Wednesday, September 21, 2005

CBC Lockout Watch, Day 38

Both sides have signed off on contracting out work normally performed by CMG members. This is not to be confused with hiring employees on contract, the ground on which both management and union have sworn to die defending their positions.

CMG has refused CBC's request to join them in a media blackout for the duration of the negotiations. The blackout wouldn't have lasted a day. Who expects a bunch of journalists not to leak, or if they do, name the leakers?

Antonia Zerbisias warns the locked-out CBCers not to get too friendly with the NDP and labour union supporters who have been visiting them on the picket lines:

On the picket lines, the union has been accepting support from, and rallying around, sympathetic politicians such as the NDP's Jack Layton and Marilyn Churley, as well as union bigwigs such as Buzz Hargrove and representatives from other interest groups.

Excuse me, but shouldn't CBC workers be a mite more careful about these associations? The network already is constantly accused of being left-wing and biased. Why add fuel to the fire?

True, the harm being done to CBC is not as great as the lockout itself, but this is not helping.

If this dispute continues, and all indications are that it will drag on and on, the locked out workers — and I'm thinking the journalists in particular — better put some thought into what harm their side is doing to CBC.

At some point, there will be a return to the newsrooms. And an election. And hell to pay.

The CBC's left-leaning editorial bias is no secret. Its effects on people who don't watch CBC shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. CBC reporting often sets the agenda for the rest of the media, and its opinions filter their way through the newsrooms, classrooms and boardrooms of the nation down to the shop floors, shopping malls and subway platforms.

CBC reporting is good for a few percentage points for the Liberals in public opinion polls, and maybe a couple for the NDP. Though not on its own; it has the rest of the Canadian mainstream media to prop the Liberals up, if not with quite the same zeal as the CBC.

If the CBC ties its editorial bias to a particular party, its fortunes will rise and fall with it. There are plenty of Conservative MPs and candidates who would love to wreak venegance on the CBC once they get in office. If the CBC thought the Mulroney government was rough on it, a Harper government filled with people who resent years of its savaging of the Reform and Alliance parties, the West, social conservatives and free market policies will make the Mulroney era seem like a cakewalk.

Colby Cosh doesn't see much difference between either side in the lockout, but he gets right to the heart of the battle between the CBC and CMG in the media wars:

The real point of the battle on both sides seems to be finding out which side has been left with more power and goodwill in the radically changing media environment. Or, to put it another way: is content truly king? Your answer will depend partly on whether you prefer news gathered by amateurs using professional resources or news gathered by professionals using amateur resources. Frankly, I kind of feel like the parts are greater than the original sum.

Clearly, the status quo ante cannot be recreated. People have seen the pros put out quality product without the CBC's vast resources backing them up.

Even amongst die-hard CBC fans, the question will inevitably arise: if CBC news people can do as good a job or better with much less, do we really need the CBC's current infrastructure and organization at $1 billion a year?

The corollary question: if management can't deliver the goods with $1 billion a year from the taxpayers, is throwing more money at it going to buy it the necessary competence?

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