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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

January 18, 2003

How the CBC Ran Away from Debating Norman Spector

With Mr Spector's kind permission, I am reproducing below the correspondence in which he engaged with the CBC concerning a debate between himself and Mt Burman. As you read the correspondence, note how dishonourably the CBC backed out of the proposal they initially approved. The correspondence, reproduced here with absolutely no change or editing, speaks for itself and no further introduction is necessary.


From: Perlita Ettedgui [mailto:Perlita_Ettedgui@CBC.CA]
Sent: Wednesday, January 08, 2003 7:25 AM
To: enspector@hotmail.com
Subject: CBC Request...
Hello Mr. Spector,
I am writing to you from CBC News: Sunday, a 2-hour current affairs show that airs on the main CBC channel on Sunday mornings. Our program incorporates a mixture of talk and tape segment around the topics of politics, media and ethics/spirituality. In response to your column that appeared in the National Post today (January 8th), where you invited Tony Burman to a debate with you, I'd like to request that that debate take place on our program, if you are interested. The show is live on Sunday mornings and it is hosted by Evan Solomon and Carole McNeil. The request is for a live segment this coming Sunday morning, January 12th. Please let me know if you are interested as soon as you're able. I'd be more than happy to talk with you further about this proposal. I can be reached by email or at 416-205-7349.
Thank you & Look forward to hearing from you,
Perlita Ettedgui CBC News: Sunday Toronto, ON

------------

>>> "Norman Spector" 01/08/03 10:32AM >>>
Ms. Ettedgui,
Thanks for your e-mail.
Please provide further details on your proposal, including the amount of time you would allocate; the name and role of the moderator(s); the format, including whether Mr. Burman and I would be seated or at podiums; the question that would be debated; whether it would be done live or on tape as well as the location.
Norman Spector

------------
From: Perlita Ettedgui [mailto:Perlita_Ettedgui@CBC.CA]
Sent: Wednesday, January 08, 2003 7:41 AM
To: enspector@hotmail.com
Subject: RE: CBC Request...
Hello,
Thank you for responding so quickly. I thought you might've been on BC time.
As far as the specifics of our request, they can all be discussed, but as of right now I think it would be live on Sunday morning, likely moderated by Evan Solomon, and with Mr. Burman and yourself seated in our studios in Toronto (at the Broadcast Centre on FRont & John Sts.) debating the issue.
The talk would be open, candid, with both sides given equal time to express their views. If you have any concerns about any of these details, we can definitely discuss them and try to accomodate you.
Perlita 416-205-7349

------------

>>> "Norman Spector" 01/08/03 10:48AM >>>
Perlita,
We have to get up early out here to keep up with you easterners. I'll call you later; in the meantime, give me an idea of the time you would allocate.
It's quite a distance to Toronto for those of us in the hinterland. I don't suppose we could do it in Vancouver?
Norman -----

------------

From: Perlita Ettedgui [mailto:Perlita_Ettedgui@CBC.CA]
Sent: Wednesday, January 08, 2003 7:58 AM
To: enspector@hotmail.com
Subject: RE: CBC Request...
Hi Norman,
Wow, you are up early. Since you are in BC, we'd be more than willing to fly you in to Toronto for the debate, since I really think this is a discussion that should be had by the two of you in the same room. And since we air live at 9am, asking the both of you to get up at 6am Vancouver time would be a bit much, I'd think. As far as time allocated, I think we'd probably be aiming for 12 to 15 minutes live. Look forward to hearing from you,
Perlita
416-205-7349

------------

>>> "Norman Spector" 01/08/03 11:02AM >>>
Perlita,
You are a great e-mailer!
I'm really pleased that Tony Burman has accepted in principle my offer to debate; I'll get back to you in a few hours with my thoughts about format; time; location, etc. Norman

------------

>>> "Norman Spector" 01/08/03 12:24PM >>>
Perlita,
I'd come to Toronto, but it would have to be, at minimum, for a 30 minute segment, which is what Global has offered. If you cannot accommodate it on Sunday, we could look for another CBC program or accept their offer.
Norman

-------------

From: Perlita Ettedgui [mailto:Perlita_Ettedgui@CBC.CA]
Sent: Wednesday, January 08, 2003 8:07 AM
To: enspector@hotmail.com
Subject: RE: CBC Request...
Wonderful, look forward to talking with you!
Perlita

