Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Financial disclosure for bloggers and others

Noted in the Globe, this headline is, shall we say, a little misleading in the Canadian context: "Why don’t political bloggers want us to know who’s funding them?"The vast majority of Canadian political bloggers receive bupkus for blogging. It is simply not the case that there are bloggers actively denying information on who is funding them for that reason. At least in Canada and as far as I know.

This report seems to bounce from group to group though and conflate it all under the header's misleading pointing of the finger at political bloggers. The author mentions charities and the new scrutiny from CRA of foreign contributions. The author mentions Ethical Oil, which is a private lobby group and which refuses to disclose their donors. The author cites a California proposal that would require political bloggers to reveal the source of their funds. Those are all very different categories of actors. So why the header zeroed in on "political bloggers" is beyond me.

Most bloggers would be happy to disclose any funding, if they had it. Words would be judged in tandem with their funding and everyone could see if what they're saying is compromised. If you are seeking to influence the public debate on policy, it's fair for people to see where your funding comes from. That is a fair principle to be applied to any group seeking to influence public policy.

Another group to consider, the opinion makers on the op-ed pages of the nation should be included in this discussion, if we are going to have it. Disclosing their extra-curricular funds for speeches and appearances and such. The Ethics Guidelines of the Canadian Association of Journalists indicate: "We generally do not accept payment for speaking to groups we report on or comment on." Generally. If they do, where is that disclosed? Is it all voluntary? If so, I hope they're all doing it. If not, it should be part of this conversation.