Province newspaper cartoonist Dan Murphy went public on CBC yesterday to confirm suspicions that his publication had pulled a spoof he created last Friday, under pressure from Enbridge Inc.
The cartoon, which mocks Enbridge's new ad campaign designed to mollify concerns about its proposed twin pipelines from the Alberta Tar Sands to Kitimat, was posted on The Province's website Friday morning, only to be pulled several hours later.
Online magazine backofthebook.ca obtained a response from Province Editor-in-Chief Wayne Moriarty on Monday, confirming the company had pushed for the removal of the cartoon:
Wayne Moriarty, The Province‘s Editor-in-Chief, says the animation was removed at the request of Enbridge “because it contains copyrighted material.” He admits that use of the material might be protected under fair use laws, but says the newspaper chose not to pursue the matter. He points out that The Province has run editorials critical of the pipeline, and insists that the decision to pull the satire has nothing to do with the $5 million campaign, which is running in his paper and The Vancouver Sun, both of which are owned by The Pacific Newspaper Group, among many other media outlets.
But Murphy contradicted parts of Moriarty's statement on CBC Tuesday evening. The cartoonist said he was called in for a meeting with Moriarty, who told Murphy that the chief revenue and digital officer for Postmedia, The Province's parent company, was upset over the parody.
Said Murphy, "The information he gave us there was Simon Jennings was very upset over this video, that Enbridge was very upset, that Enbridge was going to pull a million dollars worth of advertising out of Postmedia newspapers if it didn't come down. And also if it didn't come down that Wayne Moriarty was going to be fired."
Murphy said Moriarty later told him, "Enbridge was mostly upset because we had taken their material and turned it into a parody."
The CBC story included reaction from Langara University journalism professor Ross Howard, who dismissed Enbridge's alleged concerns under the principle of "fair comment", noting, "When you're commenting about what that corporation is doing, what it stands for, it's the same as using their own name and putting their symbol on it. That's why they have logos and symbols."
Enbridge released a statement yesterday denying it had demanded the removal of the video or threatened to pull a portion of its $5 million ad campaign from Postmedia papers. According to company spokesperson Todd Nogier, "Enbridge Inc. did not request the Province or Post Media pull the video...Enbridge has not discontinued this campaign, nor its investments as a part of that campaign, nor did Enbridge threaten to discontinue that campaign."
And yet, the company later confirmed in a conversation with CBC that "...the company had a conversation with Postmedia and they apologized for the parody...any further conversation would be inappropriate."
Regardless of Enbridge's claims, the controversy over the cartoon has only served to increase the attention it has received. The video was promptly reposted by citizen journalists on youtube, with one posting generating over 12,000 hits as of this writing. A story The Common Sense Canadian ran yesterday on the subject was picked up by several other online publications and has generated over 1,600 "likes" on facebook in a day and close to 10,000 hits on our website. Blogger Laila Yuile has generated significant traction covering the story on her website as well, as the story has been all over the blogosphere and social media since Friday.
The fallout over Enbridge's alleged actions is indicative of the clash of old and new media. Clearly the company believes it is still operating in an old media world, wherein a company can control a story by way of advertising dollars and corporate heft. But in today's increasingly online media world, these heavy-handed tactics pose a real risk of backfiring, as they plainly have here.
As one commenter noted on the youtube page where the video has been reposted, "It's on youtube now. It's not going away."