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Friday, April 12, 2013

Transparency and the Fifth Estate

Above: The CBC's Mark Kelley in The Fifth Estate: Rate My Hospital, airing April 12.
(Photo courtesy of the CBC)

Tonight, CBC Television will air a documentary as part of an ongoing investigation by the TV program The Fifth Estate into Canadian hospitals and the state of healthcare in the country.
The CBC collaborated with the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which tracks data in hospitals. However, the CBC had filed requests for information with regard to information submitted by individual hospitals when it came to patient care and wait times. There were repeated denials by the provinces and territories, who had national discussions on the issue, according to Freedom of Information documents obtained by the CBC, after the broadcaster inquired on the information before Christmas.

Anita Elash, a producer with The Fifth Estate, said that there had been no further information available when it came to patient outcomes, amidst concerns of cuts in health care in Canada, especially when it came to the issue of cutbacks of staff on weekends. "There was a lot of financial information, readmission treatment rates and mortality rates," Elash said. "What we didn't find was info on infection rates, wait times, all kinds of stuff."

According to the CBC, consent by provincial health ministries are needed to get information submitted to CIHI by individual hospitals. A strategy had been created by a government communications employee in the province of Manitoba, and it had been distributed nationally through the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Elash said it was frustrating. "We asked before Christmas and after the new year we got denials from provinces," Elash said. "[Some of] the reasons were from privacy, but mostly that there was enough public information to assess hospitals. We suspected they got together and the letters we received from the provinces sounded similar. I was really surprised when I saw the amount of time that the ministries had dedicated to dealing with our requests. I was very surprised when they held national meetings to discuss the issue and came to the consensus to deny the information."

Elash added that it had the support of Canadians, with 2 million hits on the Rate My Hospital web site since its launch April 10.

Elash said that the CBC would continue to press for the information. "We knew that Rate My Hospital part of it would be successful enough with Canadians that we could keep it going," Elash said. "It's very important that Canadians know these details."

Elash added that greater transparency should be achieved, and she hoped that this investigation will do that. "I hope the provinces decide that its to their benefit to be more transparent and to allow the public to look at the results," Elash said, adding that hospitals should "make a Canada wide decision to be more open about what they do and to come up with better ways to measure their performance and understand what kinds of outcomes we're getting."

In the end, Elash said, she hopes that changes will be made. "We are proud of what we have achieved," Elash said. "We think something will change because of it. From where we're sitting at the moment, that's what we will have done."

Rate My Hospital airs on CBC Television tonight (Friday April 12) at 9pm in all time zones, except in Newfoundland, where it airs at 9:30pm.

Editor's note: Calls to the province of Manitoba and to the Public Health Agency of Canada seeking comment were not returned prior to the publication of this post. A request to the province of Nova Scotia was also not returned ahead of this post's publication.


KJZZ, KBAQ ask for underwriting policy change

The license holders of Arizona public radio stations KJZZ and KBAQ have written to the Federal Communications Commission asking for a change in its underwriting policy.

The letter, obtained by the public media magazine Current and written by the Maricopa County Community College District, says it wants to implement a trial underwriting policy which would include information on sales and special events of promotions at underwriting organizations and factual information on interest rates at banks and financial organizations.

I've left messages for the FCC on the letter and the District regarding any possible timetable if the FCC approves. I'll update this post if I hear anything.

But, would this be something you want to see go across the U.S.? Let me know in the comments section below, tweet me, or e-mail me using the address on the right side of the page.

Your reply: The CPB budget

Above: A StoryCorps recording van. StoryCorps is one of the projects funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
(Photo courtesy of Flickr user Omar Omar)

This week, President Obama released his budget to the US Congress, unveiling $445 million to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting through the fiscal year 2016.

In a statement, the head of the CPB, Patricia Harrison, said the request reinforced the value of public media.

Patrick Butler, the president of the Association of Public Television Stations, said in a statement they were grateful for the support.

The move came after criticism during the election campaign of opposition towards funding, most recently during the presidential campaign, where candidate Mitt Romney said he would pull funding if he were elected.

What do you think? Is the amount fair? Do you think federal support is there?

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below or sending me a tweet.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The preface of the diary

I did a project for a course at university that examined the world of public broadcasting and looked at some of its challenges and its future. After the course ended, there were so many things that I had not been able to cover that I felt needed examination. I also was keen to see why young people had not engaged as much with a public broadcaster compared to others.

Therefore, I decided to bring this back. Welcome to The Pubcast Diaries. The posts you will see will look at developments in public media in the United States and Canada, and how the continent's public broadcasters are evolving. In addition, current issues will be examined.

I hope you will join me as I begin the new chapter of The Pubcast Diaries.