A CHML podcast of Mayor Bratina on the Bill Kelly Show had one minute removed before it was posted. Why?
By Graham Crawford
Published August 01, 2011
Something strange happened last week during my adventures in transcribing the Bill Kelly Show.
Mayor Bob Bratina appeared on Kelly's show for a full hour for the second time in a week (July 22) to talk about LRT. I listened to the live broadcast. Mostly, it was more of the same from Bob. Presumably clarity was his goal. Let's be gentle and say mission not accomplished. Again.
A few hours later, I went to the CHML website to listen to the podcast. It wasn't there. I can't say if all shows are always posted, but certainly they had been earlier in the week.
It's tough to transcribe when you can't access the recording.
No problem, I thought. I can record the re-broadcast on Cable 14 at midnight that night. My DVR was set to record. Midnight came. The rebroadcast did not.
Hmmm. Now what? Perhaps more importantly, why?
Being tenacious, on Saturday morning I wrote emails to Cable 14 and to Vincent Giacomelli, General Manager of Corus Radio, the company that owns CHML, asking for help to get a recording of the show. I got an out-of-office replay saying that Mr. Giacomelli was in Edmonton. Fair enough.
Although I had yet to hear back from Mr. Giacomelli, on Monday morning, the podcast of the episode in question was posted.
I listened to the podcast, transcribing as I listened. Then a funny thing struck me when I got to the end of the show. I remembered distinctly an exchange between Bill and Bob about a reference to the former Mayor (Fred Eisenberger, although he was not named) from Bill and something about the Canadian Urban "Mythstitute" from Bob.
It was the laughter and giggling between Bob and Bill that struck me most.
Here's where things got strange. The exchange was not included on the podcast. It had vanished. It was seamlessly edited out - but by whom? Why? On whose authority?
Brent Rickert, the GM of Cable 14, was quick to respond to my email. He said he would look into it. His tone was professional. I believed him.
My exchanges with Mr. Rickert of Cable 14 continued. First, I offered to pay for a dub of the program. Then there was news that the Kelly shows from the previous week had been erased on Monday. No dub.
Mr. Rickert was apologetic and offered to allow me to come into the station and use their "logger" on which 30 days of broadcasts must be recorded according to CRTC regulations. He said I could take notes.
I arranged to meet with one of their technicians on Wednesday (July 27). When I arrived at the station, the technician greeted me and told me that he had only the video of the show, but no audio.
I asked to see Mr. Rickert. He told told me there was a technical problem and that it looked as if the last 30 days of recordings on the logger had no audio.
I mentioned to Mr. Rickert that the CRTC would not look kindly on that fact. He agreed. He apologized.
I thanked him for his openness but said I was starting to get skeptical because at every turn another problem. He assured me that this was just a mix-up.
I will say that, in spite of the way things were looking, I believed him. I'm not a fan of conspiracy theorists. Nevertheless, I left the Cable 14 studios empty-handed.
Also on Wednesday, I sent another email to Mr. Giacomelli, referencing my earlier email and saying that I was concerned about the appearance of media tampering. I had gone to the CRTC website to see about filing a complaint.
Mr. Giacomelli responded, saying that I should contact Jeff Storey, the News Director and Program Manager at CHML. In fact, Mr. Storey sent me an email very shortly after I received Mr. Giacomelli's email saying he was in his office and that I could call him whenever I wanted. I did.
Mr. Storey said he knew nothing of the edited version. I believed him too. He was direct, open, listened to my concerns and said he would look into it.
He went further. He said that he would run an audio dub from CHML's "logger". All broadcast outlets must, by law, keep a recording of every broadcast for 30 days. CHML keeps 60 days worth of recordings.
Within two hours I received an email from Mr. Storey saying the CD was waiting for me at reception. Pretty impressive. Like I said, I believed him.
