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Is the CBC in another orbit?

Our public broadcaster doesn't want to cover pro-Palestinian peace efforts...

by Judy Haiven

Carrying signs today in front of the Public Gardens
Carrying signs today in front of the Public Gardens
This sign attracted many people who signed the letters to PM Harper
This sign attracted many people who signed the letters to PM Harper
Kevin. He's come to hold a sign and leaflet every day for 10 days.
Kevin. He's come to hold a sign and leaflet every day for 10 days.


It’s one block away from headquarters, but no one comes to see.

It’s at midday, when – given that it’s glorious high summer – no one from headquarters drops by on their way to lunch on Spring Garden Road.

It takes place on the busiest corner in Halifax, but no one from headquarters comes near because it could be controversial.

The ‘no one’ is any journalist or reporter at the CBC Radio One headquarters. Dozens work there.  We are told that there is the need for local content to shape the Information Morning show – 3 hours every weekday.  There is also the one hour daily Maritime Noon program, and there is the 3 hour Main Street current affairs program broadcast in the afternoon, when Haligonians drive home from work.  Oh I almost forgot, CBC Radio One also has to fill a local news spot every half hour for 12 hours a day – that’s 24 news spots.

But not one reporter bothers to walk to the corner where we hold picket signs about stopping Israel’s destruction of Gaza.

And still,  the journalists at the CBC Radio soldier on reporting the business news, the stock market news, the charity swim news, the highway accident news, the grizzly murder and mayhem news –as though crime has not decreased to levels not seen since 1970.  

But there is no news on CBC Radio One about local people who are protesting Israel’s destruction of Gaza.

Indeed, the news about 400 plus people in Halifax who stopped at the gates to the Public Gardens to sign letters to the Prime Minister -- our local public broadcaster simply ignores. 

The Case:  For the last 10 days from 12 noon to 12.30 pm,  in front of the Public Gardens, members of Canadians, Arabs and Jews for a Just Peace, and Independent Jewish Voices-Canada have asked Haligonians and visitors to stop for a minute and sign a letter to PM Harper.  The letter urges Harper to demand that Israel lift its 7 year blockade of Gaza and rebuild Gaza which Israeli troops attacked in their Operation Protective Edge.  Israel has killed more than 2,000 civilians and maimed more than 10,000 people.  More than 400,000 of Gazans (one quarter of their population) cannot go home because Israel has destroyed tens of thousands of houses in Gaza since early July.

The Result: Fewer that 2% of people walking by the Public Gardens have refused to sign a letter to Harper. There is tremendous interest in halting Israel’s deployment of Hellfire missiles and shells on Gazan civilians.  Even through short-lived  recent ceasefires in effect, people in Halifax continued  to demand that Israeli hospitals treat the 10,000 Palestinians burned and broken by Israel’s airstrikes.  The letters to our PM also ask him to tell Israel to rebuild homes, mosques, hospitals and schools in Gaza, since Israel destroyed them.

Today, at our media conference in front of the Public Gardens, there was no sign of reporters from the CBC – our public broadcaster.  Maybe they are afraid of controversy.  Maybe they don’t bother to open our emails and press releases.  Maybe the reporters are simply too busy and too jaded to look at what hundreds of people in this city are doing for peace.  400 signed letters are a serious start.

Judy Haiven is a member of Independent Jewish Voices- Canada. She teaches at Saint Mary's University in Halifax.

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Topics: Peace/War
546 words


another possibility

re "Maybe they are afraid of controversy.  Maybe they don’t bother to open our emails and press releases.  Maybe the reporters are simply too busy and too jaded to look at what hundreds of people in this city are doing for peace.  400 signed letters are a serious start."

...or maybe they're just continuing to fulfill their function as part of the western doctrinal system by systematically covering up or whitewashing Israel's crimes - as CBC has been doing for many years with the international crimes of the US, Canada and their allies - and ignoring grassroots activism and analysis that challenge the propaganda they are committed to disseminating. 

hear hear

Well said, Brooks.

Analyzing CBC coverage

Thanks to Judy Haiven for raising the question of why local CBC reporters would ignore a timely protest.

Having worked for CBC for nearly 20 years and having spent another 15 in a university studying journalistic routines, I can suggest a few answers to Judy's legitimate questions. I can also suggest what activists need to do to effect change.

First, although individual CBC journalists have a certain amount of power in reporting stories, they do not control the "frame" that their organization uses as a guideline. It's important to consider that the organization, not the individual journalist, confers authority. The Globe and Mail, the CBC, the New York Times and so forth give their authority to what individual journalists report. As a result, journalists know instinctively that what they report must fit within the overall "frame" of their news organization. They also know that their editors will apply that frame to test whether a particular story fits the criteria for credibility and newsworthiness.

News organizations themselves do not devise the "frame" for reporting in international news. Home governments provide the frames and they are especially successful in imposing them when there is no signficant political opposition. That is the case here where Israeli aggression is framed as an isolated, beleaguered Middle Eastern democracy defending itself from aggression by implacable, despotic Arab opponents bent on its destruction. In the background is Hitler, the holocaust and the all-too-real anti-semitism of Canadian society in the 20th century. 

Changing journalistic frames is not an easy task. In this case, the only way to do so is to apply intense political pressure on those who set, or enable, the frame. In practical terms that means dogging political representatives until they finally give in. Every time Megan Leslie or Robert Chisholm hold a public event for example, you have to be there disrupting it to remind people that what Israel is doing constitutes war crimes and that the federal NDP is enabling them. Same goes with Liberals such as Geoff Regan and regional Conservatives. Hound them, make their lives miserable until they raise the issue at caucus and try to get the heat turned down.

If, for example, pressure got the federal NDP to criticize Israel, a space would be opened for more critical reporting. That is the way it works. It takes a lot of work, patience and courage to change news frames.

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