The CBC's Ombudsman has cautioned the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for its use of sweeping labels like “misinformation, disinformation” and “far-right,” citing that mislabeling can hurt their credibility.
“I will take this opportunity to stress to programmers at CBC that they assume a great responsibility when they choose to use terms such as ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’ in their stories,” said CBC Ombudsman Jack Nagler in a complaint review on October 5.
The Ombudsman review follows a 2021 attempt by the CBC to act as a political fact-checker, as originally reported by Blacklock’s Reporter.
The comments stem from an August 2022 complaint of CBC Montreal’s story titled, Canada’s convoy movement waved the Dutch flag. Then conspiracy theories swirled about fertilizer and bugs, wherein journalist Jonathan Montpetit suggested that “far-right media” and “conservative politicians” were “stoking misinformation about an early plan to cut emissions.”
"Rebel News, for instance, claimed the Dutch government had 'pandered to the radical demands of the World Economic Forum,' echoing a popular conspiracy theory that maintains the Swiss think-tank is secretly forcing governments around the world to adopt left-wing policies," the article reads.
The original complaint questioned whether the CBC had an obligation to interview people who supported the freedom convoy and whether calling legitimate concerns around the World Economic Forum’s global policies a “conspiracy theory” is proper journalism.
“CBC was not obliged in this instance to do more than it did,” Nagler said, because the article was not a “deep exploration” of the motives behind the protest or concerns around bugs as a meat substitute.
Nagler said that he “often reminds programmers that precision is key, and labels should be employed with great caution. Sometimes it would be safer to say that there is no evidence for something, rather than proclaiming it to be false.”
"But it is often better to describe people’s actions and statements with enough specificity that readers can judge for themselves who is reasonable and who is extreme, rather than declaring it for them," Nagler added.
The review ultimately deemed that CBC adhered to “appropriate standards” and “no violation of policy” was found.
CBC began publicly tracking its own misinformation in January of 2021 under its “corrections and clarifications” subpage.