CTV Spins the Daily Show for Tarsands and Farmed Fish

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I finally got around to watching the Labour Day episode of the Daily Show, a repeat from August 18, 2011. Its first segment was about Warren Buffett’s New York Times editorial about why the rich should be paying more in taxes.

But CTV chose to air two commercials directly before the Daily Show: pure spin for the tarsands and farmed fish.

If you weren’t aware, the Daily Show is a post-modern, irony-filled examination of the news, with a progressive slant that mocks the frequent lunacy of neoliberal, neoconservative right-wing America.

It’s also an increasingly trusted source of actual news among younger viewers who appreciate the layers of analysis and comedy that contextualize news. It appears they do not like their parents’ 6 o’clock news format so much.

To counter the success of this form of news, two reasonably despicable industries purchased broadcast space minutes before the September 6 CTV broadcast.

Cenovus bills itself as a different oil sands. Pure spin. Tarsands extraction is tarsands extraction. You can do it with teddy bears and you can do it without. Cenovus is pushing for the teddy bears. Their website promotes [the myth of] corporate social responsibility and sustainability, and–priceless–an Integrity Helpline that is too ironic for you to miss. Leaving the tarsands in the ground is the sustainable choice to avert continued climate change.

But hey, they say they’re different, so I guess that matters.

100% spin.

This was followed by a slick cartoony ad from the BC Farmed Salmon industry talking about how salmon are cold blooded so they eat less food. That makes them more sustainable. No mention on whether wild, unmedicated salmon are also cold blooded. But that’s beside the point.

The Daily Show episode began by exploring the class war of taxing the rich versus the poor. Part of that class war was CTV as they aired the tarsands spin commercial and the farmed salmon fluff piece.

The fact that it aired minutes after Labour Day ended resulted in a strong but indirect reminder to the working class that we should not tax the rich any more, we should consider how to exploit the tar sands with teddy bears, and that farmed salmon are cold blooded so maybe they’re ok to eat.

What makes me most happy, though, is that the media intelligence that viewers bring to the Daily Show are a natural inoculant against the tarsand and farm salmon spin machines.

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist. at Politics, Re-Spun
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, professor, speaker, consultant, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website, dgiVista.org.

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20 thoughts on “CTV Spins the Daily Show for Tarsands and Farmed Fish”

  1. Not sure why you are offended at the fact that farmed salmon are cold blooded? And because of that fact, they are more efficient at producing animal protein than most other farmed animals.

    To compare to wild salmon is silly, as this is about farming, not killing wild animals.

    Only when information doesn’t agree with your feelings, does it become spin (in your eyes).

    PS – perhaps you should know that ad space is not specific to time slots nor programming, so the timing of these ads is irrelevant.

    1. i’m not at all offended by the cold-bloodedness of fish. i grant that fact. and i grant that they are cheaper to feed than warm blooded animals.

      the spin is not in why it’s more efficient to eat fish than those hot pigs/chickens/cows. the spin is in how the farmed salmon lobby are ignoring the hot potato of their existence, farmed versus wild salmon: both of which are cold-blooded.

      their argument that people should eat fish because they’re more efficient to feed is not an argument for farmed salmon, but fish in general. they have no argument about why farmed is better than wild.

      ad space is not specific? do you have a link that demonstrates that? because i wonder why super bowl ads are more expensive than an equivalent length ad at 3am on a monday morning on global tv in winnipeg.

      1. CTV didn’t ‘choose’ to air them before The Daily Show. The companies purchasing advertising choose their time slots through a number of factors: cost, target audience, primetime vs. slowtime. The Daily Show happens to air at a time that is probably the cheapest rate of advertising on CTV. I don’t think it’s a conspiracy.

        1. you neglected to mention the content of the show that airs at that time, which is connected to the target audience and contributes to the cost calculation.

          why did soap operas begin?

          why are there so many car commercials during hockey games?

          it’s not just because of the time of day and the day of the week. it’s because of who is watching the show and why.

          and elementary communications courses talk about discerning the advertisers’ views of a show by observing the target audience of the commercials. there are no acorn stair lifter commercials on ytv programs.

        2. and i would argue that the daily show ad rates are somewhat higher than 3 hours later in the early morning, and not just because of time, but because of what the daily show is.

          but if you have data that ad rates during the daily show are the same as those at another comparable network at the same time, i’d love to see it.

  2. I’ll bet they omitted the wild vs farmed salmon “issue”, because it’s not an issue to them. Wild and farmed salmon coexist in BC – and that was just confirmed by every expert during a federal court proceeding in Vancouver.

