essentially new constitution in which basic rules of Parliamentary government and rights of citizens are altered, basic approaches to citizens' relations with government are changed, basic understandings of the country are revised.
The right of each citizen to become involved in such a process requires no defence. The opportunity presented to the nation by the fullest participation of our citizens ought to be equally evident. For what value is there to elaborating a new blueprint for interactions among the regions, the language groups, the heritages or beliefs of Canadians, and even between the sexes, when our citizens are not themselves committed to the spirit of accommodation? By leaving citizens as bystanders, we lose the precious opportunity to involve them in a process which begins with exchange, grows into understanding, and should ultimately ripen to tolerance and/or acceptance. It is equally an opportunity to create a constitution which captures, to the best of our abilities, Canadians' collective self-image of the heritage, life and aspirations we share as a country.
We understand that members of CBC's Board -- in the face of an apparent choice by the national, elected government to forego extensive citizen involvement -- cannot lightly set a course for the corporation which might conceivably be perceived as a challenge to federal policy. There is no reason to believe that the same broad support would be forthcoming, as it was from two administrations during the referendum debate, for a CBC policy of greatly expanded public affairs programming and of extensive freetime, citizen access in order to animate participation by Canadians in the constitutional process. At least, on the positive side, the Board does not (yet) have to contend with Cabinet-level accusations of CBC being riddled with Western separatists. We ask members of the Board of CBC to consider most carefully the distinction between the federal interest and the national or public interest, for where the two are not synonymous, it is the latter which forms their ultimate mandate.
Should the Corporation accept what would be obviously a central role, as catalyst and medium for a Canadian constitutional dialogue, it would undertake a task in the electronic 1980's equivalent to the work of the railroad nation-builders a century ago. Only it is the human barriers or prejudice, ignorance, and isolation which the CBC must bridge, as the CPR once spanned the mountains, gorges and swamps of the Canadian terrain. In response to the most disheartening observation of the Task Force on Canadian Unity, that:
"Sometimes the country seemed to us to be composed of a multiplicity of solitudes, islands of self-contained activity and discourse disconnected from their neighbour and tragically unaware of the whole which contained them all. When one speaks, the others did not listen..."
We look to this nation's electronic media as the prime instrument of exchange and contact among our "multiplicity of solitudes", as you did yourself earlier this year before a committee of the CRTC:
"It is by radio and television, more than any other means, that Canadians live together, the events of their country -- that we experience together what we are and what we can do -- in drama and sport, in music and film, in community and individual endeavour. It is by radio and television that we are enriched by our heritages and by different identities -- the triumphs and the troubles of this country".
Unlike the Quebec referendum debate, the present constitutional process has no fixed ending, no compelling occasion for citizen involvement such as a vote, and no clear dichotomy of "oui" and "non"; but there are some datelines if not deadlines for decision. Fair balance in programming will be most difficult to achieve given the diversity of Canadian voices on constitutional issues, compounded by the absence of any one or two clearcut themes in a debate which is too infant to have yet developed a focus. This underlines for us the urgency of planning within CBC for such a complex enterprise. A special, immediate meeting of the Board of Directors of CBC, solely on the matter of CBC's role in the constitutional process, would be in our opinion justified by present circumstances. Canadians may never have been in such need as now of their national broadcasting service. If for some reason this is not possible, we would assume you make the necessary decision as the Chief Executive Officer.
We look to CBC for a policy of informational, cultural and citizen access programming which will inform, sensitize, and challenge Canadians regarding constitutional renewal. We trust we are not mistaken in our understanding of what national public broadcasting is all about for Canada during this critical period.
This letter comes to you following discussion with a number of concerned Canadians in many parts of Canada -- some active in the Church and others not. It also has the general endorsation of the National Executive Council of the Anglican Church of Canada which spent several hours sharing concerns and views about the constitutional situation at its recent meeting held from November 5th to 7th, 1980.
Ottawa - A brief on educational broadcasting which contradicts some of the recommendations submitted by Secretary of State, Judy LaMarsh, two weeks ago, was submitted today by members of three religious denominations.
The parliamentary committee on broadcasting, films and assistance to the arts were told by members of the Anglican, United and Roman Catholic churches that educational broadcasting must extend beyond instructional television to include cultural and informational programming for all age levels.
