Kory Teneycke made news last week regarding his project to launch a “Fox News Canada” with the backing of Quebecor who owns Sun Media. News of reporters already being snatched up by Sun is circulating wildly and already includes David Akin and Brian Lilley as new recruits to the TV venture. We’ve obtained (no, not really) a copy of the application form that reporters, eager to work for the new network, are filling out to apply for work.
And unlike a lot of Ottawa reporting, the correct answer here isn’t all that nuanced.
There’s a bit of chatter about today’s Ekos poll, but a lot of it has been about its pollster Frank Graves. As with anything in politics, there’s a problem when the messenger becomes the story rather than the message they are delivering.
A few pressgalleryflacks were all a-twitter at a new meme they perceived to be emerging from the Liberal benches during Question Period: “The Conservative Culture of Deceit”. Obviously more of a play on Stephen Harper’s “Culture of Defeat” remark about Atlantic Canada than the Justice Gomery’s remarks of a Liberal “Culture of Entitlement”.
The “Culture of Defeat” written for Harper in 2001 posed problems for the Conservative brand in Atlantic Canada and what made it particularly damaging was a bit of history on uncouth remarks about the region by another member of one of the Conservative’s legacy parties, the Canadian Alliance.
Back in 2000, Alliance pollster John Mykytyshyn went adrift in some turbulent seas when he remarked “[Atlantic Canadians] don’t want to do like our ancestors did and work for a living and go where the jobs are. Probably, the Alliance won’t go over as well there.”
Indeed, after these comments, the Alliance did not “go over” well in Atlantic Canada and it has taken years to climb back from these words.
Mykytyshyn told me, “as an unpaid volunteer, I was subjected to 13 days of media coverage on this based on an offhand comment that I apologized for, and the CBC did a 10 minute special on the incident.”
Fast forward to today, where we learn that the CBC’s EKOS pollster is also advising the Liberal Party of Canada giving the party strategic direction on the sentiment of the electorate.
“I told them that they should invoke a culture war. Cosmopolitanism versus parochialism, secularism versus moralism, Obama versus Palin, tolerance versus racism and homophobia, democracy versus autocracy. If the cranky old men in Alberta don’t like it, too bad. Go south and vote for Palin.”
Start a culture war? I remember years and years of Liberal criticism about Conservatives dividing Canadians, “pitting region against region”. The Liberal Party branded itself as the party that “unites” Canadians rather than divides. The only thing the Liberal Party is not known to divide these days are leadership debts and the cheque at Carmello’s — someone else will pick it up.
But the CBC’s attachment to Graves is particularly conflicted since it erupted when Mykytyshyn made those unfortunate and divisive remarks, driving it home to every east-coaster watching or listening to Canada’s state-funded broadcaster. And now? Our tax dollars pad Graves’ bottom line as he advises the Liberals on how to “stop worrying about the West” as Lawrence Martin reports him saying. Further, the CBC is using him to provide objective, research-driven advice on party politics yet he is giving advice to one party.
Division does work in politics. But when the Conservatives own the right side of the entitled vs. ordinary split what’s left? Demonization of entire constituencies, provinces and regions of people is the politics of desperation. It always fails.
UPDATE: Kory Teneycke unloads on Graves on CBC’s Power & Politics. Teneycke pointed out Graves’ donation record to the Liberal Party. The Sun points out donations totaling $11,042.72 to the Liberal Party including the leadership campaigns of Ignatieff and Rae with just $449.04 going to a Tory candidate in Ottawa-Vanier.
I emailed Richard Stursberg, the executive VP of CBC/Radio Canada about this:
Was CBC aware of Frank Graves’ financial donations to the Liberal Party of Canada and his current advisory role to that party? And given this revelation, does CBC now believe that this presents a conflict of interest in how it reports research and analysis from EKOS/Graves concerning public opinion of federal party politics?
Here is the CBC’s reply,
Your email to Richard Stursberg was referred to me for a response.
We will let Frank Graves of Ekos comment on the nature of his relationship with political parties. I believe he made a public statement on the subject earlier today.
I can confirm that CBC News uses Ekos, along with several other large, national firms, as a source of polling data, as do other media organizations. The data we receive is carefully reviewed and vetted by our own research department and is presented, in accordance with our own journalistic standards and practices (available on our website) fairly, accurately and without bias. We disagree with your suggestion that any conflict of interest exists with regard to either our polling or our journalism.
Head of Media Relations
And my reply to Jeff,
thanks for your reply.
I’m more concerned about Graves being presented as a non-partisan observer in the analysis he provides for the CBC.
Do you believe that conflict exists between the CBC’s use of Graves’ research and CBC use of Graves’ analysis? You may assert that Graves produces great and professionally sound data for the CBC but can it rely on his analysis as a non-partisan? Will CBC vet Graves’ commentary as they do with his data?
I note that Lawrence Martin has confirmed Graves quote putting the pollsters explanation in dispute, “The quote is exactly as Frank gave it to me. ‘I told them…’ meaning the Liberals.”
and the subsequent reply,
No, we don’t believe a conflict exists. We use Ekos polling data, along with those of other firms. To the extent that Frank Graves shares his analyses of those polling data on our programs, we let his analysis speak for itself and our audiences will judge it accordingly. This is like our other political commentators and analysts, many of whom have relationships of varying degrees with various consituencies, political or otherwise, or for that matter with several constituencies at once.
