ATIPing expense accounts in CBC's parliamentary bureau

I didn’t really want to find myself anywhere near the DMZ between CBC and Sun Media, but the “state broadcaster” post shook this loose and it’s worth discussing:

There’s some concern among CBC journos in the Parliamentary bureau that their personal expense claims have been requested through the Access to Information Act.  The first reaction, of course, is laughter: Reporters’ expenses tend to be interesting chiefly in their parsimony or, more often in these lean times, their complete absence.

But then there’s the intrigue about who’s requesting the expenses and why.

When the open-records law was extended to the CBC, an exemption was granted for journalism — that is, records that would compromise a journalists’ work wouldn’t be released. There has much agonizing about this at the time legislation was introduced.

But where does this leave an expense claim?

If your expenses show you charged for steaks and drinks at Hy’s with an unnamed source, I can’t see a problem. Ordered a few rounds at Pigale on the company plastic? Have at it, ATIPers.  CBC deniers will delight in the turnabout — reporters who feast on ATIPing the government now find themselves in the crosshairs.

But what if you’re Harvey Cashore at the 5th estate, logging a lot of air miles flying to specific locations in Germany on the CBC dime? A smart records requester could figure out why you and a camera crew are going there and respond accordingly.

As for the identity of the requester(s), that’s quite rightly protected under the Access law. But in the CBC bunker, there’s not much mystery. They’re pretty sure it’s Sun Media, which has filed literally hundreds of ATIPs on the Mother Corp. over the past few years (Sun papers passim, ad infinitum).

Just pro forma, I asked Sun bureau chief David Akin if his bureau had filed ATIPs for CBC Parliamentary reporters’ expense. He quite properly told me to pound sand, as I would if he asked me what I was ATIPing.

Discuss among yourselves…

UPDATE: Sun reporter Brian Lilley, who writes most of the CBC stuff, wrote on a similar issue a couple of weeks ago.  The requester — not Sun Media, the story says — sought expenses claimed by chief anchor Peter Mansbridge and columnist Heather Mallick, a bête noire to conservatives for her villification of Sarah Palin. CBC did not release the documents.

CBC’s internal manual on access to information may warn their journalists that what they spend tax dollars on can become public, but the state broadcaster has refused several requests submitted by Canadians.  Requests for the expenses, none of which were submitted by or on behalf of QMI Agency, were all made in 2010.


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