Scrooge as economic hero

Review from the Office of the Ombudsman | English Services

Summary

The complainant thought a cbcnews.ca article featuring defenders of Dickens character Scrooge's miserly image showed a “pro-corporate bias” and should have had contrary views. But one article is not the measure of imbalance.

This is my review about an article published on the CBC News site on December 21, 2012, entitled “Scrooge an economic hero, defenders say.”

Complaint

You [Kyle Mytruk] wrote to say you found the article unfair and biased, and a “ridiculous” subject in the first place. Your main concern though, “is the pro-corporate, rich bias that the article shows,” and that it “uses Scrooge to hide its true goals.” You pointed out that the only people interviewed are from the Ayn Rand Institute and a professor who used to be a fellow at the Heritage Foundation. You wondered why it was published as there is no countervailing view in the piece.

MANAGEMENT RESPONSE

The acting Senior Director of Digital media, Marissa Nelson, responded. She agreed that the premise of the piece, from the point of view of those quoted, was that Scrooge was misunderstood and miscast as an enduring symbol of miserliness and lack of generosity. She then pointed out “You may not agree with that point of view, but it is CBC's mandate, part of its obligation under the federal Broadcasting Act, to carry different points of view on controversial matters of public interest and concern – in this case, opposed economic points of view.

CBC requires its journalism to uphold the principles of fairness and balance. But the policy, which can be found here, does not require that the balance be achieved in every article or broadcast segment. Under the value of Balance, it states:

We contribute to informed debate on issues that matter to Canadians by reflecting a diversity of opinion. Our content on all platforms presents a wide range of subject matter and views.

On issues of controversy, we ensure that divergent views are reflected respectfully, taking into account their relevance to the debate and how widely held these views are. We also ensure that they are represented over a reasonable period of time.

I think any search of cbcnews.ca will yield a range of views on a variety of economic issues, so there was no violation of this policy.

While you questioned why this was called news, rather than opinion, the views were attributed, and the credentials of the speakers were also given, so those reading the article could draw their own conclusions about their orientation. I agree with Ms Nelson this may not be a view you like or share, but it does represent a view of the world held by some. And there is a certain “man bites dog quality” to the piece because it would certainly be the dominant view that Dickens had it right, and that the reformed Scrooge is the preferable one. There was also a timeliness to the publication of the piece — A Christmas Carol is an enduring seasonal favorite, and this article was posted four days before Christmas.

There is no pattern of CBC News giving disproportionate attention to a particular view of economics or income distribution. There was no violation of CBC policy.

Esther Enkin
CBC Ombudsman