Thursday, December 18, 2014

Enbridge Spills

One in a continuing series.  Their playing Regina this time.  But don't worry, the NEB is on the case.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My First CBSC Complaint, Part III: Request For A Ruling

The third stage in filing a CBSC complaint is, if you are not satisfied with the response you've got from the station rep, is to outline your reasons in a ruling request form, and, well, request a ruling. Below is the final version of what I submitted on Sunday.  If you've followed this you've read some of it before, though I've added a bit at the end.  In any case:

The CBSC Secretariat will be reviewing your file in the near future to determine whether adjudication by a panel of industry and public members is appropriate in the circumstances of this complaint.  The CBSC’s examination of any complaint includes a review of all of the correspondence in the file as well as our own viewing or listening of the broadcast in question.  Each CBSC decision creates an important precedent and is used to clarify the interpretation of the broadcast codes.  Due to the importance of every complaint, we review each one in the order it was received, and accordingly, it could take up to four months for this process to be completed for your file.

And here's the complaint:
---
CBSC File Number: CBSC File C14/15-0421

Thanks to Mr. Manson of Sun News for his response. However, I find it an inadequate defence of Mr. Ezra Levant's November 10 broadcast.  Therefore I would like to request a a ruling on this particular case.  Mr. Manson and I have exchanged a pair of emails.  The bulk of this complaint is my response to his first email; the remainder is a response to issues raised in his second.

When I first contacted the CBSC, I suggested that the segment in question violated clause
2 of the CAB code, and also clause 5.  Clause 5 demands accurate reporting, which standard I felt Mr. Levant had failed to meet when he asserted that the Greater Essex school-board was exempting Muslim school-children from Remembrance Day ceremonies due to conflicts with their/their family's religious beliefs.


Now, Mr. Manson has suggested that a failure of communication between The Board and SNN occurred, and points to several exchanges between their spokesperson and Sun News representatives dating from the morning of November 10 as evidence of this.  But none of the facts contained in these exchanges would render Mr. Levant's original assertion an accurate report of what was said to him by Board representatives, or even a plausible inference from what was said to him.  In fact, Mr. Manson quotes from one email as
follows:


"The procedure for religious accommodation has been in place for some time and no it was not in response to any concerns from any particular people or groups – it’s a necessary document to allow the board to manage any requests for accommodations based on religion or beliefs."


The claim that no particular people or groups requested accommodation logically implies that no Muslim people or groups requested it.  Therefore the assertion Mr. Levant made to the effect that Muslim individuals did request such accommodation (and were granted
it) would necessarily be an inaccurate report.

 And in his later discussion of the controversy,  Mr. Levant neither admits to nor apologizes for this basic inaccuracy.

 Furthermore, this inaccurate statement serves as a trigger for what I would call an extended violation of the CAB code's second clause.  That is, Mr. Levant engages in  a stream of Muslim bashing invective.  I would probably argue that even if facts stood as per Mr. Levant's original assertion--if in fact some Muslim parent had requested accommodation for religious reasons—Levant's tirade would still  have been abusive and unduly discriminatory.  But as it stands we have a falsehood serving as an excuse for a concentrated blast of  bigotry.  And of course Mr. Levant has neither admitted to or apologized for his bigoted statements anymore than he has for his inaccurate ones.

 In his second email, Mr. Manson writes as follows:

 "In his follow-up monologue on November 12, 2014, Mr. Levant said:  “In the end, the school board claims that no students asked for an exemption. I take public statements from the board with a grain of salt now, but I hope that’s true.”

"Mr. Levant therefore acknowledged the Board’s position that no students had asked for an exemption.  Sun News therefore reiterates its position that no further action by the CBSC is necessary with respect to this complaint."

 Put generally, Sun News and myself are offering different narratives as to the sequence of events that occurred the week of November 10.

I am arguing that Mr. Levant's first exchange with the school-board on the morning of November 10 was absolutely clear: no students, including Muslim students, had requested an exemption, and none had been granted. Nevertheless on the evening of that same day Mr. Levant claimed that the school-board had exempted a number of Muslim students from its Remembrance Day ceremonies for religious reasons.  It is this statement, as well as the anti-Muslim tirade that followed, that I believe Mr. Levant should be sanctioned over, and for which he has thus far assumed no responsibility.

 On the other hand Mr. Manson and Mr. Levant have argued that this first exchange with the school-board somehow supported or at least did not at least logically disallow Mr. Levant's claim.  And when afterwards Mr. Levant received new information which cast his earlier assertion into doubt, he was willing to take responsibility for any of the resultant confusion.  And it is clear why  he would prefer to promote this narrative.  To be told clearly that not-A, and to then go on television and say A, suggests either deliberate misrepresentation or a reckless disregard for the truth.


