When it comes to the CBC, "we've been plugging holes for so long, trying to do more with less as the government chips away at the institution, and it never seems to be enough. It's a typical move out of the privatization playbook." — James Clancy, NUPGE National President
Ottawa (24 Sept. 2015) — The Canadian Media Guild (CMG) is raising the alarm about a recent announcement by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that will see the sell off of a number of its buildings and major production centres across the country.
"Our members believe the public broadcaster can’t only be a distributor, it has to also be a producer," said Marc-Philippe Laurin, CBC Branch President for the CMG. "This plan threatens the ongoing legacy of award-winning documentaries, drama and other quality production at CBC and Radio Canada.”
"The CBC was built through public dollars, through our taxes," said James Clancy, National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), "to create and broadcast quality news and programming for the entire country. Selling off these centres means cutting the CBC's ability to continue this important work."
CBC management cite financial issues as reason for asset sales
In early September, at the Public Broadcasters International Conference in Germany, Hubert T. Lacroix, President and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada spoke about the ongoing and devastating funding cuts by the federal government.
He said, "It’s a vicious circle. First, we struggle with cuts to our funding. Then as the cuts make us weaker and affect morale, critics, key stakeholders and even some of the citizens we serve, question our relevance in a digital world."
"But mostly, we are at fault, for not speaking loudly enough about the threats we face. We focus on managing each individual threat, each trade-off, each reduction in funding, each drop in revenue because that’s what public institutions are expected to do at the expense of the bigger issues all around us. Like the proverbial frog put in cold water that is slowly heated, we’ve resisted telling people that we risk being boiled to death," said Lacroix.
Typical move out of the privatization playbook
Clancy agreed saying that "we've been plugging holes for so long, trying to do more with less as the government chips away at the institution, and it never seems to be enough. It's a typical move out of the privatization playbook."
The CBC has also cut more than 2,800 jobs since 2008 and has plans to cut another 1,600 by 2020. But these asset sales come in the middle of a federal election in which three out of the four major federal parties are running on platforms to restore funding to the CBC.
As the CMG has reported, even the Parliamentary Budget Officer has said asset sales are only a temporary fix: “Proceeds from one-time asset sales give the CBC a temporary cash infusion, which allows it to defer part of the Government’s operating subsidy until later in the fiscal year.”
"It's just another hole to plug," says Clancy. "We need a government that values the raison d’être of public broadcasting: enriching the cultural lives of our citizens and promoting democracy. We have the opportunity to elect this kind of government on October 19."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE