The Big Media Chill

The Big Media Chill

Canwest, which was Canada’s largest media company, pursued a politically-motivated lawsuit against Vancouver activists to silence criticism of its bias in reporting on the Middle East. This is a classic David vs. Goliath story – a multi-billion dollar corporation bullying and trying to intimidate individual activists with a potentially ruinous lawsuit.

Why didn’t Canada’s mainstream media cover this story?

This is what we know:

  • Q, a national arts programme on CBC radio had a 15+ minute segment on the recent NY Times spoof on Nov. 18, 2008. Despite being contacted on Nov. 14 about the possibility of comparing the Vancouver Sun and NY Times parody editions, the Canadian parody was not included in the segment. When Andy Bichlbaum, one of the creators of the NY Times parody, brought up the Vancouver Sun parody and Canwest’s lawsuit on the air, Q host Jian Ghomeshi completely ignored the comment and proceeded with the interview as if he had not heard it.
  • Despite interest by individual reporters and producers at CBC, no local radio public affairs programs, local TV or radio news, national news, nor French radio or television have done a story.
  • In November 2008, activists in Fredericton New Brunswick wrote a letter to The Daily Gleaner criticising the N.B. Human Rights Commission for awarding a human rights award to the Asper Foundation citing various actions by Canwest, including the Vancouver Sun parody lawsuit. The Gleaner, an Irving newspaper, printed the letter but edited out all references to the lawsuit.
  • The National Post and other Canwest newspapers had extensive coverage of the November 12, 2008 New York Times parody edition. Canwest’s media properties, including the National Post, the Vancouver Province, Vancouver Courier, and Global TV, have never covered the story with the following exception…
  • The Vancouver Sun published a detailed account of Canwest’s accusations on Dec. 8, 2007 – the day after the writ was served. But the paper has never made any attempt to balance coverage of the case by interviewing the defendants or covering public forums or events sponsored by the defence committee. (A Sun reporter did call Mordecai Briemberg for a comment just minutes after he had been served with the writ but before he had an opportunity to consult with a lawyer and prepare a coherent response to the charges.)
  • In October 2008, first The Globe and Mail and then 24 Hours were offered an exclusive scoop on the story of Mordecai Briemberg being dropped from the lawsuit, but neither were willing to report on this significant development in the case.
  • in September 2008, editors at a community newspaper in Metro Vancouver and a web news site rejected story proposals because they’d previously received legal threats from Canwest over a commentary piece.
  • When reporters at a Canwest community newspaper pitched the idea of a story on the SFSC campaign, the editor said that because it was a legal issue involving their owner, no news or commentary would be allowed.
  • A well-known freelance columnist who proposed a story on the case was told by a major metropolitan newspaper that, “We don’t criticize other media.”
  • A 24 Hours editor indicated an interest in running a column about the case by a well-known freelancer but later rejected the idea.
  • At Shaw Cable, managers refused to air the edited video of a public forum about the case held in May unless certain comments by Mordecai Briemberg were excised and other editorial comments inserted. The video was made by Pedro Moro, whose video are regularly posted on Shaw TV. Because the managers insisted that he not identify Shaw as the source of the editorial comments, Moro refused to comply and instead filed a complaint with the CRTC. The video has not been shown.

If you read, watch or listen to these media, call or email to let them know that you expect them to cover the news – all the news – without fear or favour:
The Vancouver Sun, The Province, Vancouver Courier, 24 Hours, Metro, Ming Pao, Sing Tao, World Journal, South Asian Post, Asian Pacific Post, The Link, Indo-Canadian Voice, CBC Radio, CBC Television, CKNW News, News 1130, Channel M News, Global TV, BC CTV, CityTV, Fairchild TV, National Post, Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Winnipeg Free Press.

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