However, I think even a cursory reading of the school-board/SNN correspondence makes clear that Mr. Levant and Mr. Manson's time-line of events is largely fictive.  Nor is this just my opinion.  For example, The Globe's Sylvia Stead has written of this incident:

"Nothing in the partial memo received by Mr. Levant or in the follow-up questions justified his conclusion because it is not based on the truth."


Other writers who have looked at the matter have come to similar conclusions.  I can supply more links as needed.

 Finally, I would suggest past incidents make a “reckless disregard for the the truth” the more likely explanation for Mr. Levant's assertion.  It is, after all, the manner in which his writings have been described in a number of defamation cases which Mr. Levant has found himself on the losing side of, including this one decided very recently between Mr. Levant and Khurrum Awan:

 Sincerely,
 MJ Murphy

Monday, December 15, 2014

I Will Bounce No More, Forever

More evidence that the Tory uptick is over, though its from Forum, so take it with salt:
Although it wouldn't surprise me if it's real.  Most of the things the Tories have had go their way lately have been lucky bounces.  The Ottawa shootings stirred up some fear among the base; our action against ISIS scored them a few cheap military points.  More frightening over the medium term will be the government's ability to rain money down on targeted constituencies and an economy that may perform a little better in 2015, giving the CPC a measure of unearned credit.

The End Of The Harper Bounce?

Rest of the poll is here.  The coalition talk is so much chin music; most important thing is that the red line has stopped falling and the blue line has stopped rising.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ezra On Tour

Playing the mighty Pen with Bian Lilley (who is back-ground left; looks like he's trying to hustle coins out of a vending machine).   Witnessed by crazy boy Dean.

More grey hairs in this place than backstage at a Rolling Stones concert.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

My First CBSC Complaint, Part II

So, when you first approach the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council with concerns over one of the tv/radio stations they regulate, they forward those concerns to the station in question and ask the company legal reps to address them.  Below is an email from Tycho Manson,  counsel to the Sun News Network, addressing my issues with Ezra Levant's broadcast of November 10th.  During this show Ezra accused the  Greater Essex County District School Board of pandering to Muslim extremists, and then went on with a good ten minute rant about how ungrateful Muslims immigrants are. Above Mr. Manson's letter is my reply to it.

As noted, unless Mr. Manson has some better arguments up his sleeve, I will be going forward with the complaint.

---
My reply:

Thanks to Mr. Manson for his response. However, as it stands now I find it an inadequate defense in several respects.

In my original complaint, I suggested that the segment in question violated clause 2 of the CAB code, and also clause 5.

Clause 5 demands accurate reporting, which standard I felt Mr. Levant had failed to meet when he asserted that the Greater Essex school-board was exempting Muslim school-children from Remembrance Day ceremonies due to conflicts with their/their family's religious beliefs.

Now Mr. Manson has suggested that a failure of communication between The Board and SNN occurred, and points to several exchanges between their spokesperson and Sun News representatives as evidence of this.  But none of the new facts contained in these exchanges would render Mr. Levant's original assertion an accurate report of what was said to him by Board representatives, or even a plausible inference from what was said to him.  In fact, Mr. Manson quotes from one email as follows:

The procedure for religious accommodation has been in place for some time and no it was not in response to any concerns from any particular people or groups – it’s a necessary document to allow the board to manage any requests for accommodations based on religion or beliefs.

The claim that no particular people or groups requested accommodation logically implies that no Muslim people or groups requested it.  Therefore the assertion Mr. Levant made to the effect that Muslim individuals did request such accommodation  would necessarily be an inaccurate report.

And in his later discussion of the controversy,  Mr. Levant neither admits nor apologizes for this inaccuracy.

Furthermore, this inaccurate statement serves as a trigger for what I would call an extended violation of the CAB code's second clause.  That is, Mr. Levant engages in  a stream of Muslim bashing invective.  I would probably argue that even if facts stood as per Mr. Levant's original assertion--if in fact some Muslim parent had requested accommodation for religious reasons--his tirade would still  have been abusive and unduly discriminatory.  But as it stands we have falsehoods serving as an excuse for a concentrated blast of  bigotry.  And of course Mr. Levant has neither admitted to or apologized for this either.

I'm not sure if Mr. Manson wishes to address  this matter further.  If not I think I will probably request a ruling on the matter.

Sincerely,

MJ Murphy

---
Mr. Manson's letter:

Dear Mme. Courteau and Mr. Murphy:

I am counsel to Sun News Network.  I am writing in response to Mr. Murphy’s complaint below concerning a monologue by Ezra Levant at the beginning of his show The Source, which was broadcast on Sun News on November 10, 2014 at 8:00 pm ET.

In the monologue, Mr. Levant discussed an apparent policy of the Greater Essex County District School Board (the “Board”) that schools within the jurisdiction of the Board should provide alternate activities for students who do not wish to participate in Remembrance Day activities (or whose parents do not wish them to participate).


The facts

I am advised by Sun News that the facts of the matter are as follows.