-------------
From: Perlita Ettedgui [mailto:Perlita_Ettedgui@CBC.CA]
Sent: Wednesday, January 08, 2003 10:47 AM
To: enspector@hotmail.com
Subject: RE: CBC Request...
Hi Norman,
It turns out Tony's schedule will not permit him to take part in the debate this Sunday but he has agreed to do it next week. I hope that you will still be available then, and if so we can discuss the details of the segment early next week. Thank you again for being so prompt in your replies. I look forward to speaking with you,
Perlita 416-205-7349

--------------

>>> "Norman Spector" 01/08/03 01:49PM >>>
Perlita,
Assuming it's a half-hour segment, I'd be available to do it on Sunday the 19th
Norman

--------------

Perlita
I'm an e-mail freak and hate the phone. But I look forward to meeting you.
Norman

--------------------
From: Perlita Ettedgui [mailto:Perlita_Ettedgui@CBC.CA]
Sent: Wednesday, January 08, 2003 11:04 AM
To: enspector@hotmail.com
Subject: RE: CBC Request...
OK, great. Talk to you next week then.
Is there a phone number I can call you at?
Perlita

--------------

>>> Norman Spector 01/09/03 04:05PM >>>
David,
Received your fax.
I'm interested in the largest possible audience, and your proposal makes sense to me. Hope you can work it out with Perlita and would join our format negotiations next week.
Norman

--------------

From: Perlita Ettedgui [mailto:perlita_ettedgui@cbc.ca]
Sent: Thursday, January 09, 2003 1:13 PM
To: nspector3@shaw.ca
Subject: Re: Burman/Spector debate
What proposal is this Norman? As far as we're concerned we have the debate slotted for next Sunday on our program, CBC News: Sunday. Our show is a nationally broadcast show on the main CBC channel with a large audience.
Please let me know what is going on. Thank you,
Perlita

--------------

Perlita,
Hi. Global sent a fax to me and Tony Burman proposing a joint production.
Received here about an hour ago.
Norman

--------------

From: Stuart Coxe [mailto:stuart_coxe@cbc.ca]
Sent: Monday, January 13, 2003 8:10 AM
To: nspector3@shaw.ca
Subject:

Dear Mr. Spector,

I am the executive producer of CBC News: Sunday, and I thought it prudent to correspond with you directly concerning this week's broadcast to ensure there is absolute clarity about the format.

I understand your misgivings about appearing on "CBC turf" and want to assure you that my goal is to provide a forum to debate the issues in as fair and full a manner as possible. Any failures or omissions in this matter are directly my responsibility, so please do not hesitate to raise any concerns with me directly.

Here is my proposal, which I have made to Tony's office as well, and which he has accepted in principle:

1. The debate/discussion will be hosted by Evan Solomon. It will begin with a short item explaining the context of the debate/discussion to follow. It will include extracts from the exchange in the National Post.

2. The debate/discussion will be programmed for 3 commercial blocks on our show, moderated by Evan...this is more than 30 minutes of content time. We would like to make travel arrangements for you to join us in studio in Toronto. The show would be broadcast live at 10 am EST on Sunday, January 19.

3. We have requested, and CBC has accepted, that Neil MacDonald take part, in studio, in the debate/discussion, along with yourself and Tony. I have made this request because I think Neil is an essential part of this discussion and he should speak for himself on the specifics of his reportage. To balance the panel I think it's critical that we pick someone who shares your view on CBC's coverage and is able to hold his/her own with the rest of the group. Perhaps we could discuss a suitable candidate on the
telephone? My phone number at home today is 416-538-3146. My work number is 416-205-8905.

Thank you very much for your consideration in this matter. I look forward to speaking with you.

Sincerely,

Stuart Coxe
Executive Producer
CBC News: Sunday

---------------

Dear Mr. Coxe,

Thanks for your e-mail. I am pleased to hear you share my goal of a forum that will ensure we can "debate the issues in as fair and full a manner as possible."

It was wise of you to write directly, because what you are proposing represents a substantial change to what had been agreed.

In my open letter to Tony Burman published in the National Post and several other newspapers, I made serious allegations about CBC's Mideast coverage. I offered to debate him if he disagreed. Though he initially through a spokesperson turned down the offer, later explaining that no debate was necessary, your producer Perlita Ettedgui subsequently proposed a 12-15 minute debate moderated by Evan Solomon.

