CBC says its being targeted by competitor through Access to Information Act

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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OTTAWA - A private sector media competitor is using the Access to Information Act to target the CBC with "distorted attacks" on its executive spending, claims the chairman of the public broadcaster's board of directors.
Tim Casgrain, in a letter to Heritage Minister James Moore, says the CBC has received more than 150 access requests so far this year - and most have come from just two sources.
"We accept that as a public broadcaster, we are vulnerable to our competitors using our accountability against us in a way that distorts our actual behaviour," Casgrain wrote Moore in a letter dated Nov. 21 that was then posted on the CBC's internal web site.
Stories on CBC executive expenses appeared recently in the Sun Media chain and Le Journal de Montreal, both of which are owned by Quebecor Inc.
Using access documents, the reports detailed thousands of dollars in travel, hospitality and corporate expenses from 2006 that were attributed to Sylvain Lafrance, CBC's vice-president of French services.
The stories prompted a public warning to the CBC from Moore, who said the "reported excess" in a time of fiscal restraint "does not sit well" with Canadian taxpayers who subsidize the broadcaster.
The Conservative government's Federal Accountability Act, which brought the CBC under the Access to Information law in 2006, is designed to ensure transparency so that agencies and Crown corporations "manage public funds prudently," Moore wrote Casgrain in a letter that the government released to reporters.
In response, Casgrain assured Moore that the CBC treats public money "responsibly" and that it also endeavours to be fully accountable.
But Casgrain noted that with more than 150 ATI requests this year alone, the CBC is being bombarded at "a level that has dwarfed those of all other Crown corporations."
"That openness also leaves the corporation vulnerable to distorted attacks by our media competitors, notably the recent spate of articles in The Sun (Media chain) and Le Journal de Montreal, owned by Quebecor Inc., our most important competitor in the Quebec market where its subsidiary TVA is the largest conventional television network," he wrote.
Isabelle Dessureault, vice-president of public affairs for Montreal-based Quebecor Media Inc., denied that the newspapers targeted CBC because it was a competitor.
"We do a lot of requests on Crown corporations," Dessureault said, noting Sun Media and Le Journal de Montreal submit hundreds of access requests a year.
"We do not target CBC unfairly."
Dessureault also denied the stories were distorted, and said Quebecor "won't stop to search information on Crown corporations because they are media. That is our responsibility."

Organizations: CBC, Quebecor Inc., Sun Media ATI The Sun TVA

Geographic location: OTTAWA, Quebec

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