CBC should stop journalists like Rex Murphy from taking speaking fees: Ombudsman review

After Rex Murphy and Peter Mansbridge took spotlight over oil industry speaking fees, an Ombudsman now concludes the CBC's broadcasters should be wary of payments from "powerful advocacy groups"

Rex Murphy Point of View Neil Young Oil Sands
Rex Murphy gave a stinging critique of rockstar Neil Young's opposition to the oil sands in January, just a few weeks after he was paid for a Calgary speech to an oil-friendly convention - image: CBC News

A new CBC Ombudsman review found that the public broadcaster should not be allowing its broadcasters to accept speaker fees, in light of recent "perception" controversies that both Rex Murphy and Peter Mansbridge were paid for appearing at oil-friendly conventions.

"I hope CBC management will reconsider the practice of paid speaking engagements for its journalists and, and at a minimum, consider how any relevant activity and payment can be on the public record," wrote Esther Enkin, CBC Ombudsman, in a letter written yesterday.

Though both Murphy and Peter Mansbridge were cleared of any wrongdoing, Enkin said "taking money leads to a perception of a conflict of interest" -- especially when the money is from "powerful lobby groups".

On Murphy in particular, she added, "[he] is not a spokesperson for anyone, nor is his personal integrity in any way in question here."

The Ombudsman's remarks were in a March 12 response letter to John How, of Terrace B.C., who shared it with the Vancouver Observer.

How is a retired meteorologist who was incensed by Murphy's controversial speech, found on Youtube, giving his passionate support of the oil sands at a business convention last fall.  

“When I saw [Rex Murphy's] Calgary speech, I lost all respect I had for him as a public intellectual," said How. 

“There was a certain amount of vitriol that I would not have expected from someone who is supposed to be a reasonable commentator on public affairs – it was extremely biased, and very unbalanced.”

Then in January, Murphy went used his "Point of View" segment on CBC's The National, to vigorously defend the oil sands from criticisms levelled by rock star Neil Young, who compared the tar sands to "Hiroshima."  

Media critics have said Murphy has the right to his opinions, but he should disclose any industry fees he receives.

Murphy did not respond to several media requests for comment, but used his column in the National Post recently to explain his Calgary speech:

"I said that Canadians should be celebrating the [oil sands] industry’s achievements, and noting the technological miracles that our scientists and engineers have produced in this sector.

"I drew particular note to many of my personal friends who have had new and successful starts in Alberta over the last two decades.

"No oil worker asked me to say them. No premier. No oil executive. It was just me. Rex," wrote Murphy.

CBC News' chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge also took the spotlight over fees in connection with a keynote speech he gave at a Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) convention in 2012.

Mansbridge explained in his blog that he often donates the fees he gets and is often encouraged by CBC management to do the appearances.  

"I don't offer my opinion on matters of public policy or on certain divisive issues that often dominate the news. Ever," wrote Mansbridge.

Peter Mansbridge CAPP speaker

Mansbridge at CAPP event dated December 10, 2012.  CAPP Facebook.

How said he was satisfied with the Ombudsman's review, and hopes CBC's management will listen.

"I am pleased that Ms. Enkin agrees, to the extent that she writes that 'it is inconsistent with policy when CBC news and current affairs staff accept payment from groups that are likely to be in the news'," wrote How Thursday.

The Omudsman received more than 70 complaint letters.  She said this was driven in part by a campaign by the Sierra Club, who motivated volunteers to write in.

On that score, How said he has no connections to any environmentalist cause.  
 
“Am I am absolutely independent. I was a weatherman with Environment Canada for 17 years."  

"I retain an interest in global warming and I am appalled that we’re getting into the petro-super-state mentality that is espoused by our Prime Minister and Rex Murphy.”

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Comments

The Medium is the Message.

The medium is the message, as a famous Canadian has taught us and CAPP must be very pleased that the oil talk is still flowing.

It appears then, that  CAPP have lassoed some well known CBC spokespersons and thereby given  themselves some extended talking points courtesy, Rex and Peter.

Glad Esther Enkin has shed some light on this CAPP initiative. I wonder if the CBC has considered the famous reference that "Perception is Reality" in the minds of many; viewers and perhaps Canadians, in general. But do Canadians really believe that Rex has a point? I think Not. Do these 2 guys really support fossil fuel fallacy? Maybe they're just trying to give our CBC some higher profile time?

i agree with John How of Terrace about  his opinion on Rex Murphy's biased attack.  Neil Young's visit  to Northern Alberta and Neil's comments about what he saw of Ft. McMurray and the Athabasca's deplorable conditions where First Nations are held captive to a toxic environment was real. He was there .

