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Posted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 6:10 am Post subject: Trudeau's role in CBC series odd
Trudeau's role in CBC series 'doesn't pass smell test': public interest group
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau filmed introduction for new docuseries about Canada’s history that premiered Sunday on CBC TV
Tuesday, March 28th, 2017
The NDP’s culture critic and a broadcasting public interest group are both saying Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s appearance on CBC Television to introduce a new drama-documentary series produced by Canada’s public broadcaster is extremely odd, and raises questions about the relationship between the CBC and the Liberal government.
As part of its special programming to mark Canada’s 150th birthday, the CBC is broadcasting a ten-part television series about Canada’s history, titled ‘The Story of Us’. Trudeau delivered a minute-long introduction for the show’s first episode — which aired Sunday night — stating, among other things, that Canada “has been successful in finding its strength through cooperation” and acknowledging the “dark chapters” in the country’s history.
CBC also used Trudeau’s introduction to promote the series about a week in advance of the premiere.
Ian Morrison, spokesperson of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting — a non-profit organization that advocates for quality Canadian programming — called Trudeau’s appearance on the CBC series “very unusual” and argued “it didn’t quite pass the smell test,” pointing to the CBC’s mandate of operating independently from government.
“In a democracy we don’t want to have a public broadcaster less than arm’s length from the government of the day,” Morrison said.
“It’s mildly troubling (and) I hope it doesn’t become part of a pattern.”
Chuck Thompson, head of public affairs for CBC’s English services, told iPolitics that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation paid Toronto-based production company Bristow Global Media to produce ‘The Story of Us’. Bristow Global Media’s website says the company specializes in “creating multi-platform content across all genres, including scripted, lifestyle, reality, documentary and sports.”
A spokesperson for Bristow Global Media said the company followed a show format created by a U.K.-based content company — a drama-documentary format that has already aired in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.
“With every version, it involves the production company reaching out to the current leader of the respective country, inviting them do an introduction to the series and that’s what happened here,” Thompson said in an email. “The programming team at CBC was aware that a request would be made for the Prime Minister to participate when we green lit the series.”
Thompson did not respond when asked to comment on whether the CBC felt it was appropriate to involve Trudeau in the series, given the corporation’s mandate to remain independent from government.
Bristow Global Media’s president and CEO, Julie Bristow, is a former CBC programming chief. The biography on her company’s website says she is a former director of well-known CBC shows including Dragons Den, George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight and Marketplace, as well as popular sports programming like Hockey Night in Canada. It says she is also a former director of CBC News.
Bristow tweeted several times that it was an “honour” to have Trudeau open the series.
Morrison acknowledged that Trudeau did not say anything partisan during his appearance but said his introduction could still give a bad impression.
“You don’t just have to do something correctly, you have to be seen to be doing something correctly,” he said.
Pierre Nantel, the NDP’s critic for culture and heritage, told iPolitics he also found Trudeau’s speech troubling — going so far as to call it “a misuse of public institutions.”
“Having the Prime Minister introduce CBC shows from his office is just plain weird … and just makes it look more like a Liberal Party ad,” Nantel said in an email. “This is unfortunate, as our public broadcaster (which belongs to the people) should never be perceived as a state broadcaster run by the government.
“The CBC belongs to the people, not the Prime Minister — it’s about time the government guaranteed its independence instead of gobbling up free airtime.”
Trudeau’s TV message also provoked some reaction on social media Monday.
According to a description of the new documentary series on the CBC 2017 website, the show will tell the stories of the people that have shaped Canada’s history through ten one-hour episodes and will feature interviews throughout with well-known Canadians and national figures.
CBC began rolling out announcements about its sesquicentennial programming last year. According to press releases published by Bristow Global Media, the CBC green-lit ‘The Story of Us’ after Bristow pitched the idea to the broadcaster in 2014. A programming manager is quoted as saying the series is among the biggest documentary series ever commissioned by the CBC.
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