It seems that the CBC indeed acts quickly to complaints. Below is the response I received to my complaint (a variation of this text can be read here) around Kevin O’Leary’s treatment of Chris Hedges in the Occupy Wall Street interview.
As I anticipated in my complaint, the response, which clearly finds Kevin O’Leary in the wrong, justifies O’Leary’s presence on the show to be ‘colourful, outspoken and controversial’. This is, as noted, a tried formula particularly in American (and Canadian apparently) news. The challenge with this formula is that the expectation for O’Leary to be controversial appears to trump in this instance the duty to be intelligent. Kevin O’Leary is the Don Cherry of business reporting and he clearly tries to perform this role. Nowhere is this more evident in his interaction with Chris Hedges who, through his intellectual superiority, is able to use rhetorical jujitsu to counter O’Leary’s bullying. Yet, the larger question in all of this is does news have to be this way?
Should the desire for news to be entertaining (both to keep audiences and to keep advertisers) be the [commercial] logic which drives news? This, to me, is the much larger question which needs to discussed.
Robert Lack, Executive Producer of The Lang and O’Leary Exchange, asked that we forward to you the following reply.
CBC Audience Relations
Thank you for your e-mail of October 7th, 2011 addressed to Kirk LaPointe, CBC Ombudsman. As the Executive Producer of THE LANG & O’LEARY EXCHANGE, I would like to reply.
You wrote to draw our attention to a segment on the October 6th edition of the program.
During a discussion about the Wall Street protests taking place in New York and Washington, our business commentator Kevin O’Leary responded to an answer from author and journalist Chris Hedges by saying: “Listen, don’t take this the wrong way, but you sound like a left-wing nutbar.”
We expect Kevin O’Leary to be colourful, outspoken and controversial. However, this was not an appropriate way to refer to a guest on our program and it detracted from an otherwise very interesting interview.
You may be interested to know that I called Mr. Hedges after the interview to apologize on behalf of the program.
And I also discussed with Mr. O’Leary the inappropriateness of addressing guests in such a way.
I appreciate your sharing your thoughts on this issue.
It is also my responsibility to tell you that if you are not satisfied with this response, you may wish to submit the matter for review by the CBC Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman, an independent and impartial body reporting directly to the President, is responsible for evaluating program compliance with the CBC’s journalistic policies.
THE LANG & O’LEARY EXCHANGE