Saturday, August 27, 2016

Will the CBC ever get it?

I received this email from the CBC yesterday. My response is below it.


August 26, 2016

Dear Ms Maloney,

Thank you for your e-mail of July 23rd, addressed to Esther Enkin, CBC Ombudsman, drawing our attention to an interview on CBC News Network with Dr. Wendy Norman on July 6th about government restrictions placed on the dispensing of the RU-486 abortion pill. 

Since CBC News Network is my responsibility, Jennifer McGuire, General Manager and Editor in Chief of CBC News, asked me to reply.  

In your complaint about the interview by Heather Hiscox, you wrote that the segment was "another example of CBC abortion bias". You countered Dr. Norman's views that the restrictions are "unusual' and "bizarre", by saying that RU-486 is a "dangerous drug" and pointing to regulations in the United States making RU-486 available only in "certain healthcare settings, specifically clinics, medical offices and hospitals, by or under the supervision of a certified prescriber." 

I would argue that the interview was not presented as part of a debate as to whether the drug is safe for use in Canada.  Had it been, it would have been reasonable to hear from an opponent of the drug on that basis.  

The interview was, instead, focused on access to the recently approved drug.  In that context, it is my view that the coverage was fair and balanced.  

In the online story on this matter, it's pointed out that the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada wrote to Health Canada to express concerns about the rules and accessibility of RU-486 writing, "dispensing by physicians is not normal practice (and could be a conflict of interest) and has the potential to create additional barriers for patient access." 

I would add that in the interview on CBC News Network, Dr. Norman herself explains why she used the words "unusual" and "bizarre" saying that "in Canada for many years the safety mechanisms for drugs have required pharmacists to dispense them" and she went on to use the example of methadone being dispensed by pharmacists rather than by physicians. 

Thank you again for your e-mail. I appreciate you taking the time to write with your views to CBC News Network. 

It is also my responsibility to tell you that if you are not satisfied with my response, you may wish to ask Esther Enkin, CBC Ombudsman, to review the matter. The Office of the Ombudsman, an independent and impartial body reporting directly to the President, is responsible for evaluating program compliance with the CBC's journalistic policies. The Ombudsman may be reached by mail at Box 500, Terminal A, Toronto, Ontario M5W 1E6, or by fax at (416) 205-2825, or by e-mail at

​Yours sincerely,​


Dear CBC Ombudsman Esther Enkin,

I would like to make a complaint about what I believe is bias with the reporting of the story on RU-486 as detailed below.

(As an aside, Jennifer Harwood disagreed with me and noted that I could make an official complaint, as this is apparently her responsibility she stated. I find this surprising, since the last time I made a complaint of CBC bias on your RU-486 reporting, I was never told that my complaint was not with the Ombudsman, when I assumed that it was, since I had actually sent that complaint to the Ombudsman in the first place. I see this time, this fact was explicitly brought to my attention.)

Ms. Harwood says that the interview in question was not part of a debate. This is a disingenuous argument. To mention in a news article on anything relating to abortion--always a politically and emotionally charged subject that elicits huge controversy every time it is mentioned--and not provide commentary from the opposing viewpoint is biased. CBC knows this. When Dr. Norman stated that the restrictions are unusual and bizarre (and CBC reiterated these adjectives in their tweet on the show when they stated: "It's very strange." reproductive health expert reacts to "bizarre" restrictions on #RU486 home abortion pill @cbchh), it seems clear to me that the CBC should have asked someone else to please explain this "strange bizarre unusual" behaviour, since Dr. Norman in the seven minute interview couldn't explain it.

Would this not have possibly shed some light on the "strange bizarre unusual" behaviour to put additional restrictions on this drug?

In fact the CBC has rarely if ever discussed any of the many dangers of RU-486. Here is some information about the dangers of this drug for an upcoming interview:

I suggest if the CBC would interview Dr. Renate Klein who wrote the book RU486: Misconceptions, Myths and Morals, to learn why this drug is dangerous and why this "strange bizarre unusual" behaviour to put additional restrictions on this drug are not actually "strange bizarre unusual" at all.

I look forward to hearing back from you soon.

Patricia Maloney

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