Bottom line, we’ll put CBC News journalism up against anyone’s for rigor, fairness and transparency.
Have a great weekend!
Head of Media Relations
“EKOS has never polled for any political party or been retained as a client by any political party,” he said in an e-mail Thursday night.
“Mr. Graves did give an interview to Lawrence Martin, the Globe columnist, in which he offered the Liberals hypothetical advice, just as he might to any other political party in the course of an interview.
“To the extent that the Globe article may have implied that Mr. Graves had previously proffered this advice directly to the Liberal Party, it was a mistaken implication.”
Prior to joining EKOS, Mr. Adams had a distinguished career as a journalist. He covered mainly political stories as a correspondent for CBC television’s The National and later as Parliamentary Bureau Chief for CBC Radio. In 1999, he joined the Globe and Mail as senior parliamentary correspondent and later served as the newspaper’s Middle East correspondent.
UPDATE 4/23: Graves has apologizes for his remarks and wants to set the record straight:
Yesterday, Ontario finance minister Dwight Duncan ‘leaked’ the news that Ontario would see a budget deficit of $18 Billion over the next two years.
We’ve been hearing hints of an Ontario deficit for a little while now. Of course, this is a communications strategy for mitigating bad news.
Just as the federal Conservatives did prior to the release of their own budget, PMO director of communication Kory Teneycke passed on the detail that the budget would be projecting deficit.
Strip the bad from the budget day headline and frontload some tax cuts and the other ‘silver lining’ elements on the day of the budget announcement. By that time, deficits are yesterday’s news and the media is biased towards reporting what’s new.
The federal Liberals protested when their Blue friends on the government benches did just over one month ago, while their provincial cousins are doing the same thing. Provincial Conservatives should avoid the same temptation.
Communications is necessary to move dry, plain or just ugly policy through the emotional and human crucible of the public forum. However, to burn at communications as a method instead of policy as substance is often too easy and while it may produce a bright flash, the flame is short and does nothing to get at the essence of debate.
We should not, however, dismiss real debate and positioning on issues. Some bemoan that politicians are ‘playing politics’ at a time of economic crisis. But, politics is getting to the core of an issue and at the methods by which it should be addressed. Let’s get past the bright flash and get down to it.
Congratulations to Kory and thank you for taking up the cost of the job. A former lobbyist, Teneycke is now subject to future lobbying restrictions of the Federal Accountability Act. Though with this cost comes greater personal honour of serving Canadians.
Today the news hit the wire: Kory Teneycke is the new director of communications for the Prime Minister’s Office.
In Langevin, I’ve heard that new chief of staff Guy Giorno is telling communications staff that the theme from now until the writ is “be political”. As the new director of communications, Teneycke will assume this role of actively building positive political momentum in the messaging of the government, something that was somewhat muted under the former director.
Under Sandra Buckler, the communications strategy seemed to be more of a shield; the former D.Comm. was effective in circling the wagons closely and the government only messaged to mitigate damage or give a basic understanding of its agenda.
Under Teneycke, I’ve come to understand that the strategy will be more of a sword. The communications strategy of the Teneycke comms shoppe will be proactive in its approach, it will get ahead of message and set the political tone from the Conservative government’s perspective.
In Canada like the United States, television content is subject to review by regulatory bodies for a variety of reasons. In Canada, however, this material is subject to review for undesired political messaging.
Take a look at the following two produced-for-television spots from the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association (CRFA):
On The Hill
It might surprise you to find out that the spots were canned by a regulatory body of private broadcasters called the Television Bureau of Canada (TVB). In the opinion of this self-regulatory body for networks such as CTV and Global, the content of the ads has been classified as “Issue and Opinion” by TVB. In fact, according to a letter obtained by this blogger (reproduced below), “the subject of renewable fuels being a hot topic these days makes it an opinion expressed.” Uh oh.
You might be thinking that opinion has never really been subject to censorship in Canada unless it crosses the line of hateful speech, decency or the promotion of unlawful activity. Of course, the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association is doing nothing of the sort in these spots.
Here is the letter from TVB to the advertising agency for Canadian Renewable Fuels:
This final spot is fine but we will have to treat it as Issue and Opinion. The subject of renewable fuels being a hot topic these days makes it an opinion expressed.
The following must be revised or is needed for final approval:
1- The advertiser must clearly identify themselves by following one of these two examples:
The advertiser must be clearly identified in both the audio and video portions. The audio disclaimer and video super must be preceded by one of the following: “these are the opinions of”, “opinions expressed are those of”, “message brought to you by”, “brought to you by”, “sponsored by” or a similar statement.
The advertiser must be clearly identified in video only. The super must be on screen for at least 6 seconds and must occupy 1/3 of the screen in size. The super must also be preceded by one of the following statements listed above.
2- We also need an attestation letter from the advertiser stating that they have obtained the rights to Premier [sic] Harper’s footage from the station and his consent for his presence in the commercial.
