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The government is trying to undermine CBC’s journalistic independence

Guild leaders will join others in Ottawa on Monday to push back against government moves on two fronts to undermine CBC’s journalistic independence.

There will be a full-page ad in the Globe and Mail and La Presse about Bill C-60 on Monday. That’s the omnibus budget bill that puts the government directly at the management table at 48 Crown Corporations, including CBC.

CBC president Hubert Lacroix has sent a letter to the parliamentary finance committee, which is reviewing the bill, saying “legislation which could require the Corporation to seek a ‘negotiating mandate’ from Treasury Board Ministers, or allow Treasury Board Ministers to ‘determine the terms and conditions of employment’ of journalists, anchors or senior executives, or require a Treasury Board employee to attend negotiations, may give rise to conflicts with the Broadcasting Act and the Charter and compromise the Corporation’s independence.”

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s troubling response to the letter seemed to deny the existence of the Broadcasting Act, which does indeed protect CBC’s journalistic and programming independence. “The CBC may think it is a special, independent, Crown agency. This is wrong,” Flaherty said Wednesday.  In fact, this is right Mr. Flaherty!

The Guild will join journalistic advocacy organizations Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, Canadian Association of Journalists and the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec on Monday morning on Parliament Hill to call for the removal of CBC from Bill C-60.

The Guild will also appear before the Ethics Committee on Monday afternoon to argue against passage of a private member’s bill that would further jeopardize the work of CBC’s journalists.

Bill C-461 would change the Access to Information Act to end the exclusion of journalistic and programming documents from disclosure. Instead, an exemption would apply and CBC would have to prove in court that disclosing documents would harm its independence. The term independence is not defined in the bill and the CBC might well end up tied up in court and unable to protect sensitive material, including reporter notebooks, from deep-pocketed applicants. The bill would also change the Privacy Act to allow the targets of CBC news investigations to get hold of CBC files on them even before a report aired. The Guild is urging Parliament to vote against the bill. You can read our brief here: http://www.cmg.ca/en/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/BrieftoEthicsCtteeBillC461.pdf .

No other media organization in Canada would be subject to any of this. What’s more, public broadcasters in the UK, Ireland and Australia are protected from disclosing information about their journalism.

This is a time to speak out.

For more information, contact the Guild (info@cmg.ca) at 416-591-5333 or 1-800-465-4149.

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