CBC pulls Falun Gong documentary

[article link via Tod Maffin]

Here is an excerpt from the Globe and Mail article (emphasis mine),

CBC Television abruptly cancelled a featured Falun Gong documentary just hours before it was to air on Tuesday night, prompting complaints that the network bowed to pressure from Chinese government officials.

The network, which had actually already broadcast the documentary once in English and once on its sister French service, Radio-Canada, switched the program at the 11th hour to rerun a piece about Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf.

A CBC spokesman said the network is simply doing its “due diligence” in holding Beyond The Red Wall: The Story of Falun Gong for prime time, in order to make it “more solid” before airing it at an unspecified date.

“If there is re-editing that’s required, we’re going to do that,” CBC spokesman Jeff Keay said. He confirmed the network had been talking with Chinese diplomats who had expressed concerns about promotions the CBC had aired in the runup to this week’s broadcast.

“I was actually contacted myself by a gentleman who is a cultural consultant with the Chinese embassy,” Mr. Keay said. “He was very polite.” CBC will run a new version of the documentary “sooner rather than later,” the spokesman added, but couldn’t say precisely when.

The Canadian director of Beyond The Red Wall says he has no intention of re-editing a piece that he spent three years working on. “We have to quote-unquote give balance,” veteran filmmaker Peter Rowe said in an interview. “… I’ve never experienced anything like these kinds of demands.”

[…] Parts of the documentary, however, may have been too provocative for the CBC. At 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Mr. Rowe said, he spoke to CBC documentary chief Catherine Olsen, who said the piece would not air during its scheduled 10 p.m. time slot. He said the specific concerns that were raised by Ms. Olsen included explorations of self-immolations in Tiananmen Square that China and the Falun Gong accuse each other of sponsoring.

Another contentious portion was the way the documentary explores the controversial organ-harvesting report.

A few days ago, I wrote the following in my blog and some readers took issue with it.

I thought only countries like China blocks free speech. I haven’t thought CBC will do the same.

I don’t know if what CBC did to “Beyond The Red Wall” qualify as violating free speech? But anything that comes remotely close hurting free speech should get our full attention and be put under the spotlight by the media and anyone who cares about free speech.

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Update: [via The Teamakers] The fact the CBC pulled the show has now been reported by the New York Times.

By the way, I want to thank the readers who have taken time to leave feedback in this hotly debated topic. But due to the complexity and emotional nature of this topic, and my deep desire to avoid a flame war in my blog, I have decided to restrict comments to the filmmakers and CBC staff only. Thanks for your understanding.

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Nov 11th update: [link via The Teamakers] Here are excerpts from TorStar (emphasis mine),

This was never an issue of censorship. We have every intention of broadcasting the documentary,” he [K: CBC-TV spokesperson Jeff Keay] said, denying the postponement was linked to CBC coverage of the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics.

In an open letter, Rowe [director and producer of the film] said, “it is now clear to me that CBC is not trying to either bury or censor this film.” He said two storylines are being updated and sources “clarified.”

I believe that the changes and additions we are making to the film will improve the quality of the film and certainly in no way … weaken or diminish the film or the voices heard in it,” said Rowe, who worked on the film for three years. 

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