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.


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

1 comment:

Terrence said...

Oh, keep at this. Skewer the mofos.