Critics question use of official photographers to capture Harper's good side
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is headed to the UN in New York on Tuesday and The Vancouver Observer has learned that seven "photographer and videographers"—including two official video technicians have been granted accreditation to accompany him at the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly.
The PMO said that only two would accompany the prime minister for the time being, even though five official photographers were granted access. The PMO said accreditation is typically given for more staff than who actually travel to accommodate last minute staffing changes, and that this was the case for staff other than photographers.
NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus, said that a real leader would focus on the purpose of the summit rather than bringing along a TV crew to capture the moment.
“I understand that the prime minister is skipping the world UN climate change talks—a real leader would be going rather than have a vanity TV crew he’s bringing with him,” said NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus.
In New York, the prime minister will attend a dinner with other world leaders to discuss climate issues, he will participate in a Q&A about the state of the global economy, Canada’s trade agenda, and actions to ensure Canada’s global economic position.
For the third time since becoming Prime Minister, he will deliver a statement before the General Assembly.
While Harper has increasingly shut out and limited mainstream media opportunities in recent years—his official YouTube channel, “24 Seven,” features exclusive interviews and a look at the day-to-day affairs of the prime minister and the Canadian Government.
“Even Conservative staffers don’t watch his YouTube channel,” said Angus.
The official list submitted to the UN media accreditation office by the Canadian permanent mission to the UN includes: Jillian Thompson, Deborah Ransom, Jason Ransom, Greg Kessler and Jason O’Neil.
Two video technicians have been added to the list: Sebastien Gauldreault and Mario Lemire.
"It seems kind of excessive," said Gregory Thomas of the The Canadian Taxpayers Federation. "Most of the prime minster's public movements (at the UN) will be captured by major news organizations--and this seems like a pretty big and unnecessary team."
Thomas also questioned what the images and audio are going to be used for.
“The PMO has this YouTube feature called “24 Seven” and the audience for that is really small—so if the objective were to get the images of the prime minister at the UN for election ads, you would think that the conservative party would cover the bills for that,” he said.
"It’s clearly not a newsroom--it’s a propaganda studio and it’s not in keeping with Canadian traditions—you don’t have a propaganda studio operating out of the prime ministers office,” said Thomas. “We’ve complained about this in the past."
According to their “behind the scenes” video: “24 Seven operates like any other newsroom. We have story meetings and assignments and editors who decide what’s left on the cutting room floor. The 24 Seven team also have full time jobs—we’re photographers and speech writers and social media people."
"We created 24 Seven because we believe it’s important for Canadians to see what their government is doing for them—what you’re government is doing for you" it continued.
Viewership to date has been unimpressive with less than 3,000 views on English videos – and even fewer, less than 200, watching the French versions.
“We need to make sure the YouTube channel is not being paid for by taxpayers. He needs to stop using the Canadian stage as a back drop,” said Angus of the 24 Seven YouTube channel.
24 Seven: Behind the scenes