Broadcaster Magazine

CBC Receives High Marks on Access to Information

Canada’s Information Commissioner has given top grade to the CBC for its improved handling of access to information requests.  Commissioner Suzanne Legault was in Parliament for the tabling of her latest report on access to information performance.

The current report says the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation transformed its access operations and so received an “A” grade this year, compared to an “F” two years ago.  The complete report, Report Cards 2011-2012, is available in the Reports and Publications section of the Office of the Information Commissioner’s website.

“I attribute the CBC’s success to strong statements and actions by the president on the importance of transparency for a public organization,” she said.

It was not always thus: just last year, Legault took the CBC to court, disputing the broadcaster’s right to refuse her office a look at certain documents for journalistic reasons.

The Commissioner’s report says the current average of 36 days for the CBC to respond to an information request is much better than its previous average of 158 days.

The report noted that the CBC has now “incorporated access to information compliance into the performance management agreements of the senior management cadre, and communicated the importance of transparency and compliance with the act to all staff.”

The Commissioner added that, “Should I find signs of deterioration, I will not hesitate to bring my concerns to Parliament’s notice and take any appropriate action, including re-instating the report cards earlier than planned.”

Critics of the CBC disputed the Commissioner’s findings.  Quebecor Media, for example, released a statement that it was surprised by the findings, which it called “indulgent conclusions.

The company said it is “critical of the Commissioner’s decision to reward CBC/Radio-Canada’s relative improvement, based on self-defined, vague, subjective criteria, instead of assessing its ability to provide, expeditiously and in full, the information requested by Canadians.”

Quebecor noted that the average 36 day processing time cited by the Commissioner was, in fact, six more days than the requirement under the Access to Information Act.