Radio-Canada Agrees to Air New Documentary
November 10, 2008
Dear HonestReporting Canada subscriber:
On October 31, we questioned why Radio-Canada, the French-arm of CBC, had aired the pro-Palestinian advocacy film "Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land" on its documentary program "Les grands reportages". We felt that in airing this film, Radio-Canada failed to inform its viewers that the "documentary" was not an objective study of media coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but instead was a pro-Palestinian advocacy tool with a political agenda, rife with errors and omissions that have seriously misled Canadians.
Thanks to your many emails, Radio-Canada acknowledged that their host's introduction was poorly presented and out of context given Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Furthermore, the network committed to air additional "documentaries providing different perspectives on the situation in Israel and Gaza" in the coming months. Many of our members who complained to Radio-Canada received the following reply from their Director of Complaints for French Services, which noted among other things, that the film was "clearly pro-Palestinian":
"Dear Sir or Madam,
We received your comments about the documentary Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land, whose French version aired October 23 on RDI as part of Les grands reportages.
First, allow me to briefly explain the context in which we air documentaries. It is an acknowledged fact that with the documentary format, the author's perspective forms a significant part of the production. In nearly all cases, these films are shot by directors with no affiliation to Radio-Canada. We choose to broadcast them because we feel they contain noteworthy information.
In airing point-of-view documentaries, Radio-Canada is not endorsing the opinions they contain. Rather, we are fulfilling our duty to reflect a diverse range of viewpoints on topics of public interest.
Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land contained relevant information for Canadians about how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is covered in the US media. It was a US-made documentary produced by the Media Education Foundation and distributed by Mundovision.
That said, the film is a partial update of a documentary shot four years ago, before Israel withdrew from Gaza. Consequently, our introduction should have placed it in the context of 2004, rather than present it as reflecting the current challenges of the Middle East in the run-up to the 2008 US presidential election.
It did indeed present a highly personal point of view on the conflict-one that we acknowledge was clearly pro-Palestinian. Rest assured that we have recently acquired other documentaries providing different perspectives on the situation in Israel and Gaza, which we plan to air in the coming months.
I hope you find these comments satisfactory. If not, and should you see fit to do so, you may ask the CBC/Radio-Canada French Services Ombudsman to review the case.
Geneviève Guay, Director, Complaints Handling Information, French Services"
While we credit Radio-Canada for acknowledging that their introduction of the film was placed out of context and for agreeing to air additional documentaries to provide a range of different perspectives on the Mideast, notwithstanding, this issue isn't about achieving equitable balance over time as our original complaint contended. Airing a "Pro-Israel" documentary at a later date doesn't absolve the network for its original sin in airing a "pro-Palestinian" propaganda film rife with errors and replete of serious omissions. It could be reasonably argued, that had our members and the community at large not taken action in the first place, prompting Radio-Canada to air an additional documentary, only a pro-Palestinian perspective would have been disseminated to Radio-Canada's viewing audience.By broadcasting this film, Radio-Canada abdicated its responsibility as a public broadcaster to do the necessary quality control checks which should have ensured that this pro-Palestinian advocacy film was not aired in the first place. As the film certainly didn't adhere to Radio-Canada's journalistic standards for "point-of-view documentaries in the sense of advocacy", in order for Radio-Canada to remedy this situation in a way that maintains its credibility, it's incumbent upon the network's Ombudsman to formally review this matter. What You Can Do To Make A Difference: By voluntarily disclosing its journalistic lapses and how it will prevent them in the future, Radio-Canada can strengthen its credibility and become a stronger news organization.
Ask Radio-Canada Ombudsman Ms. Julie Miville-Dechene to conduct a formal review of Radio-Canada's October 23 presentation of the film "Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land" to determine if the network's presentation of the film adhered to Radio-Canada standards of broadcasting and codes of ethics. Please send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (514) 597-4757 to ask for a review.
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