Ralph Klein has gone and it is time to retire Ralph's World. Thanks to all of you who have supported this venture by contributing material and through your comments. It has been fun.

Should we get another blog underway? Let me know your thoughts by e-mailing me at johnnyslow@gmail.com.

John Slow
January 1, 2007

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Don Hill Affair Continued 

The picture at left is that of Don Hill, ex-host of CBC Alberta's Wild Rose Forum. What follows is another in a flood of letters written to CBC to protest his dismissal. The gnomes at Ralph's World are going to keep at this issue until the CBC either re-instates Mr. Hill or provides a credible reason as to why they will not.

You can see other postings about Don Hill's journey from host to ex-host by following links here, here, here, and here.

And here's the letter.

Mr. Robert Rabinovitch,
President & CEO,
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Dear Mr. Rabinovitch:

If there was "newly unearthed evidence" suggesting that “Enron Corp. manipulated electricity system during deregulation’s early stages" in your province "to reap revenues of $ 45 Million in a single day" , (Edmonton Journal February 5, 2005 ) would CBC be interested?

I would think so.

And if one of the provincial companies named had, as its senior vice-president, a former Cabinet minister now touted (and campaigning) to be the next Premier of your Province, would your citizens be interested?

I would think so.

And if a radio host who had been investigating this new evidence was suddenly rendered “redundant” by the CBC, would the citizens be astounded? And, if listeners were given no word of explanation, would they be justifiably outraged -- and suspicious?

I would think so!

That is precisely the scenario in Alberta!

Don Hill, host of Alberta’s “Wild Rose Forum” phone-in program since January 2003, was in the midst of a series of programs based on startling evidence being disclosed in a court case in the State of Washington involving TransAlta, whose vice-president was Jim Dinning, “heir apparent for the premier’s job”. (See Edmonton Sun, March 20, 2005 below)

On February 28th, after his third program in the series, Don Hill was no longer on the air and not a word of explanation was given for his disappearance. Oddly enough, it took the Edmonton Sun to ask, “What happened to Don Hill? … CBC wouldn’t fire program hosts because of political heat. Would it?” the columnist asked.

For over a decade, while the very social fabric of our province was being torn apart, Albertans were bombarded from 9-12 weekdays by Global radio's 'Rush Limbaugh of the North' hosting provincial politicians and think tank 'experts' to reinforce their ideology. Meanwhile, CBC’s one-hour show hosted experts on how to grow tulips or, more appropriately, pansies!

I, for one, was totally fed up!

When Don Hill came from his flagship national programme January, 2003, it was a breath of fresh air.

He addressed topics of vital interest and importance to Albertans of all ages: environment, agriculture, water resources, healthcare, community values and above all, democratic principles. Don set a high standard of professionalism for Alberta phone-ins. Name-calling and disrespect were not allowed. His experts were always authentic and carefully chosen. Callers and guests of all viewpoints were treated with respect and courtesy. We heard voices from all ages and all walks of life in Alberta.

To fully understand how important this was to Albertans, one needs to understand the “information landscape” in our province, particularly since the Klein Government instituted unmatched ‘controls’ of information through the Public Affairs Bureau, reporting directly to the Premier, with a staff estimated to be as high as 240. ”. ("Premier Controls information with iron fist". Edmonton Journal May 15, 2004)

And government officials admit to exerting direct pressure on the media. CBC NewsReal website states that the Premier’s chief adviser, Rod Love, contacts journalists and bosses/editors directly, and“…If coverage is still not to the government’s liking, that journalist is cut off which means no access to the premier or good stories”.

Also now that corporations are allowed to own multi-media formats television, newspaper and radio often ‘ape’ each other’s reports, all the while seeking to appear totally independent of one another.

And the new branch of the Fraser Institute in Calgary has added to the imbalance and increased pressure against the CBC in Alberta.

Albertans are bombarded with “spin” in many formats. Don Hill undertook the almost impossible job of “un-spinning the spin”. He presented information, facts and figures. His guests were always of high calibre and well respected in their field of expertise.

Above all, Don’s overall knowledge was able to discount and challenge blatant untruths that only too often get aired as “facts” – even in CBC programmes – because the host is not aware of the discrepancy.

But the “breath of fresh air” has suddenly become a chill, not only in the CBC but also throughout the journalistic field in Alberta.

One question that requires an answer is: Was Don Hill’s investigative and expansive programming a positive influence in a province whose government tends to be linking its citizens more closely with President Bush and Dick Cheney than with their own national government and fellow provinces?

While opening an Alberta office in Washington this past week, Premier Klein was presumed to be speaking for all Albertans when he told reporters, “We’re great supporters of President Bush and Vice-President Cheney”. Really? During the U.S. election, a Time magazine poll showed that a majority of Albertans thought John Kerry would make a better president than George Bush, and placed Environmental issues near the top of Albertans’ list of concerns.
(Edmonton Journal Ed p.5 Mar 26, 2005)

Yet, what opportunity has been given those Albertans to hear their own voices on crucial issues on Talk Radio in their own province? A mere one hour per weekday! How else can many Albertan citizens realize that they are the‘majority’. Not the ones demanding that Alberta ’opt’ out of national healthcare and Kyoto. Not the ones seeking to build a “firewall” against our sister provinces.

Albertans are facing incredible pressures of “Separation” by politicians and the media. Polls consistently show that the majority of Albertans are proud to be Canadians and want to their province to accept its responsibilities, to ensure values of fairness and equity in their communities, Canada and the world. Yet these voices are seldom heard.

As an avid CBC listener, I find it impossible to even imagine that my publicly-owned Broadcaster could possibly ‘cave-in’ to pressures. But this action of the CBC leaves me only the two options: either the CBC executives are totally, totally out of touch with their listeners and CBC’s responsibility to the local communities; or someone has caved in to pressures from internal or external pressures – either perceived or real.

For this is not the first time a prominent journalist has suddenly disappeared, or been demoted to nighttime copy-editor. And only in Alberta could a public health physician working for a (government-appointed) Regional Health Authority be “fired” for writing an article in support of Kyoto.

For many of us, the timing on this host’s investigation, and the political sensitivity of the topics involved, leave many unanswered questions.

I would urge the CBC to reinstate Don Hill, and also provide him with at least a producer, for his hour-long show. Citizens are well aware that the new 60 Million Dollars for CBC in the Federal Budget was for ‘local programming’.

It is not too late to reinstate Don Hill. With all due respect, I would urge the CBC not ‘build on mistake’ – but ‘fix a mistake’, and let us go forward to build an even stronger and more vibrant and supportive base of CBC listeners across Alberta.

I fear that doing otherwise will permanently erode even the base that now exists in this province, and for those elsewhere who are becoming more and more aware of Don Hill’s departure.


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