Saturday, October 01, 2005

CBC Lockout Watch, Day 48

If these are indeed the last days of the CBC lockout, as some rumours and wishful thinkers would have it, the atmosphere inside the CBC will be more poisonous than the Love Canal once normal programming resumes.

The bitterness and rancour towards management expressed by the locked-out CBCers has gone beyond the usual "stuff the bosses" rhetoric expected during labour disputes, and has passed into sheer hatred. I can't imagine how these people are going to work together after the lockout ends. I wonder how they even worked together before it began.

If CBC decides turns its guns away from Canadians who don't agree with its effete liberal Torontocentric view of the world and trains them on their fellow effete liberal Torontocentric colleagues, I'll sit back and cheer on the slaughter.

Others, however, will mourn; among them, Knowlton Nash:

Before I get any further I must note that in more than half a century of working one way or another at the CBC, I've been on contract and on staff, have been a union member and an executive, a foreign correspondent, anchor of the National and director of news and current affairs. Sometimes I've been on the picket line and sometimes as a manager crossed through it.

All that has given me a sharp sense of the impact a labor-management confrontation can have on a creative organization like the CBC. It simply tears it apart. This has been the most damaging CBC labor-management clash since the strike of Montreal producers back in 1959, which forever shattered the trust between management and producers in the French network and had far-reaching political effects.


There will be intensive, left-over bitterness with a machismo management -- or at least significant parts of it -- feeling the program creators are naive souls who don't understand the ferocious realities of modern, competitive broadcasting. And on other side, many key reporters, producers, technicians and other program creators feeling senior management has betrayed the whole concept of public broadcasting by trying to manage the CBC as any other business.

The 1958 Radio-Canada strike helped launch the political career of one of its most popular news hosts: Rene Levesque. Who knows what strange creature will emerge from the picket lines of this lockout to become the next threat to Canada?

The 48-hour news blackout on negotiations has been extended another 12 hours. Best guess: they're going to go through the night and extend the blackout again, with a view to having a deal on the table Monday morning.

Locked Out x2 has a profile on Elizabeth MacPherson, the federal mediator who's been brought in to help settle the lockout. If she could turn around the four-month Aliant Telecom strike in four days, could she do the same for CBC?

Of course, if there is a speedy settlement, it won't be because of the magic mediatrix or the cone of silence, but because of election season:

In the past two days, a growing number of Liberal backbenchers have publicly called on the government to end the lockout by whatever means necessary if no agreement is struck soon.

"If they don't have anything after the blackout, I want back-to-work legislation," Quebec MP Denis Coderre said yesterday. Mr. Coderre said a majority of the Quebec caucus wants the government to intervene because "it's a lockout, it's not a strike." In addition to Mr. Coderre, Ontario MPs Sarmite Bulte and Don Boudria as well as PEI MP Wayne Easter want the government to intervene immediately.

Heritage Minister Liza Frulla, while declining to comment on the negotiations, said pressure is intense on both sides to reach a deal.

"If they're intelligent, they'll prove that they're intelligent and they'll come to an agreement," she said. She played down the likelihood of back-to-work legislation. "It has to be a long-term agreement . . . if it's not dealt with right, it's going to have implications for next year," she said, referring to pending labour talks at Radio-Canada.

Fighting an election without the CBC News cheerleaders is inconceivable to the Grits. The other networks aren't as reliably pro-Liberal and anti-Conservative as a whole, although some individual reporters are.

When they talk about back-to-work legislation, you can be sure they see the government falling this fall, and they can't take any chances.

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