Citizen Action Monitor

Amanda Lang scandal at CBC catches media star in conflict of interest, working on behalf of Royal Bank of Canada

“CBC, has so far done nothing but bluster and berate its critics”, says George Monbiot

No 1237 Posted by fw, January 21, 2015

“The website Canadaland, which exposed Lang’s conflicts last week, found that other journalists at the broadcaster were furious, but too frightened to speak on the record. But after CBC tried to dismiss the scandal as ‘half-truths based on anonymous sources’, Kathy Tomlinson, the [CBC] reporter who had broken the story about the bank, bravely spoke publicly to the [Canadaland] website…. CBC refused to answer my questions, and I have not had a response from Amanda Lang. It amazes me that she remains employed by CBC, which has so far done nothing but bluster and berate its critics.”George Monbiot

Wow! George Monbiot, star reporter for the venerable Guardian newspaper, reporting on a Canadian media scandal! Now, that’s news in itself. In the final analysis, the issue is trust – who do you trust to tell the truth? – George Monbiot or the scandal-ridden CBC?

As Monbiot himself puts it —

“It’s grotesque. But it’s symptomatic of a much wider problem in journalism: those who are supposed to scrutinize the financial and political elite are embedded within it. Many belong to a service sector aristocracy, wedded metaphorically (sometimes literally) to finance. Often unwittingly, they amplify the voices of the elite, while muffling those raised against it.”

To read Monbiot’s original post click on the following linked title. Alternatively, below is an abridged cross-posting with inline hyperlinks replacing endnote references. Excluded from the cross-post is Monbiot’s critical account of similar reporting failures at the BBC. He writes – “If even the public sector broadcasters parrot the talking points of the elite, what hope is there for informed democratic choice?” What hope indeed?

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Messenger of the Gods by George Monbiot, www.monbiot.com, January 20, 2015

As an astonishing scandal in Canada shows, journalists who should be challenging power work instead on its behalf.

When someone says they have no politics, it means that their politics align with the status quo. None of us are unbiased, none removed from the question of power. We are social creatures, who absorb the outlook and opinions of those with whom we associate, and unconsciously echo them. Objectivity is impossible.

The illusion of neutrality is one of the reasons for the rotten state of journalism, as those who might have been expected to hold power to account drift thoughtlessly into its arms. But until I came across the scandal now erupting in Canada, I hadn’t understood just how quickly standards are falling.

In 2013, reporters at CBC, Canada’s equivalent of the BBC, broke a major story. They discovered that the Royal Bank of Canada had done something cruel and unusual even by banking standards. It was obliging its junior staff to train a group of temporary foreign workers who would then be given their jobs. Just after the first report was aired, according to the website Canadaland, something odd happened. Journalists preparing to expand on the investigation were summoned to a conference call with Amanda Lang, the senior business correspondent and a star presenter. The reporters she spoke to says she repeatedly attempted to scuttle the story, dismissing it as trivial and dull.

They were astonished. But not half as astonished as they were when they discovered the following, unpublished facts. First, that Amanda Lang had spoken at a series of events run or sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada, for which she appears to have been paid in some cases around Can$15,000. Second, that she was booked to speak at an event sponsored by the outsourcing company the bank had hired to implement the cruel practice exposed by her colleagues. Third, that her partner is a board member at the Royal Bank of Canada.

Amanda Lang then interviewed the chief executive of the bank on her own show. When he dismissed the story as unfair and misleading, she did not challenge him. That evening, she uncritically repeated his talking points on CBC’s main current affairs programme. Her interests, again, were not revealed. Then she wrote a comment article for the Globe and Mail newspaper, suggesting that her colleagues’ story arose from an outdated suspicion of business, was dangerous to Canada’s interests and was nothing but “a sideshow”. Here’s what she said about the bank’s employment practices. “It’s called capitalism, and it isn’t a dirty word.”

The website Canadaland, which exposed Lang’s conflicts last week, found that other journalists at the broadcaster were furious, but too frightened to speak on the record. But after CBC tried to dismiss the scandal as “half-truths based on anonymous sources”, Kathy Tomlinson, the [CBC] reporter who had broken the story about the bank, bravely spoke publicly to the [Canadaland] website. The following morning, staff in her office arrived to find this message spelt out in magnets on their fridge. “Jesse Brown snitches get stitches”. Jesse Brown is Canadaland’s founder.

CBC refused to answer my questions, and I have not had a response from Amanda Lang. It amazes me that she remains employed by CBC, which has so far done nothing but bluster and berate its critics.

It’s grotesque. But it’s symptomatic of a much wider problem in journalism: those who are supposed to scrutinize the financial and political elite are embedded within it. Many belong to a service sector aristocracy, wedded metaphorically (sometimes literally) to finance. Often unwittingly, they amplify the voices of the elite, while muffling those raised against it.

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