While reluctant to venture onto CBC turf, I accepted the offer on condition that 30 minutes be allocated for the debate. A few hours later, I was informed that Mr. Burman, it turned out, would not be available on the 12th, but that he would be available on the 19th.

Now, you are proposing to change what had been agreed. While I accept your offer of 3 commercial blocks on your show, moderated by Evan Solomon and more than 30 minutes of content time, other elements of your proposal are unacceptable for the following reasons:

1. Mr. Burman responded personally in various newspapers on behalf of the CBC to my earlier open letter to Peter Mansbridge--entirely appropriate given his position. Now, you are telling me he is not prepared to defend the coverage for which he has overall responsibility.

2. Instead, you are proposing to involve one of your reporters in the debate. My allegations concern several of your reporters, not one. Indeed, one of the more loathsome examples of the CBC fuelling Ahenakew-like viewswproposed three commercial blocks, wh in Canada involves another reporter, and I am not prepared to have that example of bias de-emphasized by your proposed format.

3. Far from alleviating my misgivings about appearing on CBC turf, you have exacerbated them. I originally proposed a debate of my allegations. Normally that would have me summarize the case for the proposition. Instead, you are proposing to use your editorial control and "...begin with a short item explaining the context of the debate/discussion to follow. It will include extracts from the exchange in the National Post."

4. Finally, but not of least importance, the challenge to Mr. Burman was to debate if he disagreed with the serious allegations I had made about CBC's coverage. I wrote two open letters as an individual, not as part of a team. Not being anyone's identical twin, it is bizarre that you would ask me to suggest names of "candidates" who share my views.

I don't know what screening process you would propose to select one of the "candidates," but I can save you the trouble. Only I represent my views of CBC's Mideast coverage. If Mr. Burman disagrees with any of them, I am prepared to debate him publicly in a mutually-agreed forum.

Yours faithfully,

Norman Spector

--------------

>>> Norman Spector 01/15/03 11:02AM >>>
Mr. Coxe,

It's been 48 hours since I accepted your offer of a 30 minute debate, and rejected other elements of the proposed format.

You may wish to inform your Mideast correspondent of our correspondence, since he has been misinforming Canadians that the Corporation's proposal is in my court.

Yours faithfully,

Norman Spector

---------------

From: Stuart Coxe [mailto:Stuart_Coxe@cbc.ca]
Sent: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 8:10 AM
To: nspector3@shaw.ca
Subject: Re: burman/spector debate

Dear Mr. Spector:

Thank you for your e-mail of January 13, and my apologies for not replying more promptly. I am pleased that we both share the same goal: to provide a forum that will ensure we can discuss the issues in as fair and full a manner as possible. CBC's Middle East coverage is obviously an important issue among many Canadians, and I believe the discussion on CBC News: SUNDAY will achieve our objectives.

We have considered your views about format very seriously, and we have an outline that I believe should be satisfactory to you. It not only achieves your desire to discuss the key issues directly with Mr. Burman, but also allows the Canadian public to hear directly from the organization that has been most vocal about CBC's Middle East coverage (the Canada-Israel Committee) and the CBC Middle East correspondent who in your columns and in the CIC's view has been central to this controversy (Neil Macdonald).

Expanding the format of the program will provide a more balanced picture and a wider range of perspectives on the issues, and will allow a greater level of journalistic accountability to our viewers.

This is the invitation that CBC News: SUNDAY is extending to you, to Mr. Burman, to the CIC and to Mr. Macdonald: kyou proposed three commercial blocks, wh The discussion would begin with a direct encounter involving you and Mr. Burman, and then - as we dealt with greater detail - we would weave in the representative of the Canada-Israel Committee and Mr. Macdonald. As indicated in my earlier note, the actual discussion would last approximately 30 minutes.

I trust this is satisfactory since it satisfies your original wishes of an open, extended discussion. However, I should correct your last e-mail in at least one important respect: in my last message, when I outlined our wish to broaden the discussion to include Mr. Macdonald and adherents of your position, you wrote that I am "proposing to change what had been agreed." In fact, as you know, nothing had been agreed. Last week, we made a proposal to you for a 15-minute discussion. Although you replied that it was acceptable to you if the discussion lasted 30 minutes, we made no commitment. We made the same overture to Mr. Burman, and he said it was acceptable if all parties agreed on a format. And that is where we are at now.

