I complained to the CBC that Anna-Marie Tremonti's interview on RU-486 was clearly anti-pro-life, and that the interview on a whole was biased against the pro-life viewpoint.
The response I received from CBC takes the position that the interview was not biased.
Instead of including the entire email exchange below, I'm only including the last email I sent them.
I transcribed the entire interview here and here.
I first said this in my blog post, and then complained to the CBC, and sent them my posts.
"Of the four people Anna Maria interviewed, three of them were "pro-choice" (Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, Dr. Joel Lexchin and Dr. Sheila Dunn) and only one was a pro-life doctor (Dr. Donna Harrison). Dr. Gomperts actually performs abortions on women who live in countries where abortions are illegal. Dr. Joel Lexchin wonders if "[the holdup to approve the drug] is a political decision, in other words, if this is pressure coming from the anti-abortions members of the conservative government to not approve this product". And Dr. Sheila Dunn easily sails through her questions, and is not interrupted by Anna-Maria--unlike the pro-life doctor, who is also asked, if her reasons for not supporting mifepristone, are based on ideology. whereas none of the three "pro-choice" doctors are asked the same question."Here is the final exchange we had on their bias.
CBC: When I hear a complaint about bias, I take it seriously and examine the coverage. What I’m looking for primarily is whether the various sides are reflected accurately and fairly so that someone listening, reading or watching can decide for themselves whose position they choose to accept. While I take note of the number of speakers, or the lengths of their interviews, that is far too blunt a measure to use to weigh fairness or balance. Those things need to be considered over time, and in a broader context. Equitable coverage is not the same thing as equal coverage...Although the segment had four voices, two were brief clips [So those two extra "pro-choice" voices don't count? If they don't count then why include them?]
Me: I agree with some of what you say here. But one still must take the entire interview in context, with itself, since that one interview may be all any one person may hear on any one subject. For instance, the two short clips you mention, were both undeniably pro-ru486. Along with those two clips, was the in depth pro-Ru486 interview with Dr. Dunn, but there was only one voice anti-ru486: the in depth interview with pro-life Dr. Harrison. That is still three votes for the drug, and one vote against the drug. By any measure, that is not balanced: 3 to 1. Why wasn't there 2 short clips against the drug instead? Ah, but again, that would not be balanced either, would it? As well, Anna-Marie interrupted Dr. Harrison at least four times while she was speaking. She did not do that with Dr. Dunn. Why didn't she? Why didn't she simply allow both guests to answer the questions, without interrupting? If you want equitable, then treat all interviewees with the same respect. The interruptions were clearly not warranted, why didn't she simply let Dr. Harrison finish her thoughts without jumping in?
CBC: You believe Anna Maria did not treat Dr. Harrison with respect. You are, of course, free to believe that. [Note: CBC does not address my point of AMT interrupting Dr. H. 4 times] But it does not necessarily make it so, either. It is your gut feeling. [Not gut feeling, actual evidence] It is not one i share. I can't stress enough how normal it is for people who feel passionately about a subject to hear things differently than others do...
Me: The clip from Dr. Lexchin wonders if
"based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever, my other speculation is that this is a political decision, in other words, this is pressure coming from the anti-abortions members of the conservative government to not approve this product and that's what's holding it up but as I said I have no actual evidence to back that up."Why was this statement included in the segment at all? It is pure speculation on his part, and by his own words, he has no evidence to support his claim. His statement is a clear pro-abortion viewpoint. His pro-abortion bias was clear and added nothing to the interview, except to show another pro-abortion bias.
CBC: Dr. Lexchin is a pretty smart guy with expertise on pharmaceutical patents and experience working with various levels of government. That's why the show went to him. I understand you think he's full of malarkey on this subject. That is your right to feel. It does not make his perspective meaningless. [Again, CBC doesn't address Dr. L's conjecture about anti-abortion MPs and Dr. L.'s obvious ideology. He may be smart but his statement should have been cut. It wasn't.]
Me: Anna-Marie asks Dr. Harrison if her views are based on ideology. None of the other guests were asked that same question. Why weren't they? And in fact it is clear from Dr. Harrison's answer, that her views are not based on ideology. Not an equitable question.
CBC: Dr. Harrison expresses her ideology in her title, and the organization she represents. Asking her about it allowed her to explain to listeners who may not share her view how the medical opinion she expresses aligns with the ideological view she expresses. I would see that as an opportunity for her to persuade others of her reasonabless, rather than simply preaching to the converted. You call the question unequitable. I believe you are mistaken. [Again, CBC does not answer my question of why the "pro-choice" speakers weren't asked about their ideology. Also note that Dr. Rebecca Gomperts provides medical abortions to women in countries where abortion is illegal.]
Me: You feel my blog wasn't entirely fair in that I only mentioned one tweet, and not the second tweet that was more informational. You are right. My bias was showing. But as well, I don't pretend not to be biased about abortion, I am clearly pro-life. That being said, when I saw the quote from Dr. Dunn which said the drug was safe, without a corresponding quote from Dr. Harrison saying it wasn't safe, I felt that Dr. Dunn's opinion was being highlighted, while Dr. Harrison's was ignored. The CBC is supposed to be not biased though.
CBC: I agree with you, the CBC is supposed to be unbiased. I disagree with you that these tweets display any bias whatsoever. [CBC puts out one neutral tweet and one pro-abortion tweet--that's bias] I suggest the reason you perceive this is as bias is because you feel so strongly about the issue. And it is such a tiny set of words and characters from which to derive a slant, it is grossly unfair to the producers of the program to draw the conclusions you do. [Grossly unfair to conclude that CBC is biased?]
Me: What cannot be gleaned from the interview, from someone not actually knowledgeable about this drug, is how harmful it potentially is to women. I suggest you read the book called "RU486: Misconceptions, Myths and Morals" by Renate Klein. This book goes into meticulous detail about these dangers, all based on studies and scientific evidence. I read the book before I listened to the interview, and Dr. Harrison basically corroborated everything Klein says about the drug. Here are some of the issues she raises detailed in a series of blogs I did on the book, if you care to read them. The book is an eye opener.
CBC: As mentioned, I have not had time to read this material. I have plenty of respect for you and your cause. And I regret that you think CBC News displays a bias in its coverage of the issue. We try very hard not to do that. I also ask you not to draw conclusions because I can't maintain the back and forth ad nauseum [I draw conclusions because my questions are not answered, when I show clear examples of bias] The number of issues that come up every day is enormous [as they should be since the CBC is a tax payer funded broadcaster], and the number of Canadians who engage with us for the very reason that we do pay attention and respond is wonderfully high [except CBC can't admit they are biased and insist they are not]. But I have a ton on my plate, and there's a point at which it's clear that our arguments are getting circular.