Source : Toronto Star
It was easy to miss Tuesday's interview with CanWest Global chiefs Leonard and David Asper on CBC Newsworld's Inside Media.
(Conflict alert: I used to co-host the show and, this season, I was a special contributor.)
Up against all the U.S. sweeps spectaculars with which the Asper fortune was created, the hour covered a lot of ground. Indeed, too much to recover here.
Host Susan Ormiston teased out their thoughts on the coverage of Israel, disgraced media mogul Conrad Black, from whom they bought the National Post and the Southam newspaper chain, as well as hitting on their desire to acquire the Jerusalem Post from his disintegrating empire.
Note to CanWest investors: It does not look like the $3.2 billion debt-ridden company will buy what the New York Times this week called the "money-losing, unevenly edited broadsheet with an opinion page tilting toward Israel's right wing." Instead, the Aspers, who recently visited the Post, will pay for it out of their own very deep pockets.
Said Leonard: "We wouldn't use CanWest money to buy something I'm passionate about. That's why we said if it's not right for CanWest, the Aspers might put up a little bit of money into it and be part of the group that owns it. If it is something that CanWest can make a successful enterprise, we'll do it."
What "successful" means when even the Post's editor admits, as he did to the Times, that although a paper may not be a "financially spectacular" performer, it "can be a very good bully pulpit for people."
This the Aspers discovered since they branched out of the sitcom simulcast business and into newspapers.
The editorial and opinion pages of their 13 major dailies have often been used to beat up on CBC, the Star and those who report on the Middle East without demonizing the Palestinians.
In the National Post alone, you will find attacks by editorial board computer jockeys on CBC journalists who have spent long and dangerous years on the front lines of the Israeli-Palestinian hostilities but few, if any, letters or opinions that find fault with the paper's stance on that endless, bloody conflict.
And why is that? According to Leonard Asper, there's not a single academic, author, historian, journalist or Israeli opposition party member who can get it right.
"If we could find a commentator on the Middle East that would actually use facts and not innuendo or misguided or misleading statements about the conflict, I would have no problem airing it," he said.
"Every time we see an article about the Middle East, by a Palestinian or other commentator, it just is either factually incorrect or it's got only one side of the story.''
As to their fixation with CBC's coverage, the Aspers correctly made the case that the broadcaster is publicly owned, and therefore must reflect the views of the "thousands" who see the network as "anti-American, anti-Israel" and "generally anti, anti the perceived powerful."
Claiming that the Post's "CBC Watch" was "started" by former deputy editor Martin Newland — although it didn't begin until a month after he was fired — Leonard added: "(A)t least we are a counterbalance to the Star and the CBC."
Yes, but the Star gives space on this page to B'nai Brith's Frank Dimant and the Canadian Jewish Congress' Ed Morgan. We print letters from those who object to our Middle East coverage. We have an ombud who stickhandles complaints. We have columnist Rosie DiManno calling suicide bombers "homicide bombers." And we have staffed the Middle East with full-time reporters for decades.
CanWest can't say the same.
As for CBC, its program bookers work to balance panels with vocal defenders of Israel. It gives Norman Spector, a former publisher of the Jerusalem Post, a weekly platform. And it boasts two ombuds and several reporters in the Middle East.
Surprisingly, the Aspers believe that CBC should continue to be "state-funded" — like the BBC is. Astonishing because Britain's public broadcaster is financed by a tax on every TV there, about $295 per colour set per year. (CBC costs about $29 per person per year.) No wonder the Aspers quickly backpedalled.
"On principle, taxpayers should not be taxed for something they haven't said they want, okay?" said Leonard. "Now if people paid a subscription fee for it on cable or if people could donate to it, I would donate to the CBC in a flash. I would write a large cheque to the CBC. I think it does great stuff."
True — such as giving its harshest critics the platform they would never give those who disagree with them.
The program is scheduled to be repeated Sunday at 11 a.m.
© Toronto Star