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CBC: The Conservative Broadcast Corporation

Posted: 05/10/2013 12:44 pm

No public broadcaster anywhere in the free world faces the degree of political interference as that proposed for the CBC in Bill C-60.

The government's latest Omnibus Budget legislation would make the Prime Minister the ultimate boss of all of the CBC's employees if the government takes control of collective bargaining at the CBC as Bill C-60 proposes to do.

Harper's Conservatives would enjoy new power to influence the news and the role of producers who create it at our national public broadcaster. These are issues that are addressed in the collective agreements the CBC negotiates with its staff.

Any government would love to manipulate the news in their own interest, but few are brazen enough to actually try.

The Conservative government says this is just an industrial relations matter.

But it's definitely much more than that.

This is about the fine line between public broadcasting and state broadcasting.

Governments do not control the public broadcaster in free and democratic countries. Along with other media outlets, public broadcasters hold governments to account, a role that depends on being completely independent of the government of the day.

If this bill passes it would put ultimate control of the salaries and working conditions of all CBC employees in the hands of the government -- which means the Prime Minister would effectively be sitting on the other side of the bargaining table.

Even subtle influences on story lineups affect the quality of news decision-making. Do we really want our public broadcaster's journalists to worry that hard-hitting coverage of the government could hurt their career prospects?

Without a strict arms-length relationship, and independence from government, the CBC risks losing its credibility as an objective source of news.

The government says this is about controlling costs. Yet, CBC has demonstrated that its wage increases have consistently lagged behind the industry average.

So what is this all about?

The Harper Conservatives' agenda is to rein in and control the CBC, bit by bit.

Ministers and government MPs alike are in the habit of attacking the CBC.

Jason Kenney claims "the CBC lies all the time". Just last week, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence called CBC journalist Terry Milewski an "old Trotskyite". Several Conservative MPs have called for the CBC to be completely de-funded. While these comments are made in public they seldom receive much attention.

And the government has been systematically stacking the CBC's Board of Directors with people who donate to the Conservative Party, pushing our CBC inch by inch closer to a Conservative Broadcasting Corporation.

Since the Harper Conservatives came to office, they have usually been careful to disguise their attacks on the CBC. They know that the CBC remains very popular with Canadians. That is why the government spin machine is working overtime to position this as a labour relations issue.

But Canadians see Bill C-60 for what it is.

In the space of one week, more than 135,000 people have signed a petition to FREE CBC from political interference. The petition, sponsored by Friends of Canadian Broadcasting and Leadnow. ca, in association with SumOfUs.org, represents a growing body of opinion and concern that Bill C-60 crosses a line for Canadian democracy.

This Bill has now been referred to to the Finance Committee for study.

As those MPs begin their work, they should know that the Harper government's plans to undermine the independence of the CBC are not sitting well with many Canadians.

We are calling on the government to keep CBC free from political interference. To do that, the provisions of Bill C-60 concerning the CBC should be withdrawn.

 
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