CTV, Canada’s largest broadcaster, is at odds with two anti-racism groups who accuse the organization of failing to accept responsibility for racist tweets from one of its show producers.
In a letter to Phil King, CTV president of sports and entertainment, the Urban Alliance on Race Relations and the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter say they expected to meet with a CTV representative to discuss the uproar caused in July by tweets from Brent Piaskoski, the co-creator of CTV’s Spun Out. Piaskoski attended the meeting, but no executive from CTV did.
CTV says it never promised to meet with them in the first place.
“CTV arranged for a private meeting between Mr. Piaskoski and the UARR and CCNC so that Mr. Piaskoski could apologize in person and also hear directly from these organizations about the importance of the work that they do,” said CTV spokesperson Scott Henderson. “At no time was there a suggestion that this meeting would involve CTV. Our goal was to assist in effecting a resolution between the two parties.”
The meeting between Piaskoski and the race-relations groups came after an initial letter to CTV that accused the organization of “hiding” from the incident and not publicly apologizing.
Piaskoski was on a plane trip from Los Angeles to Calgary in July when he tweeted controversial messages about fellow passengers of Asian origin.
“It seems like they are disassociating themselves from the issue,” said Jason Merai, executive director of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations. “But Mr. Piaskoski was tweeting using CTV’s Spun Out logo, the show airs on CTV and CTV is paying for the show. But they weren’t interested enough to show up. It’s disappointing because this is not just about one person.”
Meraj says the groups wanted to meet with CTV to discuss the organization’s guidelines regarding discrimination, whether it has an equity policy and whether there are guidelines in place to prevent further transgressions.
“As a reputable Canadian broadcaster, CTV has the important responsibility of telling stories that reflect the rich and diverse cultures of our community,” said the letter from the groups. “We look upon this as a timely opportunity for CTV to strengthen its organizational resolve and put in place organizational frameworks that would lead to better engagement and dialogue with diverse communities.”
When the story was first reported in the Toronto Star, CTV remained silent on the subject and initially declined requests for comment. Piaskoski has since apologized and said the tweets were meant in jest. That prompted the organizations to write the first letter to King.
The letter prompted CTV’s first comments on the subject and King replied that the tweets were “offensive and unacceptable.”
“We are satisfied that Mr. Piaskoski has taken full ownership of his actions with complete understanding of the hurt they caused, as demonstrated in part by his meeting with the UARR and CCNC in September,” said Henderson.
CTV, which is a division of media giant Bell Media, has handled the controversy differently than some other broadcasters. Most recently in January, after stories first appeared in the Star and on the blog The TV Page that Bachelor TV star Juan Pablo Galavis had made potentially homophobic comments, broadcaster ABC apologized within hours of the stories breaking.
Similarly, when Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson made remarks about homosexuals in an article in GQ magazine he was suspended from the show by network A&E. Both ABC and A&E commission those shows from independent producers.
The problems started after Piaskoski indicated on July 12 that he was irritated by passengers who were talking too loudly, butting in line and eating too vigorously for his liking.
Piaskoski has more than 3,000 followers and many of his comments were retweeted and liked by his fans.
This is not the first time that anti-racism groups have clashed with CTV.
The Chinese Canadian National Council, which included founding members such as activist Dr. Joseph Wong and former police board chair Susan Eng, was formed because of a CTV story in 1980.
In “Campus Giveaway,” CTV’s W5 concluded that many Canadians couldn’t get into university and college because of foreign students. The students portrayed in the show were Asian-Canadians. Chinese communities staged protests across Canada and CTV was forced to apologize.