The monologue was based on a memorandum that had been sent by the Board to schools within its jurisdiction.  That memorandum read in part:


Some schools may have their own school assemblies while others may choose to participate in the ceremonies of their local municipalities such as the Windsor Cenotaph.  Please be mindful that some families may be reluctant to have their children attend your local municipality’s ceremonies.  Please note that meaningful alternate activities should be provided at the schools for those families who do not wish their children to participate in any Remembrance Day activities.


Please find attached some images that reflect Canada’s diverse military and to honour those families who are, and have been our allies in conflicts that we as a nation, have participated [sic].  


Included in the memorandum were two web links, one to the Canadian War Museum and one to a blog post about a Canadian Muslim soldier in Afghanistan.


On the morning of November 10, 2014, a Sun News producer contacted an official of the Board by email, referred to the Board’s apparent policy “that will exempt certain students from participating in Remembrance Day activities”  and asked the following questions:


1.       Is this a new policy? If not, when did it start?

2.       Is this policy in response to complaints from parents?

3.       Is this policy aimed at any specific group?

4.       What was the intent of including the article on the Muslim in the Canadian Forces?


The Board official responded to this email the same day.  He stated in part: “Any such exemption would be granted in consideration of our Religious Accommodations procedure – a parent/guardian may request an exemption – which would have to be approved, after consideration, by the Principal.”  He added that that he was not sure which article the producer was referring to, “however it is our goal to celebrate diversity whenever we can.”


In a follow-up email, the Sun News producer sent the Board official a copy of the memorandum, and asked: “Was this policy in response to complaints from parents? Is the policy aimed at a specific group?  I’m also wondering why the last two links at the bottom were included.”


The Board official responded as follows:

The procedure for religious accommodation has been in place for some time and no it was not in response to any concerns from any particular people or groups – it’s a necessary document to allow the board to manage any requests for accommodations based on religion or beliefs.


The particular link merely is an example and a reminder of the diversity that exists in our country’s armed forces.

The Board official therefore stated twice, in response to specific questions from Sun News, that the policy was in place as part of a religious accommodation policy.  At no time did the Board official mention security concerns as a reason for the policy.

Sun News is willing to make this entire correspondence available to the CBSC in full if the CBSC considers it necessary for resolution of this complaint.

 In his monologue, Mr. Levant went on to express his opinion of the Board’s policy, as he is entitled to do pursuant to Clause 5 of the CAB Code of Ethics.

 The facts are, therefore, that Sun News contacted the Board in advance of airtime, provided the Board with the memorandum Sun News had received, asked specific questions about it, and was expressly told by the Board’s official spokesperson that the policy was about religious accommodation. Again, parents' concerns about security were not mentioned.

 The subsequent controversy

Subsequent to the airing of Mr. Levant’s monologue, a controversy broke out over the monologue and over the Board’s intention in promulgating the policy discussed by Mr. Levant.  Officials of the Board apparently told some media representatives that the policy was put in place in response to parents’ security concerns.  However, as noted above, at no time were security concerns mentioned as a reason for the policy in the Board’s email correspondence with Sun News.

In addition, it appears that a different version of the memorandum was in circulation.   In this version of the memorandum, the web links in the memorandum included web pages about aboriginal Canadian soldiers, African Canadian soldiers and Asian Canadian soldiers.  Sun News cannot explain the discrepancy in the versions of the memorandum, but notes that the Board representative who responded to Sun News did not at any time state or suggest that the version of the memorandum shown to him by Sun News was inaccurate or incomplete or had been superseded.

On a subsequent appearance on Sun News, Board Superintendent Sharon Pyke made the following statement in response to a comment by host Jerry Agar:

AGAR: Alright, while what we might have here is failure to communicate. There was a memo that went out. We had a look at the memo. Some of the producers here and Ezra did at Sun News. Then we asked a question about it and we were told that exemptions would be granted in consideration of [your] religious accommodations procedures. And that was, well that seemed wrong and seemed confusing, but of course, we had to take the word of [the Board spokesperson] in your organization that sent that to us.

PYKE: And I'm sorry for the miscommunication. It was certainly was not our intent at all.  It was to provide information to our principals so they could make the ceremony - their ceremony - the best it can be. [Emphasis added.]

Ms. Pyke therefore referred expressly to a “miscommunication” and said she was sorry for it.

 On The Source on November 12, 2014, Ezra Levant referred to the controversy that had erupted and stated the further facts set out above.

 In the circumstances, Sun News submits that its original item was based on information provided to it by the Board, and that Sun News followed up appropriately when further facts became available by airing and discussing those further facts.  Sun News therefore submits that no further action should be taken with respect to this complaint.


Yours truly,

Tycho Manson

Monday, December 08, 2014

I Have Arrived


And, in arriving, been blocked.  (PS. Easier to read when you click on pic.)