    The wild vs farmed debate is, in my eyes, not an environmental issue, but a marketing issue.

    Fish farmers never attack the competition, but the competition is happy to attack them.

    Here’s just one example – PCBs in all salmon is very, very low (1-2% of allowable govt limits), yet this was spun by certain groups to make farmed salmon look like it contained “cancer causing” amounts, which might only serve to scare people away from a very healthy protein source. Pure spin – but I’ll bet that doesn’t concern you does it?

    1. i totally agree that it’s a non-issue with them. that has been their response to the political controversy of their existence: ignore it and frame the messages they want, the way they want. spin.

      no one can sanely dispute the fact that wild and farmed salmon co-exist. the political issue is whether farmed salmon ought to exist.

      fish farmers would lose much of the support they currently have if they were so irrational as to attack wild salmon fishing. the competition, and those of us who support wild salmon are willing to attack a destructive and unsustainable industry. it’s not to be mean.

      interesting point about pcb’s. can you post a link to a valid study that establishes pcb levels? and can you post a link to something that spins that data unfairly?

      spin does concern me. particularly because i don’t believe farmed salmon critics need to lie to demonstrate why we need to get rid of these things.

      i also agree that farmed salmon is a protein source. it’s fish. whether it has a variety of bugs, drugs, or questionable additional things is a matter of debate.

      are you personally a supporter and consumer of farmed salmon?

  3. Farmed Salmon would be perfectly acceptable in closed containment, where they could not endanger the health of wild stocks. The hearings in Vancouver have yet to prove impartiality. The fact remains that many of those experts refuted their own work and that Dr. Millar was muzzled by DFO.

  4. Hi Stephen, thank you for taking the time to write about our ads on your blog, and thank you for the opportunity to discuss this further.

    We don’t see a conflict between farmed salmon and wild. They are different products in the marketplace. And we believe wild salmon are very important. Many of our staff in B.C. love fishing and the outdoors and want to see the wild salmon thrive forever. Our companies regularly contribute to salmon enhancement programs and our staff volunteer their time.

    But there are advantages to farming salmon. For one thing, we control all the inputs. We know exactly what they are eating and when, and can harvest them year-round because of the way we schedule our production cycles. And, because we control their feed input, we have become more and more efficient in how we use resources. In the wild, because they have to forage for food, wild salmon need roughly 10 kilograms of food to grow one kilogram of flesh. On a farm, because we control the diet and because the fish do not have to forage, it only takes about 1.2 kilograms of food to grow one kilogram of flesh. And because we have this level of control, we can produce an affordable, healthy source of protein that is available year-round.

    In response to your PCB question, there have been numerous studies which conclude that levels in both farmed and wild salmon are so low they can be consumed regularly without risk. See table 1: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/es072497j This study also comes to the same conclusion: http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=18453355
    The chart on page 9 of this study shows similar levels of all heavy metals in farmed and wild salmon (except cadmium, which was significantly higher in wild salmon): http://www.ijens.org/103205-6565%20IJBAS-IJENS.pdf There were “no significant differences” between wild and farmed.

    As well, farmed and wild salmon are both so low in mercury that the BC Ministry of Health and Centre for Disease Control recommend no consumption limit: http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=2bcca29ac6aa5f645e6f757c1&id=e9d60b1d5d&e=a9ae75937e

    Since you are interested in how scientific studies are spun, you may find this opinion article interesting, as it traces the amount of money spent promoting a 2004 study portraying the PCB levels in farmed salmon in an unfavourable light (even though they were well with safe consumption limits): http://www.farmfreshsalmon.org/david-suzuki’s-fish-story

    Finally, again because BC salmon farmers have full control over their fish’s diet, we’ve been able to ensure levels of PCBs are very low. The fishmeal inclusion in our feed has been reduced from 45% (20 years ago) to 16% today, and this has reduced contaminant levels (dioxins/pcbs) in our fish. To see how the diet changes for our salmon have changed Omega 3 and PCB levels, and the comparison to wild Pacific salmon, click here – http://yfrog.com/h6cnp and here – http://twitpic.com/3pgfu8

    We realize that there is a lot of “spin” out there in regards to farmed salmon which is why we started our website http://www.bcsalmonfacts.ca. We are not trying to hide facts or dodge questions, in fact, if you visit the site you will see that we do our best to answer every question asked about BC farmed salmon on the website. People are more than welcome to post conflicting studies and points of view, that is what good dialogue and discussion is about.

