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June 19, 2013

CBC: From Canadian to Conservative Broadcasting Corporation

The Canadian Charger

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Policies that would ultimately kill CBC funding altogether, converting CBC into a beggar broadcaster and eliminating services Canadians depend on, will be debated at the Conservative Party's convention in Calgary later this month.

In an effort to save the integrity of the CBC – and perhaps the CBC itself - Friends of Canadian Broadcasting (FCB) — an independent watchdog for Canadian programming, radio, TV and news media – is circulating a petition to expose and oppose the Conservative Party proposals.

This is part of laying the groundwork for what FCB spokesperson Ian Morrison said is “the most ambitious on-the-ground campaign we have ever mounted in defence of public broadcasting in Canada.”

Recently released Conservative Party policy resolutions, to be debated at the Conservative Party Convention in Calgary June 27-29 include:

-P 24 Conservatives believe the CBC should move to a user-supported model.

-P 36 eliminate ... all public funding of the corporation (CBC) which creates an unfair competitive advantage with privately funded and operated networks and stations.

Mr. Morrison has no doubt that these policies will spell the end of the CBC.

“If adopted and implemented by the government, any one of the convention proposals would spell the end of CBC TV and Radio services that are vital to Canadians and the oxygen our democracy needs to survive.”

Bill C-60, the federal government’s omnibus budget implementation bill, includes a clause that allows a Treasury Board committee to approve salaries, working conditions and collective bargaining for the CBC, among other Crown corporations. This is an assault on CBC’s independence, many commentators say, as the government will be able to control content and hiring practices.

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

This legislation would make the Prime Minister the 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.  This in turn means the Harper government would have the power to influence the news and the role of producers, who create the news.

The CBC is warning the federal government that its efforts to control salary negotiations at the crown agency could be at odds with the Broadcasting Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, leading to litigation.

Canadian Broadcasting Corp. chief executive Hubert Lacroix sent a letter to the Commons finance committee in early June of this year, pleading for an amendment to the budget implementation bill to ensure the broadcaster's independence.

But when Liberal MP Scott Brison read parts of the letter to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, the minister dismissed any possibility of changes to the bill.

"The CBC may think it is a special, independent, Crown agency. This is wrong," Mr. Flaherty said.

Stephen Harper hasn't said anything publicly about the CBC since he was leader of the opposition and, likely because Conservative Party polling indicates that the CBC remains very popular with Canadians, his government has usually been careful to disguise their attacks on the CBC. This is why the government propaganda machine is characterizing CBC opposition to Bill 60 as a labour relations issue.

Mr. Morrison said there is a lack of transparency in the Harper government's approach to the CBC.

"They know they can't just kill it, there would be all hell to pay. So it's a death of a thousand cuts, a neutering, a neutralizing, making it less independent, less audacious, less capable of playing a kind of a countervailing role in a democracy. That's my judgement of what's going on," Mr. Morrison said.

Immigration Minister 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. However, these public comments don't seem to get 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.

Mr. Harper has long wanted to destroy the CBC, which he sees as an aggravating liberal-minded, taxpayer-funded force. While the majority of Canadians would not be pleased if he succeeded, the far-right of the political spectrum would rejoice. After all, this would give Sun News a chance to rise to prominence.

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M. Elmasry

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