Little ‘objectivity’ in BC Liberal-produced ‘news’ videos featuring ex-TV anchor Pamela Martin

Published in 24 Hours Vancouver | February 10, 2014 | Circulation: 280,000+


The BC Liberals appear be taking another page from the communications playbook of the federal Conservatives.

In an internal video released Friday and emailed to party faithful, Education Minister Peter Fassbender is featured responding to a scathing court ruling in a self-described “conversation” with former news anchor Pamela Martin.

The next day, the BC Liberals released another party-produced video, the fourth in a series entitled BCL Roundup hosted by Martin.

For Sean Holman, former editor of the B.C.-based Public Eye Online who now teaches at Calgary’s Mount Royal University, the videos have “profound implications” for journalism by bypassing traditional media.

“It’s all part of an attempt to manipulate and marginalize the news media,” he said. “It’s wrapped in the packaging of journalism but it isn’t journalism, and that packaging is meant to create the appearance of objectivity where there is none.

“This is part of trend we’re seeing – a trend where the officials and institutions we cover produce content that looks like journalism, smells like journalism, but isn’t journalism.”

In the Fassbender video – described to party members as “Setting the record straight on education” – Martin, who became the party’s engagement director in 2011, nods encouragingly as he explains the decision to appeal the Supreme Court ruling that Victoria deliberately attempted to provoke a teachers’ strike.

“To make sure you get the whole story,” a party email stated, “our own Pamela Martin sat down with Minister of Education Peter Fassbender and got his perspective.”

A BC Liberal party spokesman told 24 hours the videos were conceived primarily to reach out to party faithful, although they’re publicly available online. The aim was never to pass them off as reporting, even though the news-roundup format “lends itself” to Martin’s “experience and background.”

“That was not the intention,” said the party staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I don’t think it pretends to be anything other than a BC Liberal information program.

“She is giving people news, but it’s news about what the party and government is doing.”

He described Martin’s position as “outreach and events.”

On Jan. 9, the Prime Minister’s Office began publishing 24 Seven roundup videos featuring clips of Stephen Harper. During the last election, some criticized a BC Liberal wrap ad on 24 hours for imitating the newspaper’s style.

Martin didn’t return emailed interview requests by press time.

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