How Much Power Do Oil Companies Really Have?
by marie.shaw on April 7, 2015 - 4:12pm
It is not uncommon for those who hold an abundance power to abuse it. The list of child celebrities who grow up to become spoiled, bratty and manipulative is endless. Similarly, wealthy industries, such as those in the oil industry, have influenced the media in unethical ways.
Peter Mansbridge is a CBC News anchor who regularly appears on the nightly news show The National. Recently, he has run into trouble after it became public knowledge that he accepted money from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers to speak at its’ Investment Symposium in December of 2012 ("Peter Mansbridge Was Paid By Oil And Gas Lobby For Speech."). According the CAPP website, its companies’ account for 90% of Canada’s natural gas and crude oil, making it one of the most influential lobby groups ("CAPP News Release."). This is not the only oil company that Mansbridge has spoken for. He has also spoken and accepted money from companies such as the Canadian Association of Petroleum Landmen, and his speech was sponsored by Cenovus (“CAPL Speakers”). CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson claims "The content of those speeches is always about putting CBC News coverage into context and explaining what we do and how we do it but Peter never offers up his opinion or takes a position on anything that's in the news." However, initially agreeing to present these speeches already influences the media whether it is intentional or not ("Peter Mansbridge Was Paid By Oil And Gas Lobby For Speech."). The fact that Mansbridge has spoken for not one, but two oil companies also shows some consistency. Additionally, the content of his speeches cannot be found, therefore we are not certain whether or not the speech was in any way opinionated ("Peter Mansbridge Was Paid By Oil And Gas Lobby For Speech.").
On another note, the purpose of an Investment Symposium is generally to present a companies current financial standings and most often they will speak positively in attempt to sway the opinion of potential investors. The pure nature of this event is to promote the company therefore Mansbridge’s participation already implicitly presumes that he is on their side, as he is being paid to do so.
This situation is troublesome in a few ways as it breaches both the universal values of Western journalism and CBC’s ethical policies. There are five main values within Western journalism and these ethical values are that of accuracy, independence, limitation of harm, avoiding discrimination and primacy of individualism. The main value that is infringed in the case of Peter Mansbridge is that of independence. The value of independence entails that a journalist shall not have any patrons or will not be paid by any person or company other than the press. Since it has been confirmed that these two oil companies paid him, he did not follow this important ethical value. Second, despite these five universal values in Western society, CBC has its’ own, slightly more detailed set of values for its’ journalists. In the case of CBC’s code of ethics, the case of Peter Mansbridge puts five values into question being the following:
- No conflict should exist or appear to exist between the private interests of CBC/Radio-Canada employees and their official duties.
- Gifts, benefits, money or other special considerations offered to CBC/Radio-Canada employees to influence, obligate or appear to influence a CBC/Radio-Canada decision must be refused.
- Employees may not engage in activities likely to bring CBC/Radio-Canada into disrepute.
- Employees may not take a stand on public controversies if CBC's integrity would be compromised.
- Employees shall not engage without permission in outside work which involves services in competition with the CBC/Radio-Canada, exploits their connection with the CBC/Radio-Canada or restricts their availability, efficiency or causes a conflict of interest with their CBC/Radio-Canada duties.
Mansbridge’s case has pushed CBC, in the interest of maintaining ethics in the media, to create new laws banning any on-air employees from agreeing to paid or sponsored speeches ("CBC Bans Paid Appearances By On-Air Journalists.").
This case is a clear example of wealthy companies, such as those in the oil industry, abusing their wealth and paying well-regarded journalists to promote their company. This practice is unethical as it tricks civilians who regularly watch the news and associate journalists such as Peter Mansbridge to the five Western journalist values, into thinking that this opinion is superior, due to the power and trust associated with Mansbridge’s name. Despite the fact that this is only one case, we cannot be certain that there aren’t other similar instances considering they often happen behind closed doors. Therefore, unfortunately wealthy businesses and organizations influence the media in troubling ways.
Bolen, Michael. "CBC Bans Paid Appearances By On-Air Journalists." The Huffington
Post. N.p., 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.
Bolen, Michael. "Peter Mansbridge Was Paid By Oil And Gas Lobby For Speech." The
Huffington Post. N.p., 26 Feb. 2014. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.
"CAPL Speakers." CAPL Conference 2011 - Speakers. CAPL Conference, 26 Sept. 2011.
Web. 06 Apr. 2015.
"CAPP News Release." Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. N.p., n.d. Web. 6