Olympic Games protesters

Review from the Office of the Ombudsman | English Services

Summary

Interview about Olympic Games protesters

You wrote to complain about an item heard on the CBC Radio program, The Story from Here, on November 25, 2009. The item was a repeat of a local item from Nova Scotia containing an interview with two individuals who felt that the RCMP in their area had tried to intimidate them after they put up posters protesting against the Olympic Games.

Sean Prpick, the producer of the program, responded with the details of the interview, adding “whether or not you approve of what they had to say, their story was newsworthy and worth presenting to Canadians.” He also pointed to other stories that the program carried referencing more positive aspects of the Olympics and the torch run across the country.

You rejected his explanation, saying “...unfortunately, you seem to have missed some of the most important criticisms that I listed. The main one being the intro to the piece: “Anti- Olympic Group harassed by the RCMP”. You added a couple of other items:

  • “Since when are two people considered a Group?

  • “How were they harassed by the RCMP? Does a single phone call constitute harassment? If it does, I am harassed every night by phone solicitations.”

You asked for a review.


First, I will review the applicable policy statement from CBC's Journalistic Standards and Practices.

Under “Range of Opinion” we find this:

A journalistic organization, to achieve balance and fairness, should ensure that the widest possible range of views is expressed. Almost any opinion may contain a grain of truth that helps to illuminate the whole truth. But proper account must also be taken of the weight of opinion which holds these views and itssignificance or potential significance. The challenging of accepted orthodoxies should be reported but so also should the established views be clearly put.

Having listened to the item a couple of times, I can find no statement that “an anti-Olympic group” was “harassed” by the RCMP. In fact, the item's introduction makes reference to “two young activists”; the words “harassed” and “group” do not appear in the item. One of the interview subjects (and not the interviewer in Halifax nor the host in Calgary) says that they felt “intimidated.” They explained the reasons why. Certainly listeners are free to make up their own minds as to whether the calls (more than one) to the couple were justified. But, in fact, their concerns rested on the knowledge the RCMP seemed to have of their unlisted phone number and of the number of people who attended their meetings. Again, this is their view, clearly not the CBC's.

You are certainly free to disagree with the editorial judgment of carrying the item, although however numerous or few they may be, people opposed to the Olympics are entitled to at least some airing of their viewpoints. As Mr. Prpick pointed out, there has been significant positive coverage of the Olympics on this program and, I might add, on others.

Conclusion

There was no violation of CBC's Journalistic Standards and Practices.

Vince Carlin
CBC Ombudsman