POLITICS

CBC upheld journalism standards in reporting on Ford 911 calls: ombudsman

01/06/2012 03:24 EST | Updated 03/07/2012 05:12 EST
TORONTO - A report by the CBC's ombudsman has reignited the debate over the public broadcaster's coverage of controversial 911 calls made by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford this fall.

In his report, Kirk LaPointe said he found no violation and no sign of bias in how the CBC covered the calls, despite public complaints to that effect.

But LaPointe said he can't rule on whether the news organization's reporting was accurate since recordings of the calls haven't been released.

"Without any such record, it has not been possible to assess the accuracy, and thus the fairness, of the CBC News reports about the calls," he wrote.

The ombudsman also challenged comments defending Ford made by Toronto police chief Bill Blair, a move that has incensed police.

"Chief Blair listened to the calls, the CBC didn't," police spokesman Mark Pugash said Friday. "Chief Blair's comments were accurate and truthful."

Ford's office, however, stayed out of the fray, dismissing the matter as "old news."

"We're moving forward," spokesman Sunny Petrujkic wrote in an email.

The mayor lost his cool with 911 operators after a confrontation with a CBC comedy troupe in his driveway on Oct. 24.

A few days later, CBC News reported Ford let loose several expletives and called the operators insulting names.

Ford admitted to "saying the F-word'' but denied using any slurs against 911 dispatchers.

Blair has accused the CBC of "misrepresenting" the calls.

Thursday's report indicated some who filed complaints to the CBC pushed for a correction or a retraction based on Blair's comments.

But Blair's word alone isn't enough to disprove the stories, which relied on several anonymous sources within the police service, LaPointe said in the document.

"The chief was not a disinterested party," he wrote, noting the police service's budget is set through negotiations headed by the mayor.

"On the one hand, CBC News is a major media organization with a reputation for high quality investigative and precision journalism as part of its public mission. On the other hand, the chief of police is a major public figure expected to perform impeccable service," he wrote.

"In this matter only one of them is right. It just isn’t clear whom."

Pugash said the suggestion that budget talks could influence the chief's response is "offensive" and "fundamentally wrong."