"Manipulation by omission"

Review from the Office of the Ombudsman | English Services


Failure to carry stories involving the Middle East political climate constituted “manipulation by omission”

I am writing in regard to your complaint and request for a review last June by the Office of the Ombudsman of the editorial selection process involving stories concerning the Middle East political climate.

Your complaint involved two reports you felt should have been carried by CBC News. You asserted that failure to carry them constituted “manipulation by omission.”

In reviewing your complaint that Hamas illegally destroyed homes in Rafah, CBC News asserted that one such story involved legal demolition. I can find no evidence to suggest it was otherwise.

Another complaint concerned vandalism at a UN-sponsored summer camp. CBC.ca reported on the incident and noted it was owing to rivalry between Hamas-sponsored religious camps and UN-sponsored secular camps.

While I appreciate your passion and dedication to the fullest possible reporting on the Middle East, editorial decisions practically reflect the available resources and day-to-day judgment of what constitutes the most relevant, timely and important content for the audience. Even with the unlimited bandwidth of the Internet, limitations exist on what can be chosen.

In neither case involving your complaint could I determine conscious or unconscious judgment that would manipulate the public through the selection of editorial content. Indeed, I find it difficult to acknowledge any such concern given the extensive commitment CBC News makes in the region directly and through its news services to provide thorough, researched and fair-minded journalism.

I cannot conclude any violation took place of CBC Journalistic Standards and Practices.

Since your complaint you have added other instances you felt should have been prominently featured. I have to confine my review to those original two instances, though, in order to abide the protocol established by CBC to handle complaints in the Office of the Ombudsman. The Office only gets involved once a member of the public is dissatisfied with the response of the CBC programming unit involved.

Kirk Lapointe
CBC Ombudsman