Perhaps Rex always wanted to be a famous rock singer, in order to write meaningful lyrics, perhaps? Yet, I can't remember Rex critisizing Joannie Mitchell about her song on ripping out trees to make a parking lot.

I really think we should invite Rex and Peter, for that matter to visit B.C. and really experience what it is like to have an old pipeline and to hear talk of twinning it through your neighbourhood, schoolyards and drinking water aquifer.

Does Rex have a bitumen mining company digging up the whole region, or pipeline throbbing thru in his hometown  in Newfoundland, I wonder?

Better yet, Rex; why not go visit the northern communities that depend on fish and animals that have tar sand toxic tailings leaching into their water systems.

 

I can't afford to hire Rex to speak for me

If I could afford to hire Rex to speak I would ask him to repeat these two words for half an hour.

 

Burn Less

CBC should stop Journalists..

Ha! Don't make me laugh. I spent almost a year trying to get the CBC to see that the production of THE TIPPING POINT;AGE OF THE OIL SANDS hosted by David Suzuki who, according to Vivian Krause's research, had received money from TIDES, his foundation had apparently received millions from TIDES, Schindler/Kelly study was funded by TIDES, on camera appearances included various people funded or supported (i.e. books published by publishing houses funded by TIDES) constituted a CONFLICT OF INTEREST and that they should withdraw the program or produce one that was more balanced.  How was it in a TWO HOUR documentary, they simply forgot to mention the Wood Buffalo Environment Assoc which has been air monitoring since 1997 for 365 days a year and 24/7 plus a Human Monitoring program.  Isn't that funny. Producer Bob Culbert wrote me that the program was to assess "Is the system for monitoring water quality in the Athabasca River scientifically credible?" and yet they did not describe the existing monitoring system!! They compared the Schindler/Kelly two weeks of snow cores and drop in the hat summer sampling with YEARS of data collected by RAMP, industry monitors, AENV, and various federal agencies...without ever noting that disproportionate emphasis on the Schindler/Kelly 'snapshot' study ('snapshot' was Schindler's word for it). THE TIPPING POINT;AGE OF THE OIL SANDS was, in my opinion, the most successful stealth attack on industry ever, anywhere in the world, and was paid for by Canadian taxpayers and facilitated by our own national broadcasters...and every one believed every word.  Shame on CBC.

The Rex and Peter manipulation show for cash

The CBC's Rex and Peter should be dismissed for charging speaking fees that promote ideologies -- and that's what they espouse when paid to reinforce policies of particular groups: Fired immediately to preserve whatever integrity the CBC pretends to have.

Passion not vitriol

I just watched that YouTube speech of Rex's. To me, that was a man speaking from the heart on what he has seen in Newfoundland, and in Fort Mac, of the positive social and economic effects of the oil industry. That did not seem to me to be at all vitriolic. It was passionate, and personal. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, and just because they are not the same as yours, that does not make them biased, or expressing them, vitriolic.

Rex Murphy is NOT a "journalist"....

I will continue to defend Rex Murphy and his speech on the Oil Sands and remind you all again that Rex Murphy is NOT a journalist.  If any of you take the time to actually look up the definition of "journalist" you will see that it is one who reports on news and events using actual facts without the input of personal opinion.   And if you then look up Rex Murphy's biography right on CBC's own "media Centre", you will see that Rex is never referred to as a "journalist".  He is an opionist, speaker, broadcaster (as in one who uses radio or television as a means to "broadcast").  The following is directly from his biography posted on CBC:

"As well as host of Cross Country Checkup, Rex Murphy contributes weekly TV essays on diverse topics to CBC TV's The National. At The National's website there are videos of Rex's TV commentaries.

 He also writes book reviews, commentaries, and a weekly column for the National Post. A collection of his columns, reviews and commentaries has been published in two books:Points of View and Canada And Other Matters of Opinion.  He is much in demand as a speaker. His oratory -- a volatile mix of insight, humour and biting political commentary, powered by an extraordinary vocabulary -- brings audiences to their feet at events from coast to coast."
So you see, folks, that it is much known that he is a "speaker" and has been at it a long time.  The only thing that pi**ses off a lot of people is that Murphy has a strong opinion on some matters that doesn't match up with the strong left-wing idealists who seem to think that the CBC should only broadcast opinions that match closely to their own.  What they seem to forget (as does CBC itself most of the time) is that the CBC is paid for by ALL of us taxpayers' money - not just the left wing environmentalists.  I say that time is overdue for CBC to broadcast BOTH sides of the stories.  And if Rex Murphy wishes to be a speaker at a Petroleum event, good for him.Gotta love that free speech stuff we have in this country!

