CBC Ombud Upholds HRC Complaint: AIH Radio Headline was Misleading

By Mike Fegelman

May 31, 2013

On May 28, CBC Ombudsman Esther Enkin upheld an HonestReporting Canada complaint regarding a CBC As It Happens radio headline which erroneously claimed that Qatar’s bid to move ICAO, a UN aviation agency from Montreal to Doha, was due solely to “Canada’s Middle East policy” which this program unequivocally declared was “the reason” such an effort was undertaken by the Qataris.

In her review, Enkin found that the CBC’s May 2 headline “failed to capture the nuance” and was “misleading”.

As we argued in our May 3 complaint, were Qatar’s efforts to strip Canada’s hosting of a major UN agency in Quebec, ICAO, due exclusively to Canada’s stalwart and principled support for Israel?

While Canada’s Mideast foreign policy may have played some role in Qatar’s determinations, it may/may not have been “the (only) reason” despite As It Happens saying so. Such claims, we pointed out, were unsubstantiated. It’s more likely that Qatar and other Arab nations may have been exploiting the Palestinian cause to advance their own interests. As a footnote, on May 24, Qatar withdrew its proposal to become ICAO’s new permanent location.

At the time the CBC’s report went to air, Qatar stood to gain from housing ICAO as it would have brought $119-million annually to the local economy. As we told CBC, other business and political factors may have precipitated Qatar’s actions. Qatar deemed Montreal too far a location from Europe/Asia and with its cold winters, wasn’t a desirable location. Qatar also claimed its delegates had difficulty getting visas in Canada and were frustrated with high Canadian taxes. Oil rich Gulf nation Qatar, run by a ruthless dictatorship that sponsors terrorism and are serial human rights violators, appeared unable to cope with harsh Canadian winters, taxes, and bureaucracy rather than being frustrated with a coffee John Baird had with his Israeli counterpart in east Jerusalem.

It was reasonable to conclude that Arab anger directed at Canada for its laudable pro-Israel policies could have been just a smokescreen for Arab nations trying to manipulate Palestinian grievances to advance their own domestic pursuits. Either way, it was wrong for the CBC to conclude as if it was a matter of fact that “Canada’s Middle East policy is the reason” why Qatar campaigned to move ICAO.

On May 6, Robin Smythe, Executive Producer of As It Happens defended the program’s report. Unsatisfied with Smythe’s reply, we asked the CBC’s Ombudsman to arbitrate our concerns and reiterated our request that an on-air correction be issued and for the report hosted on the CBC’s website to be amended.

We are pleased to report that on May 30, the program commendably issued the following clarification on its website following receiving the Ombudsman’s report: “We have clarified the headline for this story. The original headline incorrectly suggested the reason for Qatar’s campaign to move the ICAO headquarters out of Montreal was Canada’s Middle East policy. We should have said it was one of the reasons. Corrected from ‘…is the reason.’” Likewise, the erroneous statement was amended online per our request, but as of this writing and to the best of our knowledge, an on-air correction has not been issued. We are hopeful that such a corrective will be broadcast on-air by As it Happens to remedy the CBC’s error.


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