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:
[click on table to view full size]