Vive Le Canada

Oilsands censorship story casts doubt on neutrality of CBC reporting
Date: Friday, April 04 2008

Title and tone of the revised article are arguably more favourable to Imperial Oil, its position on revocation of the permit, and discretion for Exxon-Mobil as having a substantial interest in the development.

As with most networks, CBC News online articles are often updated for clarity as new developments transpire, for example with breaking news items where details become available within a relatively short period of time - rendering a recent report incomplete or invalid. It is a common practice intended to avoid unnecessary information overlap while ensuring as complete and timely reporting as possible. It is also used to condense articles which may contain details considered to be irrelevant, redundant or too lengthy.

In the case of CBC's report on revocation of Imperial Oil's water permit, instead of inserting new details or editing for clarity, the report's title and subtitle were altered completely and entire phrases were removed from the body, including excerpts from the Department of Fisheries & Oceans directive to Imperial Oil, last month's federal court decision related to GHG emissions, the names Exxon-Mobil, Sierra Club of Canada and Pembina Institute, and content from the Globe and Mail on which the article was originally based.

While basic information pertaining to the water license remains and the article can be said to be "accurate" to a reasonable journalistic standard, the new edition actually contains less information and more conjecture than the previous one. Relevant details of context and stakeholder identity are absent in the revision, so removal of the content can not be substantiated by principles of accuracy, clarity, or correction.

Relative to the original, the title and tone of the revised article are arguably more favourable to Imperial Oil, its position on revocation of the permit, and discretion for Exxon-Mobil as having a substantial interest in the development.

Regardless of whether the revisions were made in response to undue influence or internal speculation on the part of CBC or Canadian Press, the changes and the timelines over which they occured constitute censorship of a significant federal government decision and its implications for the industry.

"Note Imperial is considering the earlier approval valid and proceeding with "preliminary site preparation" while it challenges the federal revocation of their water permit. The same thing happened with the Old Man Dam in southern Alberta. The dam was completed while the case was being heard." (source)

"Note especially the language of the revoking of the water permit - that Imperial "is not authorized to proceed with any works or undertakings that will cause a harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat or that destroys fish by any means other than fishing". That these plants destroy fish habitat goes without saying. What will be interesting is what they say, if anything, about destruction of fish habitat when the court predictably upholds the water permit." (source)

Given the CBC removed the directive's language and other relevant content from its website approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes after the original report, its role in framing public perception around this and other similar projects should be considered significant and even questionable.

From a Previous Thread:

CBC Censors its own Exxon-Mobil Oilsands Story

The CBC on Monday revised and censored an article on its own

website, removing important details from a controversial report

on oilsands development.

The article described major setbacks for the booming oilsands

industry, including Imperial Oil's failure to meet environmental

guidelines related to water and air pollution for its Kearl Oil Sands

Project. Tensions are high as federal courts continue to find fatal

flaws in the environmental assessment, and on Monday the project's

water license was officially revoked. Imperial Oil announced

immediately that it would appeal the decision.

Approximately 2 hours after first publishing the story, CBC renamed

and edited its report on the development, removing certain details of

the case and the word "Exxon-Mobil", majority owner of Imperial Oil,

which did not appear in the final edition.

The article's subtitle was also changed from "A setback for Imperial

Oil's $8-billion Kearl proposal" to "Work to continue for now on

$8-billion Kearl project north of Fort McMurray." The original version

of the article is no longer available on the CBC News website.

Meanwhile, work at the Kearl site continues despite an order from the

federal department of Fisheries and Oceans that Imperial Oil "not

proceed with any works or undertakings that will cause harmful

alteration, disruption or destruction to fish habitat."

Oil giant Exxon-Mobil faces increasing criticism for its business

practices and environmental record around the world, and oilsands

development in particular is coming under intense scrutiny. Kearl is

only one of a host of large-scale oilsands proposals by Imperial Oil,

Shell, Suncor, Syncrude and others who are all planning for major

expansion in the industry.

Details removed from the original are in quotations:

The federal government has revoked a key water permit for

Imperial Oil Ltd.'s proposed $8-billion Kearl oilsands mine "as massive

projects around Fort McMurray, Alta., come under intensified

environmental scrutiny."

Imperial, "majority-owned by Exxon Mobil Corp.", has been granted

an expedited court hearing, scheduled for early May, on its application

to overturn the decision, the newspaper said Monday.

"The loss of water permit stems from a Federal Court of Canada

judgment in early March that found that, in approaving the Kearl

project, the Alberta and federal governments didn't fully explain why

greenhouse gas emissions were not significant. That ruling didn't

throw out the overall approval."

"The voided water permit is a victory for non-profit environmental

groups, including Alberta's Pembina Institute and the Sierra Club of

Canada, who brought the original federal court case against Imperial

and Kearl and were fighting the validity of the Fisheries


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