The CBC Ombudsman has agreed with me and others who raised the issue of Stephen Smart’s conflict of interest. Now, we await the corporation’s resolution of this matter. You can read the entire Ombudsman report here but the important section is this:
“…Whether a real or perceived conflict of interest, no amount of managing it can do more than mitigate the impact on an impartial fulfillment of duties.
“In this instance some of Smart’s central political reporting functions that involve dealings with the premier and her opponents are affected or impeded. He also bears an unavoidable conflict of commitment in which professional responsibilities commingle with moral obligations in other legitimate personal roles in his life.
“CBC journalistic policies are designed to be congruent with corporate policies that call for an avoidance of real or perceived conflict of interest, bearing of the greatest scrutiny, and exceptions only when the corporation’s interests are clearly better served.
“Smart can report with integrity, and CBC’s protocol can combine disclosure and recusal, but the pervasive appearance of a conflict of interest will continually challenge their 5 reputations. It is hard to see how an arrangement with the potential to diminish the effectiveness of CBC’s journalism and public standing serves an interest worthy of a policy exception.
“My role isn’t to sort through the challenge of resolving this matter in accordance with labour law or collective agreements. My role is simply to assess the situation against policy in light of the public complaint. As it stands there is a violation of CBC Journalistic Standards and Practices.”
This issue was brought to wide public notice by bloggers and concerned citizens and that should not have been necessary since professional, full time reporters knew what was going on. A question we should ask is where was the corporate media on this issue. If they are silent on one offence to journalistic standards, we can be sure they will remain silent on others too.
For example, we need to know about reporters receiving speaker’s fees from industry groups affected by their coverage; or, “research” contracts and other hospitality from the Fraser Institute, or fees to advise industry and business groups on gaining better press coverage (pay rewards for it?), etc.
Unfortunately, experience suggests people of BC’s mainstream media will remain silent when abuses affect their own affairs or the affairs of colleagues.
Another issue to address is that CBC’s news management in the Pacific region has exposed their own poor judgment and their stubborn refusal to be accountable to reasonable citizen complaints. The relationship between news consumers and news presenters requires trust. CBC’s Vancouver management has damaged that trust.
The text of my December 18 complaint to the CBC Ombudsman along with his initial response is included in the article CBC reporter’s conflict of interest.