Thank you for the already received indemnity letter.
Please send me the revised final and letter when ready.
Thanks and have a great day!
Daniela Arismendi Television Bureau of Canada/Bureau de la Television du Canada
The “On the Hill” spot was deemed unairable for a couple of reasons. First, Canadians would not be protected, it seems from clandestine opinions to change their economic behaviour (in the advertising industry, this is called “9 to 5, 7 days a week, 365 days a year”). Because renewable fuels is a political “hot topic”, vulnerable Canadians might suffer if the source of the advertising is not “on screen for at least 6 seconds [occupying] 1/3 of the screen in size”. The closing tag “greenfuels.org” on the spot is too covert for the audience even though it is likely meant as a plug for a website on which the CRFA presumably wants the audience to visit.
And what’s this about an “attestation letter” to the rights to use footage of Harper and the claim that the PM’s personal permission to use electoral footage of himself is needed before CRFA can proceed? Did anyone else know that the use of footage of a political candidate is forbidden in this country without the express written permission of that individual?
My pal Kory Teneycke, executive director of the CRFA wrote to the Conservative Party to inquire about such a request and passed on the party’s response to me:
From: Mike Donison [firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: Saturday, January 20, 2007 5:34 PM
To: Kory Teneycke Subject: Your e-mail request
Dear Mr. Teneycke:
This is in relation to the request from Telecaster which you indicate was sent to you late yesterday which you have forwarded us, in which they ask you to get permission to use a brief clip of a public statement by Stephen Harper made during the last election campaign which took place between November of 2005 and January of 2006.
I understand that the statement in your ad was made by Mr. Harper at a public event with unrestricted media access while he was publicly campaigning in his capacity as Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. I am not aware how the Party, or Mr. Harper for that matter, has anything to say- permitting, refusing, or otherwise- about the broadcast of a clip from a public event of the Leader. So far as I know, we have never been asked for such a thing before. I am frankly at a loss to understand why or what we are being asked at all.
Michael D. Donison Executive Director-Directeur executif Conservative Party of Canada Parti conservateur du Canada
Armed with confimation of his common sense, Teneycke wrote to TVB and expressed his concern:
January 21, 2007 Jim Patterson President and CEO Television Bureau of Canada (Telecaster Services) 160 Bloor Street East, Suite 1005 Toronto, ON M4W 1B9
Dear Mr. Patterson:
I am writing you to urgently consider the Telecaster policy giving public officials like the Prime Minister of Canada a de facto veto over the use of their public statements and commitments in advertising.
As you are aware, the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association (CRFA) intends to run a television advertising campaign starting today, January 22, 2007. Our campaign consists of two ads, one focuses on the benefits of ethanol and biodiesel and the second reminds Canadians of the commitment made by the Conservative Party to increase renewable fuel content in Canadian gasoline and diesel fuel.
Telecaster has reviewed these ads and has requested changes to the voice-over and video super of our logo at the end of the ad. These changes have been made and revised versions will be sent to you before noon tomorrow.
However, a more troubling requirement was brought forward with respect to our second ad. This commercial contains a brief clip of the Conservative Party Leader, Stephen Harper, speaking at a campaign event outside Chatham, Ontario on December 21, 2005. On Friday afternoon we were informed by Telecaster that we required consent from Stephen Harper for the use of the clip in question. Failure to obtain consent would result in the second ad not being aired.
It is our position that statements made by public officials at public events about public policy topics are not subject to copyright restrictions. As such, it is not for Telecaster to require consent from the public official in being clipped, nor is it for the public official in question to either grant or deny consent for a clip to be used.
For their part, the Conservative Party, in a letter to me yesterday, stated “I understand that the statement in your ad was made by Mr. Harper at a public event with unrestricted media access while he was publicly campaigning in his capacity as Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. I am not aware how the Party, or Mr. Harper for that matter, has anything to say- permitting, refusing, or otherwise- about the broadcast of a clip from a public event of the Leader.”
We believe there is an important point of principle at stake — the right of Canadians to use public statements made by elected officials, particularly those made during an election campaign, without first seeking their consent. The restriction you are asking for would limit public debate, free speech and political accountability. These are fundamental rights worth standing up for in a democracy. Moreover, they are rights that one would expect an organization funded by Canadian Broadcasters would fight to defend, rather than erode.
On behalf of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association, I encourage you to revisit and reverse your decision without delay, and allow our second ad containing a clip of Stephen Harper to air without prior authorization of the Prime Minister.
I look forward to your response.
Kory Teneycke Executive Director
What is your opinion on the stifling of speech on the over-regulated medium that is television in this country? I can think of a few instances of the suppression of public debate in this country, but only via government bodies. This marks a particularly egregious example perpetrated by a private organization. Further, this case is yet another example of how YouTube is helping individuals/organizations get around the regulatory filters. And why was the use of Harper’s image in a commercial that actually compliments his environmental plan such a deal-breaker for the Television Bureau of Canada?
You can write Jim Patterson, the President of the Television Bureau of Canada (Telecaster, TVB) at email@example.com