Wednesday, October 26, 2005

CBC and Blindness

Growing up, I had many opportunities to listen to CBC radio, and I retain a certain affection for it even though I am conscious of its shortcomings and I don't really listen very often these days. This morning, however, I happened to hear a segment of the broadcast, and I was particularly struck by some aspects of the first news segment.

The sequence of stories included two related to natural disasters, hurricane Wilma and the earthquake in South Asia. What interested me was the ways in which Canada was visible and not visible in these two stories. In the story on Wilma, which came earlier in the segment and was therefore awarded greater significance, the focus was Canadian tourists who had been trapped in Cancun. While relating what happens in the rest of the world to people from Canada isn't entirely unreasnable for a media institution based here, it is interesting that the only mention in the entire story that people who weren't mostly-white North American tourists might be present in areas of Mexico targeted by the hurricane was a clip from one returned tourist praising the hospitality of the Mexican people and talking about how much they love Canadians. Not a word about the neocolonial economic arrangements that result in the phenomenon that is labelled "tourism" in the context of Cancun, and an assurance from a fellow white Canadian that the racialized and neocolonially exploited "others" in the global south just plain love us.

In the story on the earthquake, Canada was completely absent. It reported on a conference of donor nations called by the U.N. in an attempt to increase the level of humanitarian assistance being given in response to the quake, which is far below the actual need at this point. No information was provided on Canadian contribution levels, and certainly no context that involved comparisons to levels of Canadian spending on our military in general, on subsidizing the occupation of Iraq through participating in the occupation of Afghanistan, or in the ongoing colonial remoulding of the Haitian state, and of course nothing about the way that Canada benefits from a world economic order that is the cause of South Asian nations having to seek resources so urgently from North America and Europe.

There's nothing exceptional about these stories -- this is how world news always gets told in the dominant media. I just happened to have an opportunity to notice, this morning.

1 comment:

Ricia said...

I had the same thoughts. I have long-since lost friends (Mexicans) on the coast, but have found myself hoping to find out more about the state of things there. Fat chance, it seems. The Canadian news is interested only in there involvement, the US news doesn't spend more than 15 seconds noting that there was a natural distaster there and reverts immediately to indepth coverage of the Florida coastline (whose streets are empty in contrast to pictures from Cancun, for eg).

When it comes to information, we are stuck on a really big fat island. I rely heavily on the merits of CBC for regional news, but do find myself oft enough disappointed in them - perhaps I expect too much....