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Media broadcasters to carry Olympic torch

[Editor's note: An award-winning former journalist for BCTV has written a charged criticism of media broadcasters across the country. We’ve reprinted portions of Harvey Oberfeld’s blog entry here.]

CTV has announced it will have 30 of its broadcasters take part in the Olympic Torch relay across the country.

In B.C., you’re probably hearing it here first. And the word I get is that Canwest Global BC will also have “talent” taking part directly in the Olympic Torch Relay.

According to the CTV announcement made back East, among the network talent who will take part, as ”torchbearers” will be: Brian Williams, CTV’s Prime Time Olympic host; James Duthie, CTV Olympic Daytime HOST; Michael Landsberg, CTV Olympic Daytime Whistler HOST; and, quite incredibly to me, CTV news anchors Ken Shaw, Christine Bentley, Carol Meehan, Daryl McIntyre, Carrie Doll, Barb Higgins, Mark Rogstad, Tony Ryma...all from CTV stations across the country.

And Robert Hurst, CTV News President, told me Sunday night “there will be two or three torchbearers from CTV BC as well.”

And not just anchors or program hosts will take part: CTV reporters will be part of the relay: so far announced: Carolyn Waldo, Sports Reporter in Ottawa; Liz Rigney, Atlantic Canada Reporter; and, Stephen Brunt, Olympic Columnist,

Joining a number of other CTV stars like Ben Mulroney.

“I have been told all Canadian networks have accepted,” Hurst said.

I have no problem with individuals, companies, community organizations, public organizations supporting the Games. I personally hope they work out terrifically for Vancouver, B.C., Canada and all the athletes and participants.

But the media who cover the games and activities should not also take part in them.

The revelations first came to me in a Toronto Star blog done by Randy Starkman, who has covered Team Canada at 11 Olympic Games, dating back to 1984.

Starkman was also offered an opportunity to carry the torch by another Olympic sponsor…but declined. “No journalist should be carrying the torch,” he said,

Hurst acknowledges that many Canadians will be skeptical about the network’s participation in the Torch Relay, but says broadcasters in several previous Olympics have done the same and vows it will have absolutely no effect on news coverage.

“We are the rights holder for the Olympic Games and have been doing all sorts of stories,: the CTV top News executive told me. “We do the good stories and the bad stories…however they come at us.”

When I asked him how impartial will anchors etc look, sitting on the set afterwards, beaming and raving about the experience, Hurst vowed news impartiality will be protected.

If an incident occcurs on the run during a network performer’s participation, that participant will not do the story, he explained.

Now, you may have not have heard this reported down here, but in Toronto it’s big news…egged on by the Star and Toronto Sun, perhaps enjoying taking shots at competitors CTV Globemedia.

Hurst said according to Vanoc, there will be 12,000 torchbearers: 70 per cent of them from the ranks of ordinary Canadians; and 30 per cent selected by VANOC, the IOC, and government. The media were invited by VANOC.

Harvey Oberfeld retired in 2006 after 38 years of reporting. A version of this post originally appeared on his blog.

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