Yesterday, I received the following letter from CP24 Vice President and General Manager Stephen Hurlbut in response to my complaint about CP24 anchor David Onley. I am quite stunned by the rationalizations Hurlbut offers for one of his journalists taking a government appointment. I will be preparing a response and invite suggestions.
March 16, 2006
Dear Mrs. Tintor,
As the Vice President of News for Citytv and Vice President and General Manager of CP24 I will address your concerns.
Mr. Onley is indeed the Chair of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council and the 3 to 4 non-paid days required for him to attend to his duties do not, in our view, constitute any breach of any code or constitute a breach of professional ethics. In fact, we are honoured and fully supportive that David has been asked to work on this very important initiative. CHUM Television and Citytv specifically has been a champion of all minority rights since we first went to air in Toronto and our support of David’s advisory role is consistent with our fundamentals. We believe it is important to recognize that the position is part-time and voluntary and while there is a small per diem of $225.00, Mr. Onley has asked that we direct this stipend to our corporate charity the CHUM Charitable Foundation.
Perhaps if we explain some of the background you may see Mr. Onley’s situation in a different light. The government has clearly explained to all members of the Advisory Council that they are not members of the government nor the Civil Service but rather they are volunteers positioned as experts in an advisory role only. When David and I were discussing the possibility of his accepting the position we were fully aware that the Ontario Disabilities Act was passed with unanimous support from all parties and had there been any issue of partisanship we would not be involved. While indeed the Advisory Council will present a report to the Cabinet Minister, it is representing the requests and enjoys the support of all members of the Legislature.
David Onley offers a very unique and valuable perspective. As I am sure you are aware, David has a disability; he had polio as a child. In his professional role as news anchor and reporter David, to the best of our knowledge, is the only full-time disabled newscaster in Canada. We believe that his level of visibility in his role as anchor/reporter has in itself been a positive statement. We believe that his simple TV presence and his level of consistent professionalism has made a difference and if his television work can draw greater attention to the work of the advisory board we support it totally.
Mrs. Tintor, we are vigilant in ensuring that our ethical lines remain in tact (sic) and that our role as journalists is not tainted by lending our resident expert David Onley to a non-partisan initiative. The work of the Advisory Board is important and our corporate responsibility is to help.
I do thank you for your letter and sincerely appreciate the concerns you raise and I invite you to call me directly should you wish to discuss this further.
Vice President, News Programming – Citytv
Vice President & General Manager – CP24