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WEEK 5: Who is steering the CBC ship? By Lise Lareau, President, Canadian Media Guild

The lockout at the CBC is entering its fifth week because no one in senior management is directly responsible or accountable for their actions.

Consider this: CBC president Robert Rabinovitch approved the plan to lockout 5,500 people as a way to force extreme concessions ? namely a staff structure with far more reliance on temporary work.

Based on the emails to Rabinovitch that are copied to me and based on general media coverage, I don’t think this approach is resonating with Canadians, even the most conservative of them. But who exactly can redirect Rabinovitch?

There’s the rub. The CBC’s Board of Directors is the body that is meant to be accountable directly to the Canadian public for the way the CBC is run. It should provide sober second thought on major management decisions, particularly when the plan has had such disastrous consequences.

But the board has not had a chair since Carole Taylor left abruptly in March. That means Rabinovitch has been temporarily holding two positions, both chair and president, and so there has been no check and balance in the structure. The Board has not had adequate leadership during the CBC’s biggest crisis in memory.

Unfortunately, the problem is exacerbated because eight of the twelve CBC board members are new this year. This unprecedented turnover took place between February and April this year. Many of these people are totally new to broadcasting and the CBC culture. And they’ve had no one to look to for guidance, except Rabinovitch.

This brand new board has not even met since the lockout began and, based on my information, has not yet asked the tough questions of Rabinovitch that it was appointed to ask. If I were on the board, I would want to know precisely how much more “flexibility” is really needed that is not achievable now (with real examples) and precisely what’s missing in the current collective agreements. I would want to know whether the gamble of taking away service to the Canadian public for many weeks to achieve this still-undefined goal is really worth it. And I would ask if Plan A?the Big Gamble– is not working, what’s Plan B?

Last week, Heritage Minister Liza Frulla told reporters that the problem with the CBC wasn’t about its funding, but “governance.” She’s right. Days later, she confirmed that Guy Fournier is the proposed new Chair of the board, subject to a hearing process by the Heritage Committee. It’s about time! We urge the Heritage Committee to confirm Fournier QUICKLY.

It is time for someone to step up and take responsibility for the CBC.

Ottawa doesn’t think it has a direct role, even though it appoints the president, the chair and the entire board of directors. Paul Martin has been mum on the crisis, even though word from him to Rabinovitch would probably end it.

The board ? whose members were appointed to represent the public ? has been kept in the dark.

And CBC management? After shutting down acceptable service to most of the country, CBC is continuing to get its parliamentary funding.

It seems there are no consequences to this disastrous lockout to anyone in particular, except the audience and the staff. And people wonder about the future of the CBC? How can any institution ? no matter how worthy or beloved — survive with such benign neglect?

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