State-run CBC sees no need to abide by industry standards

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The Article

This is an email I received this morning from “conservativegal”, who obviously shares my interest in keeping the state-run CBC accountable to us, as long as we have a state-run CBC.  It relates back to a blog entry I made on January 25, 2006, and her comments posted on January 26.  The blog entry was about CBC’s ratings on election night and in general. 

The CBC seems to have been caught in an effort at deception and in trying to make the popularity of CBC news on election night appear better than it actually was.  We could all be wrong—me, conservativegal, and MACLEAN’S magazine.  Or not.

I made only minor changes to her email for clarity. 

Joel:  More interesting CBC dirt for your perusal.

I posted about this on January 21/06 in a blog entry of yours (see below), wondering how CBC could get away with using unsubstantiated data to show that “they were #1” in the election night ratings war.  Today’s article in MACLEAN’S just proved my point, made just after the election.

My January 26/06 comments (comment #36) from your Jan 25/06 blog entry called — “Canada, actually: CBC hardly on radar but for hockey”:

I don’t know if anyone else saw or heard about the HUGE ad that was in the National Post yesterday (January 26/06 – I still have the ad) – on page three, showing the world that the CBC was the people’s choice for election coverage, contrary to what was in the media – that CTV was the ratings winner overall.

According to the ad, over 2 million tuned in for their coverage and this was proved by “The Foundation Group”, not Neilsen or the BBM.

I did a Google search on “The Foundation Group” (to me, it sounds like the fake company “The Human Group”, that George Costanza invented on an episode of “Seinfeld) and after wading through pages, I found this – the only Canadian site.  Go to their site and make up your own mind. 

The Foundation Group

This is what I found on their main page:

The firm’s main services are consulting strategy, research and education. Each assignment is carefully managed by a professional team using proven methodologies and techniques to meet your specific needs to “ensure a solid foundation for growth”.

Creating value is essential to The Foundation Groups success. Our energies and initiatives are directed toward achieving five goals:

1. Higher Profits, Cash Flow & Market Share
2. Getting the most from Invested Capital
3. Understanding perceived value tradeoffs made by customers
4. Identifying Customer Relationships
5. Change Leadership – Skills Development

Basically, they’re a market research company and they’re not located in Toronto or Montreal, but Richmond Hill.

When you look at the page showing their past clients, you see the likes of Air Canada, Bank of Nova Scotia, Bell Canada, Canadian Tire, and lo & behold, the CBC.

It’s only a list of assignments, there’s no clickable links to see what was actually done for the companies.

Why would the CBC pick such a company like this to produce results?  Unlike companies who did pre election polls or the likes of Nielsen or the BBM, their results, numbers and methodologies are not available for the public to look at.

And, what did this cost us – not just for that ad, but the research itself?

The CBC has a lot to answer for this one.

Well MACLEAN’S magazine apparently agrees there’s more to this.  From MACLEANS — February 10/06:

Pants on fire
Network news ratings have CBC and CTV at each other’s throats. So who’s telling the truth?

…The problem, says spokesman Paul Robinson, was specifically with CBC’s ad, which failed to cite the source of the 2.2 million figure (i.e. Nielsen), or any explanation of how they calculated it. “We’re concerned any time an organization represents data without citing it properly,” says Robinson. “It’s fine to have disagreements in the marketplace as long as people can look into the fine print and see what’s being measured.” CTV provided that fine print, Robinson noted. Why didn’t CBC?

…Perhaps because the public broadcaster has its own way of measuring performance—standard practice be damned. The 2.2 million figure referred to the combined per-minute viewership of the CBC main network and Newsworld between 10 and 11 p.m., when the polls had just closed, says Tony Burman, editor-in-chief of CBC News. So even if CTV won the night overall, the CBC’s total for that hour was slightly higher than CTV’s, even including the audience for its own 24-hour channel, Newsnet. If you count only the main network, then CTV won the hour by a neck: Nielsen results show that the private network averaged 2.065 million viewers during that period, against 2.045 million for CBC.

…It’s the kind of claim that frosts CTV News president Robert Hurst, who has long complained that the public broadcaster is trying to muddy the waters of audience measurement. “The point about their ad after election night is, I don’t know what they did,” he says. “I saw a number of 2.2 million and I have no idea where that came from.” Privately, CTV officials suggest the CBC’s unique arithmetic stems from its increasing struggle to compete—a challenge that intensified with the launch of Global National in 2001, then turned critical with last year’s crippling two-month lockout. Since its employees returned to work on Oct. 11, CBC’s The National has averaged 648,000 viewers on the main network, according to Nielsen’s figures, trailing both Global National (771,000) and CTV National News (957,000).

…The most jarring moment of CBC’s election coverage was his pedantic reminder to Keith Boag, CBC TV’s parliamentary bureau chief, that Liberal candidate and former astronaut Marc Garneau was not the first Canadian to “walk in space.” “You must have been referring to inside the spacecraft,” Mansbridge said dryly (Garneau is actually the first Canadian to travel to space).

The veteran newsman was undoubtedly upholding a timeless journalistic principle: dilute the reliability of the information and you dilute the credibility of the source. The folks who write the CBC ads would do well to heed Mansbridge’s cue.

The more I find out about the CBC, the more I want them made accountable to Canadians. The more Canadians read about their shenanigans, the more they realize it’s not just the crap they shoot out and call “culture”, it’s dishonest and immoral.  Now, with the advent of satellite, Canadians have more access to other programming other than the CBC.  Unfortunately, CBC does not seem to realize that and in their quest to still be the voice of Canada, they have crossed way too many boundaries.

This is a prime target for the Auditor General and I sincerely hope Stephen Harper and Bev Oda will look into the CBC.

My rant for the day.

Thanks for your rant conservativegal.  More people should.

Joel Johannesen
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