I have to add that as much as I hated to say it, given the strange number of events I had experienced already in my quest to get to the bottom of the mystery I felt justified in doing so. At the end of our conversation I said to Mr. Storey, "Jeff, I know you're going to hate me for saying this, but could you just be sure that I'm getting the full broadcast and not the edited one?"
He assured me this would be the case - and it was the case. He delivered on his commitment. I picked up the audio CD less than two hours later.
As I listened to the broadcast again, suddenly there it was: the missing minute. The missing jokes. The missing slightly hysterical giggling. The missing admonishment from Bill finally saying to Bob, "OK, enough of the silliness."
I transcribed the missing minute and I include it here. As you read it, you may wonder, what's the big deal? I agree, at least in terms of the content.
However, the fact remains that somebody took the time to edit out the remarks in a completely seamless way. If you listened to the podcast, you would never have known that a minute had been removed.
As I said earlier, I'm not a fan of conspiracy theorists, but techies don't tend to make these kinds of decisions unilaterally, not unless they're told to. Jeff Storey said that CHML's technical producers have enough on their plates without finding the time to edit a broadcast.
Here's what was said. The text in brackets represent my impressions of what I was hearing.
KELLY: The former Mayor sat right there in that chair and said they should pay it, somehow that morphed into they will pay it.
BRATINA: But you know, it's interesting though, so many facts are being thrown around that may be myths. So I think that there's probably a Canadian Urban Mythstitute that, from which myths emanate. Because it's myth. It's not fact. I love myths.
KELLY: Could we locate it right here in Hamilton? [Bratina starts laughing] We need more government offices. [Bratina continues laughing, louder] I already know one prominent lawyer who's probably working on that, We can bring that to Hamilton right away, and you know who that is.
BRATINA: Like the Harry Potter Castle and you go in. What do you want? 100% funding? You got it. Like the Wizard of Oz, you know. [Bob continues laughing]
KELLY: And would it be located downtown? [Bob continues laughing] Alright, enough of the silliness.
That's it. At the time, I remember thinking that using the name of the Canadian Urban Institute in the way he did was not very mayoral, but Bob has done many things I don't think are very mayoral. And I know I'm not the only one who has noticed this pattern of behaviour.
So who edited it? Who gave the order? Why? I don't know. Was anybody else listening in another room, taking notes? Again, I don't know. But deciding to edit comments that were broadcast on the public airwaves and not acknowledging in any way they were edited is a pretty serious decision in my opinion.
On Thursday morning (July 28), I got a phone call from Cable 14 saying that they had a DVD waiting for me at reception with the video and audio from Bob Bratin's appearance on the Kelly Show. They said that the technician had "pushed the wrong button". OK.
I was now able to watch the broadcast. It had not been edited. The only additional piece of information the video provided was that it looks as if Bob had written down his "Canadian Urban Mythstitute" line. It looks to me to be one of the few times he looks as if he's referring to notes. You have to write this clunker down? Hilarity ensued. At least for Bob and Bill.
So, what to conclude?
Well, here's one conclusion. CHML's Jeff Storey and Cable 14's Brent Rickert are professionals. They both understood what I was asking about and both were very clear that CHML and Cable 14 respectively had nothing to hide. Their actions supported their words.
I have to admit that I did use a four-letter word in my correspondence and face-to-face communication - CRTC. Honestly, I'm not sure that made any difference whatsoever. But, I didn't use it loosely.
Perhaps a second, and troubling conclusion, is that clearly sometimes things get edited out and we wouldn't know when this had been done.
I do know that things can get edited if the broadcaster receives a complaint that a certain statement was potentially libelous. Was this the case here? I simply don't know. If yes, who complained? And about what? I know for a fact that neither Fred Eisenberger, nor the Canadian Urban Institute complained.
Mr. Storey did say to me he would be speaking to the producer of the Bill Kelly Show to try to understand what happened. I'll be following up with him to see what he finds out. If my past experience is any indicator, he'll be open about his findings.
In the meantime we are left with a few questions. Here's some of the ones I'm thinking about.
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