Disagree.

"nor is his personal integrity in any way in question here".


He took money to speak on their behalf.

 

He's now a paid mouthpiece, who is coincidentally also in the employ of the CBC.  When he's speaking on behalf of the oil sands, he should not be using his podium at the CBC, because we're not paying him to work his second job on our time.


He should also be required to emphasize that all of this is merely his opinion, for everything that is worth, because he is not a "journalist", and has no "standards" he's required to adhere to.

 

In fact, fire him, and replace him with a journalist, who is accountable, because its taxpayer money he's being funded with, and let the oil company put him on Sun TV.

 

CBC speakers

This is nothing new.  There is a reason Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin became Senators.  Harper has already shown that it is very easy to buy off the media with money, threats of cuts in funding and promises of future positions.

except for 3 you guys are all crazy

How is this any different than David Suzuki, who hosts a show on CBC, taking fees for his speaking engagements? The material, obviously, which you all find more agreeable.

Wendy Major wrote:
Is the concern about people trying to add some balance to the anti-oil rhetoric out there or about undue influence by public figures? CBC has a reporter in the NWT thats posts anti-oil comments and messages on a facebook site and at the same type continues to work as an "unbiased" journalist. That seems to be okay.  Is that because he is anti-oil?  If there is a policy there shouldn't be a double standard; it should be applied across all viewpoints, not just the one some people disagree with.

The medium is the message, as a famous Canadian has taught us and CAPP must be very pleased that the oil talk is still flowing.

It appears then, that  CAPP have lassoed some well known CBC spokespersons and thereby given  themselves some extended talking points courtesy, Rex and Peter.

Glad Esther Enkin has shed some light on this CAPP initiative. I wonder if the CBC has considered the famous reference that "Perception is Reality" in the minds of many; viewers and perhaps Canadians, in general. But do Canadians really believe that Rex has a point? I think Not. Do these 2 guys really support fossil fuel fallacy? Maybe they're just trying to give our CBC some higher profile time?

i agree with John How of Terrace about  his opinion on Rex Murphy's biased attack.  Neil Young's visit  to Northern Alberta and Neil's comments about what he saw of Ft. McMurray and the Athabasca's deplorable conditions where First Nations are held captive to a toxic environment was real. He was there .

Perhaps Rex always wanted to be a famous rock singer, in order to write meaningful lyrics, perhaps? Yet, I can't remember Rex critisizing Joannie Mitchell about her song on ripping out trees to make a parking lot.

I really think we should invite Rex and Peter, for that matter to visit B.C. and really experience what it is like to have an old pipeline and to hear talk of twinning it through your neighbourhood, schoolyards and drinking water aquifer.

Does Rex have a bitumen mining company digging up the whole region, or pipeline throbbing thru in his hometown  in Newfoundland, I wonder?

Better yet, Rex; why not go visit the northern communities that depend on fish and animals that have tar sand toxic tailings leaching into their water systems.

 

Irony of CBC conversation

Is the issue about people not wanting to hear some balance to the anti-oil rhetoric or truly about influence?

The CBC has a reporter in the NWT that regularly posts anti-oil comments and messages on a Facebook page and continues to work as an "unbiased" journalist.  That doesn't seem a problem. 

Is your issue more that you disagree with what Murphy and Manbridge are saying?  I have a feeling if they were supporting the same message in your rant you would be singing their praises and offer to be their booking agent.

CBC's agenda

Given the person in charge at CBC was appointed by harper I can't think what else people could expect but a media that supports harper's agenda.  And that includes both Peter Mansbridge (don't forget about him) and Rex Murphy lobbying for big oil who in turn support harper.

Person quoted not unbiased

John How of Terrace BC is hardly an unbiased citizen - google his name, Sierra Club and terrace to see his list of comments against common sense energy

If CBC is worried about big money influencing their reporting on topics and subjects on which they report, then they are ethically bound to refuse the annual $1 Billion the Federal Government, since the Federal Government is, no doubt, the largest subject of reporting of the CBC.

Clear indeed.  It is an attempt to suppress opinion that doesn't fit the middle-minded self-regard leftists have.  Plain and simple.

No-one asks for limitations on speech whenJian Gomeshi
airs his views.