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CBC/Radio-Canada

Honourable senators, I rise to speak about a serious issue that drew the attention of both houses of Parliament. I am referring to the complaint from the Prime Minister's communications director regarding a report that was carried on the CBC in early December 2010. Honourable senators, 76 days and eight pages later, we have an explanation.

In his report, Kirk Lapointe, the CBC ombudsman, worked hard to define and interpret the words "seem" and "shelved." He finally concluded that the CBC had used these two key words in an unfair manner in a report regarding health warning labels on cigarette packages.

I would like to congratulate Mr. Lapointe on understanding his role as an independent body that represents the public and examines concerns regarding the quality of journalism at the CBC.

The conclusions reached are a first for the CBC. It is truly unprecedented to read such a report in which our national broadcaster comes clean and explains their reporting rationale and the journalistic standards and practices by which they are guided. This is why I was so pleased to read in Mr. Lapointe's conclusion that the CBC holds itself to a journalistic standard and scrutiny that is unique, and I commend the CBC for acknowledging its error.

I am especially gratified there was an apology extended by the editor-in-chief. I am confident this high standard will be maintained, and that our national broadcaster will continue to provide Canadians with news in a timely manner and with accurate, balanced and ethical reporting.

Today, the fourth estate strives to deliver news almost in real time. Delivering the message has taken on a life of its own. Deadlines are tight in a 24-hour news cycle, yet however stressful the demands of getting the scoop fast and first, journalistic integrity must always prevail. This necessity is particularly true of the CBC, which is funded by the taxpayer. All in all, the fourth estate has a pivotal obligation within our democratic system.