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Farewell to a great CBC tradition

End of a season. End of an era.

When CBC wraps its 2006-7 TV season today with a live finale of Royal Canadian Air Farce, it puts an end to half a century of Canadian TV history. With the closure of the TV design department, CBC is saying goodbye to 50 talented crafts people and beginning to dispose of props, costumes, sets and equipment housed in the Toronto Broadcast Centre.

“Even after we were unable to save the jobs, we had hoped that this unique cultural legacy could have been preserved, at least for small cultural organizations and schools who have turned to the CBC for material and expertise because they can’t afford to go to the private sector,” says Lise Lareau, president of the Canadian Media Guild.

While CBC’s sister broadcaster, Radio-Canada, is apparently taking a small part of the collections to its thriving TV production centre in Montreal, most of the material is likely to end up in private hands or even in landfill.

We have learned that individual productions and about a dozen private companies have toured the collections and tagged props and sets for purchase. As well, a couple of private bids are expected on the costume collection. This process has been painful for the employees who have created and cared for the stock over the years.

“CBC employees even witnessed the removal of a truckload of props on Wednesday and were told it was headed to the scrapyard,” Lareau says.

The rush to empty the building of the materials, weeks before the May 31 closure of the design department, has caught the attention of a member of the parliamentary committee that oversees government operations.

“For 54 years, Canadians have paid to build up these collections and expertise,” says Peggy Nash, MP for Parkdale-High Park and vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. “They should be put to the benefit of Canadians and not just a few private costume houses, for example. After all, their value to the country’s cultural sector is far greater than any proceeds the CBC can expect from its garage sale.”

CBC originally planned to close the TV design department last year. Because of opposition to the move, CBC made an agreement with CMG to keep the department open for another season and give the union an opportunity to come up with an alternative. However, the CBC rejected a proposal in February to create an employee co-op that would operate inside the building and continue providing TV design services for CBC and outside productions.

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

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