Thank you for your consideration. To meet production deadlines, please confirm your participation in this program no later than today (Wednesday) at 6 p.m. PST. We will make travel arrangements for you to join us in studio in Toronto. The program will be broadcast at 10 a.m. ET Sunday, January 19.

Sincerely,


Stuart Coxe
Executive Producer
CBC News SUNDAY

------------------

Dear. Mr. Coxe,

Thanks for your e-mail.

Last week, Ms. Ettedgui proposed on behalf of the CBC a one-on-one debate between Mr. Burman and myself. I agreed, with great reluctance, to venture onto CBC turf and be interviewed by a CBC employee.

The first principle of good faith negotiation is that when one party's proposal is accepted by the other, it is not subsequently taken off the table. That now includes the time to be allocated: In your e-mail of January 13, you proposed three commercial blocks, which would amount to 30 minutes+. I accepted that proposal too.

Therefore, on condition that we begin with a 30 minute one-on-one debate with Mr. Burman, needless to say I would be delighted to debate Mr. Neil Macdonald, one-on-one, in a subsequent segment of up to 30 minutes, depending on your evaluation of audience interest. If your program cannot accommodate it, we could look for another CBC program or take up Global's offer of a 30 minute debate.

Since unilateral CBC editorial control of the issues summary at the top of your program would be unacceptable, I would want to have a say in the material that would be shown. I would also want to introduce for purposes of discussion in the second segment two or three recent Macdonald reports from the Mideast.

The first segment would give us an opportunity to discuss CBC's overall coverage, including the work of reporters other than Neil Macdonald. Recent comments by the Lebanese ambassador to Canada increase the salience of this discussion.

Your suggestion that a representative of the Canada-Israel Committee would join the second segment is unacceptable. To be frank, I am personally offended that you would even put it forward.

Notwithstanding what you may assume, I have many policy disagreements with that organization. Your proposed segment would have me facing three CBC employees and a CIC representative. If you need proof of the skewed dynamic that inevitably would result, I suggest you have a look at the Mideast columns I have been writing in the Globe and Mail since 1995. 4 against 1 does seem a bit exaggerated, even if you are looking to even the odds.

As I indicated to you in my previous correspondence, I have made serious allegations against the Corporation as an individual, not as a member of any team. I offered to defend these allegations publicly if Mr. Burman disagreed that CBC's Mideast reporting is biased and encourages Ahenakew-like views. I remain prepared to participate in a CBC program, provided you are prepared to agree to these terms which, I believe, would guarantee a thorough debate and a minimum standard of fairness.

Yours faithfully,

Norman Spector

-----------------

Mr. Coxe,
There's a CBC press release on Canada Newswire, and I understand it has been distributed internally. It is demonstrably false. I ask you to withdraw it.
The ball is in your court.
Norman Spector

----------------

From: Stuart Coxe [mailto:stuart_coxe@cbc.ca]
Sent: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 2:21 PM
To: nspector3@shaw.ca
Subject: This Sunday

Dear Mr. Spector:

As outlined in my email to you this morning, we have designed a format for this program that we feel best serves our audience.

In your letter back to me, you made it clear that this format is unacceptable to you.

I regret that you do not agree with the terms of CBC's proposal.

Without your agreement to this proposal, CBC News Sunday will not proceed with the program segment.

Sincerely,

Stuart Coxe

---------------

Mr. Coxe,

Your proposal was designed to frustrate debate, not to facilitate it. In the absence of debate, you have allowed some very serious charges against your organization and some of its staff to stand unchallenged.

In its Mideast coverage, the CBC is playing with fire. I'm not sure I will ever understand the thinking that led to the decision to hide from scrutiny and accountability, and to cling tenaciously to a status quo that was encouraging hatred.

As a deputy minister, my policy was to defend staff when I believed they were right--even against sustained political pressure--and to demand change when they were not. I had the good fortune to work for a premier who taught me the value of loyalty, and never allowed his troops to lie bleeding on the battlefield. And for a prime minister who understood that human rights were indivisible, and that good men had to do nothing for evil to triumph.

Yours faithfully,

Norman Spector
Shame on you, CBC!

Contributed by Joseph Alexander Norland. This piece is cross-posted on IsraPundit and Dawson Speaks.