A union representing employees at the CBC is sounding the alarm on what it says is the national broadcaster's plan to sell off all of its buildings.
The Canadian Media Guild said, in a news release, that CBC announced at a staff town hall today (September 22) that it will be "selling all its property across the country, including major production facilities in Montreal and Toronto".
"The decision to close down production centres is of great concern for our members as it should be for all Canadians, and seriously jeopardizes the CBC's ability to do meaningful production in the future," Marc-Philippe Laurin, CBC branch president for the CMG, stated in the release. "Our members believe the public broadcaster can't only be a distributor, it has to also be a producer. This plan threatens the ongoing legacy of award-winning documentaries, drama and other quality production at CBC and Radio Canada."
This news comes the same day that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau promised to reverse the $115 million in cuts made by the Conservative government to the CBC and boost its funding.
The NDP and Greens have also promised to roll back the cuts.
"It makes no sense to plan this now, when three of the four national parties are promising to restore or increase funding to CBC," CMG national president Carmel Smyth said in the release. "Just today the Liberal party committed to increasing CBC funding by $150 million. In recent months the Green Party committed to an increase of $285-million, while the NDP says it will reverse the $115-million budget cut. Why rush into such an irreversible decision now?"
In a September 10 speech to the Public Broadcasters International Conference in Munich, Germany, CBC CEO Hubert Lacroix conceded that his organization and others like it are "not blameless" as they face an uncertain future.
"In many ways, we have failed to make a compelling enough case for public broadcasting. Sometimes, protecting our independence has made us reluctant to provide the kind of transparency now expected of public institutions. Sometimes our very public internal crises and more importantly, our management of them, have damaged our brand, our credibility, and undermined our public support. Yes, sometimes we are our own worst enemies," Lacroix said.
"But mostly, we are at fault, for not speaking loudly enough about the threats we face. We focus on managing each individual threat, each trade-off, each reduction in funding, each drop in revenue because that’s what public institutions are expected to do at the expense of the bigger issues all around us. Like the proverbial frog put in cold water that is slowly heated, we’ve resisted telling people that we risk being boiled to death."
According to the CMG, the CBC has shed more than 2,800 jobs since 2008 and plans to slash another 1,600 jobs by 2020.
Update (September 23): The Green Party of Canada has responded with dismay to news of the planned sell-off.
“The information made public by the Canadian Media Guild is appalling,” said May, leader of the party and the incumbent in Saanich–Gulf Islands, in a news release. “For CBC–Radio-Canada to sell these assets makes no sense. They were paid for by Canadians and should remain in public hands. What’s happening is the perfect example of the consequences of the Harper Decade.
“The Greens have the most substantial plan for restoring CBC’s role,” added May. "We will commit to reversing the Harper Conservatives’ $117-million cut, and invest an additional $168 million this year and $315 million every year thereafter to rebuild the CBC and Radio-Canada’s local coverage and capacity. We will also restructure the governance of the public broadcaster. Appointments to the board should be made based on skill and merit, rather than political influence and patronage.”