Information Commissioner Releases 2011-2012 Report Cards: CBC/Radio-Canada's Access to Information Performance Remains Clearly Inadequate
December 06, 2012 --
MONTREAL, QUEBEC -- (Marketwire) -- 12/06/12 -- Quebecor Media is surprised that the Information Commissioner awarded CBC/Radio-Canada an A rating for its performance on access to information. The Company is critical of the Commissioner's decision to reward CBC/Radio-Canada's relative improvement, based on self-defined, vague, subjective criteria, instead of assessing its ability to provide, expeditiously and in full, the information requested by Canadians.
"It's as if a teacher gave a dunce an A for showing up in class more often, even though he was still flunking his exams," said J. Serge Sasseville, Senior Vice President, Corporate and Institutional Affairs, Quebecor Media.
Quebecor Media fails to understand why the Commissioner granted CBC/Radio-Canada a perfect grade when her own report makes numerous criticisms of the Corporation, including:
-- There were 71 new complaints against CBC/Radio-Canada in 2011-2012, including 55 complaints concerning refusal to disclose information; -- 234 complaints about CBC/Radio-Canada have yet to be resolved; -- The average time for processing requests was 36 days, 6 more than the requirement under the Access to Information Act; -- The Commissioner herself noted that CBC/Radio-Canada takes "an overly technical approach to the application of the law"; -- During the period in question, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled against CBC/Radio-Canada for trying to act as judge and jury on the access to information requests it receives, causing complaints to be put on hold for more than 3 years; -- The Office of the Information Commissioner has recommended that CBC/Radio-Canada allocate more staff to dealing with complaints and was told that the Corporation would hire more people if necessary, and only if budgetary pressures permit.
"Based on the facts noted in the Commissioner's own report, CBC/Radio-Canada is hardly a model student," said Mr. Sasseville. "The Commissioner's indulgent conclusions are not consistent with the evidence of the Corporation's poor performance on access to information, which has been brought before several bodies."
As recently as last week, Quebecor Media, on behalf of its Sun Media Corporation, presented a very different picture of CBC/Radio-Canada's performance to the CRTC.
On that occasion, Colonel Michel Drapeau, a recognized national expert on access to information, explained that the improvement in the Corporation's deemed refusal rate merely reflects its ability to provide an acknowledgement of receipt within the statutory 30-day limit and in no way indicates its ability to disclose the information requested by the public promptly and transparently. It can still claim extensions, exemptions, exclusions and exorbitant search fees in order to prevent or significantly delay genuine disclosure of informations, an area in which CBC/Radio-Canada is highly proficient.
"By making 'leadership' the main factor in the rating, the Commissioner is confirming that her report cards are subjective evaluations that can be affected by public relations campaigns such as those waged by CBC/Radio-Canada and its President over the past two years," said Mr. Sasseville. "As Canada's largest press group, Quebecor Media believes that Canadians, who expect the access to information system to guarantee that they can obtain information on the government agencies that spend their money, would have preferred to see the system's main watchdog provide an objective appraisal of CBC/Radio-Canada's ability to provide that information, instead of an assessment of its ability to lay on the charm. It is unfortunate that the Information Commissioner should issue a report card that amounts to a refusal to hold the public broadcaster to account, as every public agency should be held accountable to the citizens."
About Quebecor Media Inc.
Quebecor Media Inc. is a subsidiary of Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.A) (TSX:QBR.B), one of Canada's most important holding company operating in the telecommunications and media businesses. With more than 16,000 employees, Quebecor Media Inc., through its subsidiary Videotron Ltd., is an integrated communications company engaged in cable television, interactive multimedia development, Internet access services, cable telephone services and mobile telephone services. Through Sun Media Corporation, Quebecor Media Inc. is the largest publisher of newspapers in Canada. It also operates Canoe.ca and its network of English and French language Internet properties in Canada. In the broadcasting sector, Quebecor Media Inc. operates, through TVA Group Inc., the number one French language general interest television network in Quebec, a number of specialty channels and the SUN News English language channel. Another subsidiary of Quebecor Media Inc., Nurun Inc., is a major interactive technologies and communications agency with offices in Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia. Quebecor Media Inc. is also active in magazine publishing (TVA Publishing Inc.), book publishing and distribution (Sogides Group Inc. and CEC Publishing Inc.), the production, distribution and retailing of cultural products (Archambault Group Inc. and TVA Films), video game development (BlooBuzz Studios, L.P.), DVD, Blu-ray disc and videogame rental and retailing (Le SuperClub Videotron Ltd), the printing and distribution of regional newspapers and flyers (Quebecor Media Printing Inc. and Quebecor Media Network Inc.), news content production and distribution (QMI Agency), multiplatform advertising solutions (QMI Sales) and the publishing of printed and online directories, through Quebecor MediaPages(TM).
Vice President, Public Affairs
Quebecor Media Inc.
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