    If you have time, we would like to invite you to visit the site yourself and ask any questions you have.

    Have a great day,
    BC Salmon Facts

    1. “We don’t see a conflict between farmed salmon and wild.”

      this is the essence of your spin campaign: deny a conflict exists and go from there.

      there’s escaping salmon and sea lice that affect wild stocks. there is also the effects through the ecosystem of killing of seals and sea lions [http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/many+seals+lions+killed+fish+farms+critics/5409792/story.html], and antibiotics.

      i don’t deny there are/can be efficiencies in farming salmon, like farming any meat product. it seems common sense. i’m arguing the negative effects of the practice are not worth the efficiencies.

      it’s why i don’t like to buy drugged chicken, beef and pork. it’s why i prefer free range products.

      thanks for all the links on pcb’s and heavy metals in farmed salmon. it has never been a core reason for my opposition. but it’s interesting.

      and i find your comment about spin and your website interesting. i’m not sure if you’re implying that it is not spin by prefacing your website’s existence by saying “We realize that there is a lot of “spin” out there,” of if you’re just hoping people will infer that from the use of the word “facts” in your website.

      truly, though, you are spin. you are an industry sponsored information portal. you have a bias. your arguments are designed to support an industry. this is spin.

      what would be more compelling would be for you to take a page like one of these and refute everything they assert with non-industry evidence:

  5. Yes, I am a supporter of fish farming and I do eat farmed salmon. I like it a lot, and I’ve looked into where it comes from. Actually went on a tour with my wife last year. Liked it even more after seeing a farm.
    I googled the 2004 pcb study and this website came up which explains the issue quite well. http://fairquestions.typepad.com/rethink_campaigns/did-david-suzuki-prevaricate-about-pcbs-in-farmed-salmon.html

    But if at the end of the day you just “don’t believe in farmed salmon”, then I guess this conversation is a bit of a waste of time. You rarely influence emotion with fact.

    1. ok. and are you involved with the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board?

      i don’t believe in farmed salmon. but partly that’s just a rhetorical phrase. i am not an irrational victim of emotional bias here. farmed salmon are drugged. i don’t eat drugged meat. that’s a pretty rational reason to skip drugged salmon.

      so it’s wrong to characterize me as someone who is ruled by emotion and immune to facts.

      what do you think of all the drugged salmon you eat?

      1. I do eat meat. Chicken, beef, pork. I understand that if an animal becomes sick, a farmer is required by law to treat the animal for humane reasons. This is the same with farmed fish.

        I also understand that, by law, the harvest of the meat cannot be done until any medicine residue has cleared the system. So, I’m not eating drugs. I would ingest more drugs to keep myself healthy, than I ever would eating meat.

        When I went on a tour, I was also told that the treatment of farmed salmon was pretty rare. Tracking of any medicines is also done for salmon farming (don’t know about other meats) and it is posted on the internet.

        So, to answer you question, I really like all the humanely treated, cared for by a veterinarian, rarely requiring medicine and only harvested after zero medicine residue, farmed salmon I eat. Phew, long sentence, and probably not the one you were hoping for!

        By the way, many of your “wild” salmon you may eat were raised in a hatchery, which, by the same laws are treated with medicine if they become sick (if not, they would be releasing sick fish into the ocean, and that wouldn’t be a good thing). So, based on your same thoughts, you can’t guarantee your “wild” or “wild-caught” salmon hasn’t also been to the doctor as well.

        1. interesting. do you have a link to a law that talks about the clearing of medical residue before harvest?

          in which jurisdiction is the tracking of medicines posted on the internet. do you have a link?

          do you think there may have been some bias in the information you received at a fish farm tour?

          i have no idea what kind of drugs are used, and to what degrees, in hatcheries. do you have some information on that? my larger concern is the penned environment of farmed salmon leading to higher disease transmission, therefore more medication, than wild salmon who are not forced to coexist with other fish that way.

          and are you the same dan mccarty of the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board as is listed here?

    1. interesting graphs, indeed.

      do you know of any graphs that compare the use of drugs in farmed salmon with drugs in wild salmon that are caught? because if the latter is zero or near zero, that would mean something to me.

      but the sea lice drug chart on that webpage is really unfortunate for the industry. it shows a roughly 5x to 12x increase in the amount of sea lice drugs used in bc fish farms in the last decade.

      that’s gotta hurt.

      i don’t have any data on other drugged meat. my goal is to focus on supporting non-drugged, natural, and organic meat suppliers.

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