The futility of dealing with the ‘Mother Corp.’ Letter published in Whitehorse Daily Star on April 21, 2011

On Oct. 16 of last year, CBC Yukon Airplay radio host Dave White aired an interview with the founder of the Humane Society Yukon (HSY), in response to a press release from her regarding criticism of the society by three members of the public (myself included). In the interview, the society founder used my name, the name of fellow animal advocate Mike Grieco, and the name of a B.C. resident, all of whom had written letters to the Star over the society’s euthanization of the dog named Hunter, which was carried out in the face of much internal dissent at the Mae Bachur Shelter. Apparently, excerpts from the interview were used as radio news pieces on CBC radio the next day. Mr. White and his producer(s) made absolutely no attempt to contact us for our responses.

Furthermore, on the web page where the interview sound clip is hosted, CBC calls the HSY founder “one of the staunchest advocates for animals in the territory,” and the people she was using the public airwaves to strike back at in the interview as “vocal animal rights activists who were doing more harm than good.”

Mike Grieco contacted CBC for an explanation and was given a bit of a run-around by them.

On Dec. 19, I filed a complaint with the CBC Ombudsman and was told that my concerns would be responded to by Jennifer McGuire, general manager and editor in chief of CBC News, and John Agnew, managing director of CBC North. As no confirmation of my complaint was sent to me, I e-mailed a reminder to them on Jan. 17th of this year.

This was the response I received from Agnew on Jan. 18th:

“Please forgive my lack of promptness. As you can see by the datelines on the e-mails below, your letter concerning our coverage arrived at my desk on Dec. 20th. I was out of the office for part of the next two weeks on holidays, as were some of the staff in Whitehorse with whom I need to talk. As you may have heard, the new year started in Whitehorse with a burst pipe and a serious flood in the office. We are only now getting things back to being fully functional, and a good deal of our space is currently damaged and unsafe. All of this is a long way of saying that I haven’t been able to respond as promptly as I would have liked. Now that things have settled down, I will have a response to your letter soon.”

On Jan. 28th, Mike Grieco e-mailed Agnew with his input, including a question if CBC management in the south was aware of the number of times CBC Yukon/CBC North have been criticized in the letters section of Whitehorse papers, with no public responses from CBC. He received the following reply the same day:

“Dear Mr. Grieco, Thank you for your letter. Let me begin bv (sic) assuring you that I am well aware of letters to the editor commenting on CBC’s journalism and interviews. On the other matters you have raised, I am out of the office to day (sic) but I will look into your concerns upon my return Monday. You will get my response by the end of next week.”

On March 18th, Mike Grieco e-mailed Agnew as to why there was no response as yet, and I sent a reminder to Agnew on March 23rd.

Despite further recent prodding, other than a quick reply from Agnew in February defending CBC’s coverage of the Yukon Quest, that is the last we have heard from CBC, who have apparently decided it is better for them to not reply to us, as is their custom.

As to the specifics of my complaint, I had included what I saw as a juvenile prank by CBC employees whereby in the spring of 2008, I encountered a CBC reporter/editor who I knew personally, and one of CBC Yukon’s camera men returning from a reporting assignment in downtown Whitehorse. As soon as we saw each other, the camera man stopped and quickly removed his TV camera from its case, and took footage of me from across the street from the CBC building. I thought this was somewhat strange, but did not stop to ask why this was done, as I was late for an appointment.

Is CBC allowed to film members of the public on the street for no apparent reason without their consent? No answer from CBC!

I also questioned Agnew about the advisability of the CBC TV reporter assigned to the infamous “Trevor case” being the spouse of the City of Whitehorse lawyer who had run up a bill into the mid- five figures, in the City’s Quixotic attempt to kill this unfortunate HSY dog (with a history of abuse), who was being defended by one HSY board member and a “pro bono” lawyer. The City lawyer, mayor and bylaw manager should have been grilled mercilessly by reporters in this regard, but apparently CBC saw this case as a big joke and used it to provide fodder for the knuckle-draggers who hang out at the CBC North news online message board.

The obvious question which was never asked of the City by CBC was: “Why are you spending so many taxpayer dollars to kill this dog when you have not attempted to do so in previous alleged biting incidents?”

I also asked what the budget allocation by CBC was for its Yukon Quest race promotion and asked what that would be worth in terms of dollars if the Quest had to pay for it.

In a somewhat related manner, I was contacted via email by CBC Radio Vancouver the day the story of the Whistler sled dog massacre broke, to arrange for a live interview on the morning show the next day. When I talked to the producer, I told her that I had had a longtime problem with CBC North and CBC Yukon serving as propagandists for the dog mushing industry but would agree to be interviewed anyway.

Shortly after, I was told that the situation had changed, and they would just do a quick interview over the telephone, which would be aired the next day. Not surprisingly to me, CBC produced the piece along the lines of “the crazy animal rights person says this, what do you have to say about his statements, O wise and wonderful sled dog tour operator?” The operator received a friendly and relaxed live interview by morning show host Rick Cluff.

To put a long story short, I am sick of dealing with this shoddy, arrogant, unaccountable and vindictive news organization which is a big waste of my time and energy.

I had previously sent copies of some of the e-mail communication with CBC to the editor of the Whitehorse Star, who I thank as being possibly the last remaining journalist in the Yukon who hasn’t been neutered by “political correctness” and who is very fair in airing public dissent in the letters page of the Star.

Conversely, CBC Yukon and CBC North, who purport to welcome input from their audience, only like to have sunshine blown up their collective “you-know-whats”.

CBC likes to dig for dirt wherever they can find it, but cannot take it when their own feet are put to the fire.

Terry Cumming
Regina, SK