Se­nate calls on CBC to re­lease staff salaries

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

A Se­nate com­mit­tee is call­ing on Canada's public broad­caster to pub­licly dis­close how much em­ploy­ees make and en­sure non-ex­ec­u­tives aren't get­ting paid more than their peers in pri­vate broad­cast­ing.

The Se­nate's com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­mit­tee is also call­ing on the Cana­dian Broad­cast­ing Corp. to find new ways to fund its oper­a­tions in or­der to limit the amount of fund­ing it re­ceives from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

The com­mit­tee re­jected the idea of sta­ble, multi-year fund­ing for the Crown cor­po­ra­tion, say­ing fund­ing is based on “the fis­cal de­mands of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.”

Sen­a­tors raised the pos­si­bil­ity of us­ing the PBS fund­ing model - where view­ers do­nate money or pay for spon­sor­ships of pro­grams - or charg­ing a li­cense fee to ev­ery home in the coun­try with a tele­vi­sion, which is how the BBC re­ceives some of its funds.

“Even though it's more sub­tle, this is propos­ing to cut CBC's bud­get,” said Ian Mor­ri­son from the ad­vo­cacy group, Friends of CBC.

The Se­nate com­mit­tee also called on the CBC to cut pro­duc­tion of all non-news and cur­rent events pro­grams that pri­vate com­pa­nies de­velop. In its place, the com­mit­tee rec­om­mended the CBC cre­ate a “su­per­fund” that would dole out cash to pri­vate pro­duc­ers, as op­posed to the CBC spend­ing the money on in-house pro­duc­tions.

Such a move, Mor­ri­son ar­gued, would ren­der CBC noth­ing more than “a trans­mit­ter of pro­grams that are con­ceived and thought up by pri­vate in­ter­ests.”

The com­mit­tee says it's time to up­date the Broad­cast­ing Act, not­ing the leg­is­la­tion hasn't been up­dated since the “pres­mart­phone, pre-multi-plat­form” era of 1991.

The rec­om­men­da­tions stem from what was a po­lit­i­cal­ly­charged study of the CBC, where sen­a­tors pressed the broad­caster for salaries of its top on­air tal­ent, specif­i­cally chief cor­re­spon­dent Peter Mans­bridge.

There were also testy ex­changes be­tween sen­a­tors and CBC pres­i­dent Hu­bert Lacroix dur­ing his two ap­pear­ances be­fore the com­mit­tee, and threats the com­mit­tee would use its par­lia­men­tary pow­ers to force the CBC to hand over the salaries of Mans­bridge and oth­ers.

The om­buds­man for Ra­dio-Canada, in his an­nual re­port, sug­gested sen­a­tors in­volved in the study showed a lack of knowl­edge about the news media and the role of the CBC, and “a clear hos­til­ity to­ward the public broad­caster, which is as­ton­ish­ing in light of the com­mit­tee's man­date.”

The Se­nate re­port also ref­er­ences scan­dals in­volv­ing for­mer ra­dio host Jian Ghome­shi and busi­ness cor­re­spon­dent Amanda Lang in call­ing for stricter poli­cies to pre­vent prob­lems, rather than hav­ing to re­act af­ter they be­come public.

In a blunt re­sponse posted on the CBC web­site on Mon­day, the CBC said: “Frankly, we were hop­ing for more.”

Dur­ing the hear­ings, the broad­caster had dis­cussed de­tailed so­lu­tions to the chang­ing busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment, the state­ment notes.

“This re­port fails to pro­pose con­struc­tive sug­ges­tions to ad­dress any of the real chal­lenges fac­ing the broad­cast­ing sys­tem.”

A Lib­eral sen­a­tor on the com­mit­tee said the study was “truly a lost op­por­tu­nity,” blam­ing Con­ser­va­tive sen­a­tors for spend­ing “too much time de­nounc­ing the CBC and not enough on a way for­ward.”

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