CBC-commisioned report says public broadcaster’s election coverage “fair and balanced”

CBC News commissioned a report on its election coverage this year and has made public the interim results of the research.

According to Erin Research Inc., a firm that has examined CBC’s election content in the past as well, the coverage overall was balanced and fair. The interim report states:

“All in all, CBC coverage of the 2008 campaign appears to be fair and balanced. There are no absolute standards for what a broadcaster ought to do in campaign coverage; it is a matter of informed judgment. Past journalistic practice is probably as good a guide as any, and by this standard, CBC coverage was on course, consistent with the 5 campaigns since 1993.”

More specifically, the research found:

  • The Conservatives received 34% of the parties’ share of interview time, the Liberals 29%, and the NDP 25%
  • The Conservatives also drew most of the discussion, 48%, followed by the Liberals at 27% and the NDP at 14%
  • The Conservatives received the largest proportion of negative coverage – 35% of statements about the Conservatives were negative and 7% positive, for a balance of -28. The Liberal balance was -22 and the NDP balance -5

“Each of these patterns is consistent with the Conservatives’ position going into the campaign. As the governing party, ahead in the polls, it received the greatest proportion of interview time. Being front-runner contributed to its greater share of discussion, partly because the leading contender is intrinsically of interest, but also, because the other parties focused their attacks on the Conservatives. The negative direction in discussion of the Conservatives follows from the above: The focus on the Conservatives by the other parties generated a large volume of critical comments. These patterns are typical of federal campaigns in the past 15 years: the front-runner commands a greater share of attention, but also carries a greater burden of criticism. In addition, there is a high degree of consistency across CBC radio, television and Internet, and between the CBC sources and the CTV National News. The different formats and objectives of these sources means that they will vary on each of the major indicators. This variation appears to be within a reasonable range.”

View the interim report here.