We are struggling through a period of intense change in the media business. The ongoing digital transition continues to be challenging and painful for media workers. It has meant job cuts, increasing workloads and dueling demands at work. We are the most multi-skilled generation of media workers ever, yet increasingly confined to desks, surfing, sourcing and repurposing existing content with diminishing time to create original content or to work in the field.
Our work has changed and so have we. We understand even more how much quality journalism matters, and that we have to fight to ensure this work continues to be done. We understand even more that precarious jobs do not support bold journalism, and that we have to fight to make jobs permanent. We’ve understood even more that mentoring matters, and encouraged seasoned veterans to nurture the next generation.
We’ve also learned we have a lot of support and Canadians value and rely on the media both private and public, including the CBC which polls show has gained in increased support in the past year, much of it due to positive reaction to your continued great work, and in a small part to the CMG’s increased efforts cultivating allies and lobbying politicians.
And in a David v. Goliath fight for fair working conditions in private radio, CMG members at MBS radio in Saint John, New Brunswick won their first collective agreement and much needed improvements in their workplace after nearly two years on strike. Union members across the country were inspired by the “Saint-John Seven” for their courage and commitment.
Admittedly there have also been challenges, a significant one being part of a very public, national discussion on harassment. Any harassment at work is unacceptable. And as a progressive union, (proud of leading a landmark legal case for same-sex access to benefits in 1995), we have had a policy of zero-tolerance to harassment for a decade. However as recent events have shown, having a policy and addressing a practical reality can be two different things. We are committed to making improvements on that front, and working on ways to ensure your workplaces are both safe and supportive. Thank you for your help and patience as we work on these issues. You will be hearing more from us on this over the next months.
We remain extremely concerned about the job cuts in all our workplaces, and finding alternate work for anyone laid off. Cuts in the past year at CBC/SRC have been particularly alarming, destructive and potentially irreversible, with whole units being dismantled. This crisis has led us to be more politically active, lobbying politicians, participating in rallies, and working with a diverse range of allies across the country.
At Canadian Press, Thomson Reuters, TFO and TVO, where we are in bargaining this year, issues of smart investments in people so they can keep creating first-rate content Canadians trust are going to be front and centre.
After job security, a priority continues to be changing the political climate so future governments honour a commitment to Canada’s largest journalistic organization. In a significant development, we are encouraged that two federal parties are now speaking openly in support of more funding and independence for CBC/Radio-Canada, and several polls show a marked increase in public appreciation for the public broadcaster.
A truly inspiring moment came with the massive march in Montreal in November when thousands of citizens shared their outrage at the cuts to CBC/SRC. We continue to work with many community allies and supportive union colleagues to fight for a lasting commitment to increased funding, journalistic independence, and a new way of selecting the CBC’s president and board of directors. To this end, we have hired staff to work exclusively on making CBC/SRC an election issue.
On a parallel path, we continue pressing the CTRC to make supporting local programming (including local news), Canadian content and ensuring a strong future for public service broadcasters like CBC/SRC, Aboriginal People’s Television, TVOntario, and TFO, a real priority.
Finally, I would like to ask for your help. In this election year, please demand anyone you vote for be clearly in favour of transparency, freedom of the press, and the CBC. As a former reporter, I respect this may not be possible for everyone, but if our friends and family all do the same, imagine the message we can send. United and committed. Make no mistake, these are critical times.
Thank you for your support.
National President, CMG