So, in a move to make Bush look like a good guy, Harper decided this week that he’d just stop talking to the press completely, when they refused to abide by his attempt to pick and choose who got to ask questions.
This is shortly after Harper decided that since the non-partisan appointment oversights committee wasn’t being partisan enough for his liking (ie. accepting his partisan appointments), he’d just dissolve it.
He’s starting to seem like a Bush without even the pretense of trying to please people. Also starting to bear striking similarities to a five year old throwing tantrums.
Uh, the Canadian system is pretty much an identical copy of the British. Same adversarial cross-examination, same PM getting grilled in the House, etc. Only difference is our House is bigger than the British one, which looks about as large as a rec room on TV.
The Harper thing that Charles is talking about refers to taking press questions from the gallery in the media room afterward. And honestly, I don’t see a problem with him making a fuss here, because the gallery has always ordered itself and set up its own questions, which typically results in the CBC boys running the show and putting on their usual Trudeaumania! nonsense where any Conservative is assumed to be the AntiChrist. Harper’s idea to switch this to a system where the Tories would decide which questions to answer from ones previously submitted blows, too, but I think he’s right to point out that the system right now should be overhauled.
It’s not so much the “choosing your own questions” part that bugs Brett, I think, as it is the casual genuflection of most Canadian press corps to the CBC, which has institutionally supported the Liberal government, despite that party’s regular slashing of their budget. The CBC does some really, really good work - I love it, even though it tends to mythologize itself - but its pre-eminence is so taken for granted that it almost always gets the lead (and sets the tone) in press conferences.
So long as the press corps sets its own rules, this deference will continue and the PM will begin every meeting facing the mostly urban, urbane and skeptical CBC rep. While the Globe and Mail, National Post and Gobal’s guy sit quietly and wait their turn. Some sort of seniority system would probably work best.
There is a certain practicality to this deference, of course, even outside the PM press gaggles. None of the private TV stations have demonstrated much interest in pursuing a strong news department and by letting CBC do the heavy lifting they can continue to spend funds on importing syndicated US programming.
I do think that the US could use a good old-fashioned scrum, though.
They don’t totally pick their own questions, though. There’s a majority rules thing going on where the gallery polices its own questions, so, like Troy says in his great post, there’s a lot of back-scenes editing of what questions are allowed to be asked during these media periods. This is pretty scummy, as the questions regularly get skewed to favor the majority, Liberal-friendly media, typically led by the CBC.
I like CBC News a fair bit, too, as it is a solid news organization that does look at all sides for the most part. They’ve provided some fantastic coverage on Iran, via a documentary shot by a former Iranian dissident who went back to talk to young people about their opinions on the mullahs, nukes, etc. This has been the most well-rounded stuff I’ve seen on conventional news outlets about Iran, as it’s shown the demonstrations against the government there, glimpses of a prison where dissidents are tortured (includeing the guy making the film), and features average people saying that they think that the nuke thing is a mullah-engineered crisis to justify clamping down on democracy. That’s the sort of authentic coverage we need to be seeing more of, not “Oh, this is just like Iraq! Bush sucks!” nonsense.
Sometimes the CBC biases really show through, though, especially when it comes to the US. The National had a feature last week on the Americanization of Canada via Harper that was one of the most idiotic things that I’ve ever seen. Oh noes! Our national identity is in peril because of the dreaded Americans! Again!
The CBC has been whining about this crap whenever a Tory government has been elected going right back to Diefenbaker. Amazing how long the sky has been falling here.
Agreed, although CTV has done a pretty good job with Canadian news on a national level, especially when it comes to federal politics. It’s their international coverage that really blows, because that’s where their lack of cash, interest, etc. really shows up.
It’s been a few years since I’ve watched Canadian news programming regularly, but my recollection of CTV’s national coverage (at least five years in the past) was that it was decent during election season but pretty erratic otherwise. It was usually a day or two behind CBC and was much more likely to fill its national newscast with stories of dubious importance. It was also much more Central Canada focused, where CBC seemed to have greater sense of the regions, though I don’t think they ever “got” Alberta.
I’ve always found CTV’s Ottawa coverage pretty good. Not quite at the level of the CBC, but good, and usually from different perspectives. The regional thing I totally agree with. But don’t totally understand why this remains the case, because the CBC’s long gutted its local news operations, while CTV’s locals pretty much kick ass by comparison.
Dammit, I did say it was good filmmaking, didn’t I? ;-)
Anyhow, filmmaker is an Iranian expat. Was a pro-democracy, anti-mullah dissident before he left the country. One of the scenes in the film was him going back to a prison where he was tortured for weeks. Underlined how brave the guy was for going back to Iran in the first place. He didn’t make a huge deal out of it from a personal perspective, though. Just a “And this is where I was held and tortured, and where people are almost certainly being tortured right now” moment, but one that was pretty effective.
Brett, so letting the press pick their own questions in a manner of their own choosing to ask is a bad idea if the questions submitted are ones you don’t like? Not following here. How does the CBC outvote everyone to get Harper more questions about shooting nuns? Menacing glares? Cookies?
One last time – the media pool decides which questions are asked per question period. Majority rules, so the Liberal-friendly media vote down questions that might portray the Conservatives in a good light and focus on those that show the Tories in a bad light. It’s pretty basic, Jason. The best solution would be to throw the whole thing open and let reporters just ask questions for a set time, and do away with the pick-and-choose system on both sides. The whole idea of having to have your questions approved by ANYONE before you can ask them is abhorrent.