The Garret Tree
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
  CBC 98: Collateral damage

Don't, repeat, don't, skip Kate Taylor's column in the Globe and Mail this morning. Unfortunately it's not about broacasting so it likely won't appear on advocacy sites. But it is absolutely crucial to what is happening, so read it if you can.

What Taylor is writing about is how changes in the rates Canada Post charges magazines are going to be a blow to both the big commercial magazines and the smaller ones. Most Canadian magazines survive by subscription, not news stand sales. And it is now going to cost a lot more money to mail a magazine in Canada.

Who is the collateral damage in all this? Not the staff editors, of course. It's going to be the freelancer writers who actually produce what you read in the magazine. This means freelance rates (which are 20 years behind the cost of inflation already) won't go up or could even be cut back.

Most freelancers don't concentrate on one market. Or at least they try. These days both the CBC and the big media conglomerates demand, as we have to keep repeating, all rights in perpertuity until the galaxy implodes, which means freelancers can't always resell what they create. (The late Pierre Berton once advised, in the 1950s I believe, that writers sell every story 12 times. Today Berton would only be able to sell most stories just once; he would likely want a staff job at CBC to support his family and be on the picket line)

The freelance market in Canada is tiny compared to the US or UK, that is why it is a lot harder to survive as a single freelancer in this country (which is why I keep saying those "fulltime freelancers" should be honest and tell how much household income comes from their partners).

As for wriitng books, there is more collateral damage. I won't go into dull details, but an obscure change in US tax rules for warehousing a decade a ago destroyed the publishers' backlist. Which is why you see so many cheap piles of remainders in the bookstores. The problem for authors is that the multinational publishers adopted the remaindering policy they created in the US for Canada and elsewhere. Years ago, small but steady sales from the backlist could, depending on the book, be a significant income for an author. No more.

This is what the triumvirate (Rabinovitch, Stursberg and Chalmers) and the Grand Vizier (Smith) want to do, all new employees as casual or contract, in a country where to be a freelancer is barely surviving not thriving. It is not a way of creating flexibility for the CBC, it is a way of driving people out of the business altogether. It is short sighted stupidity.

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I write in a renovated garret in my house in a part of Toronto, Canada, called "The Pocket." The blog is named for a tree can be seen outside the window of my garret.

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Name: Robin Rowland
Location: Toronto, Canada

I'm a Toronto-based writer, photographer, web producer, television producer, journalist and teacher. I'm author of five books, the latest A River Kwai Story: The Sonkrai Tribunal. The Garret tree is my blog on the writing life including my progress on my next book (which will be announced here some time in the coming months) My second blog, the Wampo, Nieke and Sonkrai follows the slow progress of my freelanced model railway based on my research on the Burma Thailand Railway (which is why it isn't updated that often) The Creative Guide to Research, based on my book published in 2000 is basically an archive of news, information and hints for both the online and the shoe-leather" researcher. (Google has taken over everything but there are still good hints there)

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