An ecumenical group of 12 church leaders here has accused Canada's second largest television network of "biased, distorted and erroneous treatment" of comments made by the Anglican primate of Canada on his church's funding of black refugee camps run by the Zimbabwe Patriotic Front in Rhodesia.
In a formal complaint filed with the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commissions, the churchmen criticized Canadian Television for its "manipulative, even unethical treatment" of Anglican Archbishop Edward Scott's responses to questions concerning the controversial grants on a CTV nationally televised public affairs program.
The religious group, which included leaders of the Anglican and Presbyterian churches and the United Church of Canada, charged that the program violated responsible journalism through "film selection and editing techniques; evidence of a premeditated slant on the subject treatment; and a strong personal bias on the part of the reporter... "
The CTV program focused on Scott because of the Canadian Anglican Church's contribution to the $85,000 grant in August by the World Council of Churches Special Fund of the Program to Combat Racism made to the Zimbabwe Patriotic Front of Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo. Scott also is chairman of the WCC's central committee which ratifies the Program to Combat Racism grants.
The WCC grant, intended for food, medicine, clothing and other humanitarian needs of refugees in Mozambique and Zambia, has sparked worldwide controversy.
The brief, filed by the Canadian churchmen, which demanded a public hearing on the program, challenged the accuracy of the CTV's research, stating that a number of errors of fact exposed "the narrowness and inadequacy" of the presentation.
One example noted that the CTV program said that the WCC is "dominated" by Third World countries "with a high balance of Eastern bloc churches" that shows "a definitely Marxist trait within the World Council of Churches." The brief points out that the WCC is composed of 256 member churches with close to 50 percent from Western countries and 40 percent from the Third World and 11 percent from Eastern bloc nations.
At the opening of the program, the CTV host declared that money donated "to your church to help the poor and starving of other countries is going to support guerrilla bands and Marxists."
The churchmen's brief countered that all monies are supervised at several levels by donor churches to insure that grants earmarked for refugees go to refugees and not to buy arms.
The program ended by stating that in its opinion the "church's role is at the funerals of the dead in Rhodesia -- not contributing cash grants to the groups who do the killings."
George Cram, secretary of the Anglican primate's World Relief and Development Fund, whose refugee grants were part of the WCC grant to the Patriotic Front, said the question at issue is responsible journalism.
"We're not complaining that the CTV program took an opposing view," Cram said. "What we are questioning is the nature of public broadcasting and its responsibilities to approach controversial issues carefully, fairly and professionally."