CBC Palin attack raises questions about state-funded television

2008 szeptember 29 10:02 de.1 comment
Heather Mallick

Heather Mallick

After receiving more than 300 complaints from viewers, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has issued an apology for an online opinion piece published on the CBC News website, which concluded that Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin looked like a “porn star.” Written by prominent freelance writer Heather Mallick, the column argued that Palin was chosen by Presidential hopeful John McCain, in order to appeal to the Republican Party’s “unlettered” and “white trash” wing. Yet of all the not-too-subtle innuendos and smears, Mallick’s attack on Palin’s family sparked the most outrage. “Seventeen-year-old Bristol has what is known in Britain as the look of the teen mum, the ‘pramface.’ Husband Todd looks like a roughneck; Track, heading off to Iraq, appears terrified. They claim to be family-obsessed while being studiously terrible at parenting. What normal father would want Levi ‘I’m a f-ckin’ redneck’ Johnson prodding his daughter,” wrote Mallik.

CBC News publisher John Cruickshank issued a statement earlier today in which he expressed regret for having published Mallick’s piece. “Mallick’s column is a classic piece of political invective. It is viciously personal, grossly hyperbolic and intensely partisan. And because it is all those things, this column should not have appeared on the CBCNews.ca site,” wrote Cruickshank.

The National Post, Canada’s second largest daily newspaper and a long-time critic of the public funding mechanism which sees tax dollars pay for the CBC’s programming, attacked the piece last week and called into question the public broadcaster’s judgment for publishing it. CBC ombudsman Vince Carlin believes that the public broadcaster must seek to publish material from a more diverse group of writers on its website, as in its current form is “very narrow in range.” Jonathan Kay, a columnist with the National Post, suggested that the CBC had a “subtle, pervasive left-wing tilt” and that Mallick was “turning the public broadcaster into just another left-wing blog.”

Kay’s column, however, raises an old debate on whether or not the CBC–widely perceived on the right of the political spectrum as having a liberal bias–should continue to receive close to a billion dollars in public funding. The Post columnist suggested that incidents such as these, as well as the CBC’s less than amicable relationship with the current Conservative minority government might convince Prime Minister Stephen Harper to re-examine the CBC’s funding should he receive a majority mandate in the October 14th elections. “The folks at the CBC might want to take care of their credibility problem before it’s too late. Otherwise, I suspect, the next government will take care of it for them,” wrote Kay.

The CBC is hardly the only public broadcaster to face scrutiny for its perceived political bias. More familiar to many of our readers might be the long-standing controversy surrounding Hungary’s Magyar Televízió (MTV), the country’s state-funded television station. Originally, the Hungarian broadcaster received funds through a television license paid by all households. A new funding scheme was devised six years ago, and since then MTV is the recipient of various government grants. The station, however, has long been seen by those on the right as having a pro-Socialist bias, and as a result, members of the opposition party Alliance of Young Democrats (Fidesz) have refused to appear on the station’s independently produced morning news show, Napkelte.

Canadian Hungarian Journal

1 Comment

  • Mallik’s attack on Palin was unnecessary. Numerous aspects of Palin’s performance so far in the US campaign and the many problems with her right-wing politics are worthy of sharp criticism. But this makes it especially surprising that an author would have to resort to such a personal attack. The only thing that’s worse is that the CBC would allow such a column to appear on its site. Let’s not adopt the sort of vicious partisan politics here in Canada that dominates the US.

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