Conservative bill gives government a direct say in CBC journalism

TORONTO, May 7, 2013 /CNW/ - New powers in the federal omnibus budget bill tabled last week would allow the government to participate in discussions about the definition of news and the role of the producers who create CBC programming. Bill C-60 opens the door to direct political interference in the biggest news organization in the country.

"The bargaining table is not just about wages and benefits," says Dan Oldfield, senior staff representative at the Canadian Media Guild. "We talk to CBC management about everything from how assignments are made to the role of producers. Our agreement even includes a definition of news programming and the proviso that the significant majority will be produced by CBC staff. In a democratic society, there is no good reason for the government of the day to be directly involved in these discussions."

CMG president Carmel Smyth points out that the collective agreement between CBC and CMG helps protect journalists from pressure to shape their stories and programs to serve narrow interests. "These protections were developed over more than 50 years of being in the sometimes difficult position of having to bite the hand that feeds you for the sake of informing the public. Public broadcasters around the world struggle with this tension." 

Smyth added that the Harper government has been relentless in pushing programs and legislation that make jobs temporary, casual or poorly paid and in weakening the ability of workers, including media workers, to defend their collective interests. "We will continue to fight back on these appalling attacks."

The CMG-CBC collective agreement deals with journalism in the following ways: 

CBC journalism serves
the public interest
What our collective agreement says
✓  Strict conflict-of-interest rules to ensure journalists and other employees are acting in the public interest and not in their personal interest.
✓  Most comprehensive journalistic policy of any newsroom in the country with regular training and discussions.
✓  Union and management have jointly defined news and information programs as covering "various interests such as politics, public policy issues, sports, science and culture in a journalistic manner."
✓  The agreement states that foreign correspondents provide a "Canadian perspective on matters of global importance."
Any government at the bargaining table would be able to re-open these definitions.  
Journalists are protected
from political and other
What our collective agreement says
✓  A producer has the right to refuse to produce a program if they do not agree with the content or form of it.
✓  CBC management must protect the authority of the producer over the content, form and budget of the program. A producer cannot be pulled off a program without justification.
✓  No journalist, including a foreign correspondent, can be pulled off an assignment without a very good reason. Reporters, producers, researchers, writers, videographers must be hired and promoted based on an objective set of job requirements and qualifications.
✓   No employee, including journalists, can face discrimination on the basis of political affiliation or membership or activity in the union.
Any government at the bargaining table would be in a position to try to force an end to these protections.
Journalists don't have to
fear retribution,
including loss of their
job, for reporting the
What our collective agreement says
✓  Journalists can't be fired or reassigned without a good and legitimate reason.
✓  Management is committed to using CBC staff to produce a "significant majority" of news programming and our collective agreement states that the "use of CBC employees helps to ensure a high standard of quality and creativity."
Weakening these provisions could allow for direct political control of CBC programming, or even the contracting out of CBC news to a government-friendly news outlet.
Management has tools to
ensure employees can
do - and are doing - their jobs.
What our collective agreement says
✓  Union and management "recognize the value of training and professional development for present and future needs" of the CBC and employees.
✓  We have a comprehensive joint performance management process that includes making sure employees can develop to meet the needs of this constantly evolving industry.
Is the government interested in turning "Performance management" into another form of discipline? If so, see above on political interference.

About CMG
We are 6,000 journalists, hosts, producers, technicians, videographers, editors, librarians, programmers, sales reps, administrative staff and freelancers. We represent frontline employees at CBC/Radio-Canada outside Quebec and the City of Moncton. We believe a quality media system that serves all Canadians is built on healthy organizations that treat workers fairly.

SOURCE: Canadian Media Guild

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