The brief urges that all unused VHF (Very High Frequency) channels be reserved immediately for the development of educational television for a period of at least five years. It also suggests legislation be passed requiring all new television set to be equipped with the UHF (Ultra High Frequency) band.
The brief is endorsed by the Anglican Church National Executive Council, the United Church General Council and the Commissions on Education and Communication of the Roman Catholic Church.
Joining in the presentation were Rev. Peter Meggs, communications director and Mrs. Nancy MacNeill, executive television producer, both of the Anglican Church of Canada; Rev. Keith Woollard, director of broadcasting and Dr. Frank Fidler, associate secretary of the board of Christian education, both of the United Church of Canada and Rev. Edmond J. Roche, director of the national education office of the Canadian Catholic Conference.
Miss Judy LaMarsh stressed that provincial educational authorities should have absolute priority on the transmitting facilities of ETV. The brief by the three churches urges that community interests be strongly represented in ETV administrative organizations by volunteer agencies and community bodies, as well as departments of education, colleges and universities.
The churches' brief also urges that educational broadcasting include general cultural and informational programming in addition to instructional material. Miss LaMarsh said that the objective of ETV programming is "the systematic acquisition or improvement of knowledge" with the participants' results ascertained by examinations, supervision or checking.
Representatives of the churches told the committee that persons at home, as well as children in school, should have access to educational programming and recommended VHF channels should be included in educational programming. Most of the television broadcasting in Canada has been confined to the VHF band of channels.
Miss LaMarsh said the federal government believes ETV facilities should be developed on the UHF band, although this would not mean that UHF bands would all be devoted to educational television.
At present, existing television sets can be modified to receive UHF bands at cost ranging from $25 to $50. In the churches' brief, it is suggested that consideration be given to converting present sets at public expense and to a temporary reduction in the federal tax on UHF sets.
The General Secretary read the following letter received from Mr. W. John Dunlop, Network Supervisor, Religious Programs of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:
"I am writing to ask if the Anglican Church of Canada would be interested in the televising of a 90-minute 'Teach-in' on the Principles of Union between the Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada.
The CBC would be prepared to assume all the costs of bringing together a panel of persons to explain the Principles of Union and sketch future developments as they see them.
The proposed date of the 'Teach-in' is October or November. In return for the production of the 'Teach-in,' the CBC would expect that the churches concerned would organize groups to meet in many communities. These groups would watch the program and go on to their own discussion sessions.
The CBC has already scheduled a 'Teach-in' for May on the Vatican Council. We have been given to understand that programs of this nature help communities to plan ecumenical meetings, so that concerned Christian folk meet to know the problems and opportunities of their neighbours.
Could I have some expression of interest and willingness to work towards the production of such a 'Teach-in'?"
That we warmly approve of this 'teach-in.' CARRIED
Whereas 93% of all Canadian homes now own television sets, and the average Canadian viewing in these homes is 43 hours a week,
Whereas broadcasters and educators cannot avail themselves of competent research into the impact and effects of television upon Canadian society,
Be It Resolved that this General Synod urges the Canadian Government to encourage the initiation of a program of research in this country similar to the Television Research Committee established in Britain in 1963 by the British Home Secretary to study the effects of mass communication on our society. CARRIED in both Houses.
"Three newspapers have died since cuts in federal funding to aboriginal news media a year ago. One of them, `Micmac News' was the only aboriginal newspaper in the Maritimes. Only eight aboriginal newspapers still publish, but their chances for survival remain uncertain". The article also discusses aboriginal initiatives and programming on radio and television including `Television Northern Canada' (TVNC).
The Primate requested Archbishop Somerville to take the Chair, and sought persmission to absent himself from the meeting.
"That this House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada wholeheartedly supports our Primate, Archbishop Edward Scott, in his leadership of our Church and in his role of Moderator of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, and deeply regrets the distortion by some of the media of his position on the World Council of Churches' 'Program to Combat Racism.'" CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
Moved by: The Rt. Rev. H.V.R. Short
Seconded by: The Rt. Rev. D. Hambidge
"That this House supports the action of the General Secretary in this complaint." CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.