Canadian News

The bad news bear

Judith Timson September 18 1978
Canadian News

The bad news bear

Judith Timson September 18 1978

The bad news bear

Toronto

Before he gave up investigation for enunciation, the CBC National’s an-

nouncer Peter Kent earned a reputation for bravery as well as an ACTRA award for his courageous coverage of the war in Cambodia. Last week he executed a feat of derring-do rather closer to home. Publicly oblivious to his own vulnerability in the corporation, Kent revealed the long-suspected vulnerability of the CBC to pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office to provide live coverage of some of Pierre Trudeau’s performances.

Approaching the end of his two-year contract with the National* and about to set off for Nairobi to open the CBC’S first African bureau, Kent decided to submit a brief to the Canadian Radiotelevision and Telecommunications Commission when the CBC’S licence comes up for renewal next month. While the greater part of his brief focused on the commercial side of CBC affairs, Kent detailed four incidents in which he said intervention by the PMO resulted in either special or broadened national coverage of the prime minister (charges CBC President AÍ Johnson hastily denied). The most recent example was Trudeau’s hours-before-showtime demand for live coverage of his economic program last August.

While Kent stressed he did not believe the actual CBC coverage of these events had been compromised, he demanded that a formal procedure be set up to eliminate “those casual, friendly calls” from the PMO (both Jim Coutts, Trudeau’s principal secretary, and his special adviser Richard O’Hagan have admitted to calling the CBC) SO that the CBC could remain above suspicion. Kent added that he hoped no one would think there was any bitterness “between me and the corporation that paid me so handsomely.” For $65,000 a year, the CBC brass could have been forgiven for wishing that he restrict his public enunciation to reading what his editors put

in front of him.

Judith Timson